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My TribeFest

Updated on November 24, 2012


Louder than cackling hens. Ready to dance at the drop of a spotlight. Able to leap and possibly eat tall stacks of bagels in a single bound.

TribeFest (March 6-8) is a gathering of Jews ages 22 through 45 from various Jewish Federations from all over North America. These Heebs converged on Las Vegas to gain some knowledge, some insight and make new connections. The festival kicked off at the swanky Surrender nightclub at Encore.

So, why am I going? I don’t know. I guess I do want to reconnect with Judaism. I’ve been living in Las Vegas for 7 months now. I hardly know any Jews here. Heck, I lived in Los Angeles for 18 years and still hardly know any Jews there. Maybe I want to revisit that feeling I had after coming back from Israel in 2005. Perhaps I still hear my Grandma Tillie whispering in my ear, “Find a nice Jewish girl.”


The opening act on the main stage included speakers such as the colorful spoken word enthusiast Vanessa Hidary AKA The Hebrew Mamita and “The Big Bang Theory” and “Blossom” star, Mayim Bialik. This was the second time I had seen Vanessa Hidary perform and I always enjoy her perspective on racism and being Jewish. I have never worked with Mayim, but I edited some videos of which she was involved in called Partners In Torah. Mayim talked about her enthusiasm for Judaism and balancing her beliefs with her TV and film career.

TribeFest held these ‘break out sessions’ that gave an individual choices of what seminar they wanted to attend. Being the often and distant member of the Jewish community, I opted to check out ‘Punk Jews’ which is a feature film documentary. The filmmakers showed a trailer and some extra scenes. They answered questions about how they met and what the film means to them. ‘Punk Jews’ shows how some Jews share new ideas of expressing themselves through art and punk music. It seemed like an interesting film. “Punk Jews” is currently in post-production.


Ben Mezrich


Mayor Oscar Goodman



Each day started with yoga and I did not partake. I exercised my eyes on the road on my drive in to Mandalay Bay since I live 15 minutes from the Strip.

Monday morning’s speakers were fantastic! After living in Las Vegas almost 8 months, I was thrilled to finally see Mayor Oscar Goodman speak. He didn’t say much. His mere presence was cool enough. Ben Mezrich is the author of ‘The Accidental Billionaire: The Founding of FaceBook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal.’ There was nothing inspiring about his speech. It was just cool he was some part of FaceBook. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley gave a wonderful speech about visiting Auschwitz. In this group of speakers it was the unknown person that had the most amazing speech and story. Alina Gerlovin Spaulding had the most incredible story of growing up in the then Soviet Union as her father was an Olympian with special privileges. As soon as her father broke his leg in a skiing accident all support from the Soviet Union was instantly cut of. Her family’s struggle to survive and then make it to America is nothing short of a miracle.

NFL Owners Mark Wilf and Jonathan A. Kraft

Photo is actually of a screen than in person
Photo is actually of a screen than in person | Source

We were provided lunch while listening to some more great speakers. Congressman Joe Heck spoke. And then the ‘primetime’ speakers consisted of Minnesota Vikings owner Mark Wilf and New England Patriots owner Jonathan A. Kraft. Jon Frankel of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel moderated their discussion. Both owners talked about growing up in a Jewish household. Kraft shared how his mother was against football season tickets because they would interfere with Hebrew school. His father would slip a note under his pillow letting the teacher know to let him out at a certain time before school closed so his father could pick him up…and take him to the games. There was a Q & A with the audience. The very last question was “What do you think of the game being played with pigskin?” Oye vey!

The ‘break out’ session I attended this day was ‘Obama & The Jewish Vote: A Look Towards 2012.’ It was an interesting discussion with David A. Harris, the President & CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, and Matthew Brooks, the Executive Director of the Republic Jewish Coalition, moderated by William Daroff, one of the fifty most influential Jews in America. Daroff may be one of the most influential simply because he’s constantly tweeting. There was a bit of back and forth, disclaiming and defending each others' stance on where Obama lies with Israel.

Sunday and Monday were both completed with ‘mash-ups’ of various musical artists. This amazing violinist performed. I couldn't tell what her name was shouted into the mic, plus who can hear over hundreds of Jews? I did hear that this violinist performed with Jay Z and Alicia Keys.

Of course, where do the Jews go to eat? Chinese food!

Monday night had a very nice mixer at China Grill as there were some drink specials and tasty appetizers. If there’s anything Jews are good at it’s eating!

Amazing Violinist, Miri Ben-Ari


Nina Davidson, Ross, Carolin Topelson


What Jewish convention would be complete without some humor?

On Tuesday morning I attended the Improv 101 mainly to not be bored in some session about Israel or Inner-faith marriage in America. Joel Chasnoff lead a very basic and fun bunch of exercises to make the participants feel more at ease. After graduating from Penn, Chasnoff was a tank gunner for the Israeli Army and completed a tour of duty in South Lebanon fighting Hezbollah. Chasnoff’s seminar was a lot of fun. Everyone was involved whether in bigger or smaller ways. It was fun simply watching other participants do some improv. I had taken an improvisation class in Los Angeles years ago. Unfortunately, I still suffer from stage-freight. But it was fun.

The closing ceremony wasn’t as inspiring as the opening or other guest speakers. One other notable speaker was Yuri Foreman, a boxer who grew up in the anti-Semitic Soviet Union. After being beat up one day by a bunch of anti-Semites, Yuri’s mother took him down to the neighborhood gym and said, ‘Make a man out of my boy.”

Mazel tov to everyone at this year's TribeFest! I had a good time. Will I return next year? God knows.

Amalia Galarraga and Ross

News About This Blog

I have since re-written this blog into an article for David Magazine.  It was published in their April 2011 issue. David Magazine is a local Las Vegas Magazine. Their website is the link below. Also, David Magazine can be found on FaceBook.


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