The Conversation: Jewish In America is based on a simple concept: bringing together about 55 American Jews who are leaders or potential leaders in their respective fields to talk about the future of Jewish life in this country and what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century. October 2019 marked the 16th annual Conversation. To date, more than 750 participants have found the experience to be deeply satisfying and inspiring – an all-too-rare opportunity for frank discussion at a time of national and communal division. Among the alumni are communal executives, philanthropic leaders, artists, writers, rabbis of all denominations, educators, musicians, filmmakers and entrepreneurs.
Founded by Gary Rosenblatt and sponsored by The Jewish Week, the program is intended to provide a safe and creative place for people from a wide span of religious, political and generational perspectives — who share a love for the Jewish people and care about its history, survival and advancement — to meet, talk and imagine together. As a result, new collaborative projects and friendships have been born and conversations continue.
When I think of Gary Rosenblatt, I’m drawn to legendary Rabbi Hillel’s famous retort to a questioner about the meaning of Torah, answering that “the rest is commentary.” When it comes to the American Jewish conversation, it has been Gary who understands fully that commentary by everyone in our community in its full intellectual and demographic diversity is what makes us a community. It’s exactly that big Jewish conversation, made up of many meaningful smaller Jewish conversations, that Gary nurtures. For Gary’s singular role in stewarding The Conversation, I am and always will be grateful.
–Robert Bank, President and CEO, American Jewish World Service
I have had the privilege to be part of Gary’s team for The Conversation since its inception. Gary has been my role model for his leadership, his menschlichkeit, his deep integrity, kindness and generosity of spirit, all which have manifested, consistently, in every aspect of his service to the Jewish people. It has been an honor.
–Rae Janvey, Advisor to The Conversation
“Who is honored? He who honors others” (Pirke Avot 4:1). Gary has been such a remarkable voice for decades in American Jewish Life since his early days in Baltimore. Without fanfare (because that is how Gary works), he created a unique platform for other voices to listen and learn from one another. The Conversation and its reverberations continue.
–Lee M. Hendler, Co-Founder and President, Jewish Grandparents Network and
grateful inaugural Conversation participant
Thank you for all the leadership you have provided for New York and American Jewry in so many ways. Your thoughtful, inquisitive, calm, and kind approach to Jews and the Jewish community is so appreciated and a model to be emulated.
–Sally Gottesman, Char, Encounter
In the early years of The Conversation, I had the irreplaceable honor of spending one Shabbat a year with the production team, including Gary, out at Pearlstone. From the first moment, spending (even work) time with Gary felt like being in the presence of trusted and good family. He is a better writer than he thinks he is, funnier than he thinks he is, and more humble than he thinks he is. That’s a really good role model.
–Yonatan Gordis, ChangeCraft
In thought, word and deed my friend and colleague Gary is the ultimate mensch. With warmth, wit and generosity of spirit he has guided our Conversation team to extraordinary heights, helping us to bring diverse groups of people together for civilized discussion and debate. In his writing and his actions, he is all about deeper connections, respect and understanding. I feel blessed to be a part of the team and look forward to keeping The Conversation going.
–Leni Reiss, Associate Program Director, The Conversation
Spatula. Yiddish or English? Lessons from a young Gary Rosenblatt. Humor, insight, depth, compassion, rigor, brilliance – you leave an unmatched legacy in Jewish journalism and an indelible mark on the Jewish world. We are a better people because of your work. Personally, my work on The Conversation team is among my most meaningful Jewish communal experiences. Thank you, Gary. With profound love and respect.
–Danny Krifcher, former facilitator,
It continues to be my honor and privilege to work with Gary Rosenblatt on The Conversation. The Conversation was born of one of Gary’s many brilliant visions. Participants are invited to participate in a network of high level thinkers to have honest and important exchange of ideas. This is Gary—working on strengthening the Jewish people one Conversation at a time.
Rachel Saifer Goldman, Project Coordinator, The Conversation
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