November 8, 2007
‘Generation Next’ powow at Professional Leaders Project parley
By the end of the Professional Leaders Project gathering in Santa Monica, I walked away with three things: a stack of business cards, some good stories and a condom from KinkyJews.com in a package that featured an Israeli flag on the front and an off-color, yet highly creative tagline we can't print here.
These may be the usual accoutrement, left over from a weekend of Jewish networking, yet with respect to this conference being a progressive think tank, the cards are unusually fancy:
There's Ariel Beery, the 20-something editor and publisher of a cutting-edge mag on Jewish life (the current cover of PresenTense features three unmistakably ethnic Jews under a headline that reads, "Funny, You Don't Look Jewish"). Then there was Lindsay Litowitz, who is independently seeking funds to finance a documentary film project, called "Four Corners," on Jewish communities around the world. Others there were producers, entrepreneurs, nonprofit executives, artists and budding religious leaders.
The invitation-only crowd was comprised of significant young Jewish professionals and volunteers -- most were hip and well dressed, all shared "smart and successful" and were qualitatively labeled "talent." And there you have the traits of the nation's future Jewish leadership.
Well-funded and well-organized PLP flew in these rising stars for three days of Jewish learning, networking and highfalutin keynote speakers. Israeli-born Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar, who commands up to $20,000 for a single speaking engagement, delivered a spiel on positive psychology that didn't quite live up to my expectations, so I hope PLP got his nonprofit rate.
During my in-and-out stint, I caught Dov Rosenblatt performing with his band, Blue Fringe. Afterwards, I mistakenly offered a handshake to Chasidic rapper Y-Love (a.k.a. Yitz Jordan), who abruptly flung his sweaty beret over his palms before he would touch me. The much-anticipated conclusion, "Michael Steinhardt Uncensored" was a bust when he fell ill, but the ever-eloquent and engaging Rabbi Naomi Levy stepped in and delivered an empowering message on good leadership.
Despite the lack of an overriding message articulated over the course of the conference, there was a sense of hopefulness. The Jewish future is in ready hands, able hands -- and maybe next time, they'll have a concrete objective of what to do with those hands.
Jane Usher is no plain Jane. She's an active environmentalist, attorney and president of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission. Flanked by eco-Hollywood and go-green Angelenos, she was honored by TreePeople at their annual gala fundraiser, "An Evening Under the Harvest Moon," which raked in half-a-mil for L.A.'s urban forest. Since a group of teenagers started the organization in the 1970s, more than 2 million trees have been planted in our beloved, angelic city.
What a pair! Of sisters, that is. Although the John Wayne Cancer Institute's breast cancer fundraising luncheon makes clear reference to a woman's most salient body part, the perky set at this event was actress Joely Fisher and her sister, Trisha Leigh Fisher, who presented Joley, the smokin' star of FOX's "Til Death," with the Angel Award for her brazier-like support of breast cancer research.
Comedic actor and ubiquitous philanthropist Brad Garrett also attended the fete, as he and Joely are slated to emcee the Zimmer Children's Museum's seventh annual Discovery Award Dinner on Nov. 8.