Cross-posted on Oy Bay!.
By ChallahBackGirl and Oyster
On March 9th a group of young adults, mostly CBDYAGniks, from Northern California drove down to a unique gathering in Southern California. Their bus trip down was a joint project between Sonoma Hillel and Oy-Bay.org. But not many know the back-story of how this journey south began. As Oyster was getting off his El Al flight, he ran into his friend David, Sonoma Hillel Executive Director, and compared notes from their Birthright trips. In discussing their future plans they both realized they planned to attend the Jewlicious Festival 3.0. As the festivities grew near, David and Oyster coordinated with Rabbi Yonah, Jewlicious Festival Director, on how to get as many people from Nor-Cal to attend the festival. They also worked with Rabbi Yonah to find out about other Nor-Cal people coming down like a group of students from Reno.
The day started early for everyone, especially Oyster who got a 3 AM call from the Reno clan saying that they were stuck in traffic and couldn’t make it in time to the bus (they unfortunately drove separately down to the Festival). By 5 AM Oyster had picked up the majority of the south-bay folks. We swung by Izzy’s for a much needed coffee and breakfast as well as picking up nosh for the bus. Then we met with others at the Palo Alto JCC, and promptly boarded the waiting bus.
Once on board with the Sonoma contingent, many people went right to sleep, or back to sleep. It was 6 AM! Oyster, on the other hand, was so excited that he quickly went to work talking to anyone who was still awake, snapping pictures of the bus passengers and the scenic California countryside. Before we knew it, we were at our destination: the Long Beach JCC!
The festival itself is hard to fit into a one-liner. You had over 450 young Jewish adults from 18 to 26 there from all over the place. Oklahoma, Los Angeles, Jerusalem, Las Vegas, New York and, of course, the Bay Area and Reno. The participants (and workshop facilitators) were also from all over the denominational map. Hasidic, Conservative, Modern Orthodox, Reform, and unaffiliated participants all mingled and had a great time together. Throw in two night’s worth of Jewish comedians, musicians, and spoken-word artists, a spiritual observance of Shabbat, plus engaging guest-lecturers, and lots of kosher food, and you had a winning combination. It was a huge celebration of “Jewnity” from all walks of Jewish life.
“I use singing to mobilize. I use politics to mobilize. I use coffee to mobilize.” declared J.J. Keki, of the Ugandan Mirembe Kawomera (’Delicious Peace’) coffee co-op. He spoke, sang, danced, prayed, and performed with us at the Jewlicious Festival all weekend. We were very impressed by the project that he’s the director of; one that brings together Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Ugandans (Yes, Jewish!) to produce fair-trade coffee, and peace, in the form of economic cooperation.
Saturday and Sunday evening were filled with performances by Exodus (Eddie Fox), Eric “Smooth-E” Schwartz, Rav Shmuel and Bloodsugars, DJ Eric Rosen, Makkabees, missFlag, My Second Surprise, ( whose debut video won the Israeli Video Awards) Golem, Soulico from Israel, local band Shankbone staring Rabbi Yonah, and Grammy nominated, J.J. Keki kept us clapping and dancing.
By the end of the Festival’s second concert on Sunday night, a very tired but happy crowd of CBDYAG’ers and Sonoma Hillel students got on-board our charter bus to speed back to the Bay Area overnight. Even before some participants arrived home, phone numbers, Facebook accounts and photos were being shared and exchanged. “I had a great time and met interesting people. I enjoyed the bus rides both ways with the great folks from Sonoma. The performances and other programs were fun to watch and participate in.” said Sodabrew reflecting on the weekend. This one-of-a-kind event for Jewish youth left an impression, and many were already excitedly talking about returning next year.
Learn more about it from the festival website. We had a few journalist join us, see what they had to say in the Jewish Journal of LA, the J. Weekly and Chronicle. Not to mention the Jewlicious bloggers we’re posting during the event. Here’s pictures, and Oyster has a few things to say as well as pictures from our journey south.