Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why I Am Not Attending The JBloggers' Conference

17 of the Fifth Month 5768

A few bloggers have shown an interest in why I will not be attending the First International Jewish Bloggers' Conference.

Before anyone criticizes me for having the hutzpah to pre-judge a conference before it even happens, please take the time to read what I have to say.

I will first state a fact (bold) about the conference. After each of the facts (bold), I will state my observations and assessments (not in bold), with which you are more than welcome to disagree.

You will undoubtedly be wrong, of course, but you are still welcome to disagree.

After all, the State of Israel has delusions of being a fair democracy. Jews and un-Jews in Israel have delusions that democracy has anything remotely to do with Torah. Why shouldn't you have delusions of being right, when you're actually wrong?

1. The agenda has changed radically over time.
The "panels" used to be smaller, and without moderators. Now they are bigger, and have moderators. But perhaps we can just chalk this up to being an "agenda in development."

Personally, I think it's because "everyone wanted to get into the act." (Jimmy Durante),...and were going to throw major tantrums on their blogs if they weren't included.

The title of one of Israelly Cool's pieces on the conference says it all:

"The Egos Have Landed"

Tempted as I am, I do intend on naming names. Although I would love to get a hold of a video of the the conference so that I can confirm the suspicions I have regarding whose air is the hottest.

2. The panels include bloggers from varied backgrounds.
...nothing too radical on the perceived "right," and there is only some Torah bashing represented on the perceived "left." (No, I will not elaborate on this last statement. Do your own research.)

I found it interesting that some of my fellow bloggers felt that it was not pluralistic enough. They may technically be correct. Let's face it. There IS an agenda here (highlighted by me below), even it is one with which I agree.

I received this from Stephen Leavitt of, who was kind enough to respond to my inquiry about the conference.

I sent you the invitation because you are a Jewish blogger. No one is looking at your politics (unless perhaps you were anti-Aliyah).
If you can't attend physically, you can still participate virtually via the webcam and chatroom.
If that is possible, make sure you sign up for the virtual convention.

In any event, I am not a pluralist, and am not in the least bit interested in participating in anything which provides equal time, and thus validation of, any anti-Torah perspective (respectful, secular Jews not withstanding),...regardless of any "good intentions."

If an "aliyah" survival tips conference were held, I would certainly consider participating with bloggers as diverse as The Hashmonean, Israel By Day, Lines Writing Lines (Faith In Nathan), and The Big Felafel.

I AM for "dialog" with Jews with whom I disagree, just not in this kind of forum.
One of the panel participants My Shrapnel and I disagree on more than a few issues, but that doesn't stop me from appreciating the helpfulness I have found in her blog.

Why do we have to have this kind of forced unity? Let those bloggers who agree with one another get together with each other. Let us, and let them plot and plan. Why not? Our mutual distaste for each other will probably serve as very effective motivation for networking and innovation.

I most certainly will not be participating in any future conference which gives even a drop of validation to Arabs living in Israel.

3. The Conference has sponsors. and Nefesh b'Nefesh, whom I have nothing in particular against, are sponsoring the conference. I believe that one of the factors legitimizing bloggers as independent resources for news, information, and commentary, is our autonomy.

If we were to have any kind of conference, I believe it should be of the bloggers, for the bloggers, and by the bloggers. Outside interests should stay...outside.

Actually, we already have a Jewish Bloggers' Conference of the bloggers, for the bloggers, and by the bloggers.

Founded by Soccer Dad, and currently run by Jack at Random Thoughts, it's weekly, and it's called the Haveil Havalim Blog Carnival.

Think about it....

4. The costs of at least few blogger's flights are being covered, in exchange for small favors, like writing about a new immigrant family's experience.
Sounds nice on the surface, but then NBN gets to use your name. They may be a helpful organization, and you may like what they do (so far as I can tell, so do I), but this threatens to compromise your autonomy (See above #3).

I was just informed that one blogger's flight is being covered for a reason not included in the above. I suppose that I am a partial recipient of this "gift," too, as I look forward to meeting this blogger in person when he arrives in Israel, and thus will receive benefit from the very money of which I am critical. Well, I guess I am now yotzei midei hovathi, regarding "full-disclosure."

Even a drop of compromised autonomy may cause a "drop" in your legitimacy as a source of news, information, and commentary, which stands apart from the mainstream news media,...assuming you WANT to stand outside the mainstream news media. No doubt, there are more than a few of you who like a job with them, in other words with the "establishment."

And speaking of the establishment....

5. At least one representative from the Israeli Foreign Ministry will be present.
I hope he has enough room on his tuchus fur alle de kushen.

6. A representative from the Israeli Foreign Ministry will be given an opportunity to address the attendees.

The director of "brand management" will be there.


Bloggers I know of all sorts are critical of the government. What the hell is going to be doing there? I hope the my leftist and anarchist colleagues (if you could call them that) have just as much issue with him being there as I do (even though we couldn't give a rat's behind for the protection of each other's free speech,...let's be honest).

The fact that bloggers are in the same room with him, and NOT heckling him, or at least there to ask him difficult questions greatly disturbs me. And, no, I do not care if he is "just a civil servant" or not. He's part and parcel of the guh-ment., or if you like, the G. O. Y. (Goverment Of Yisrael).

Even worse, he may be there to provide tips on public relations [PR], which I am ardently against. For goodness sakes already! Who gives a hoot as to what the goyim think of us?! They either want to kill our physical selves (Yishmael) or kill our spiritual selves (Esau) . Move on!

And, as for communicating with Jews outside of Israel, we certainly do not need any marionette strings surgically attached by some guh-ment official.

7. "Team-Building"
Why would I want to team build? Well, actually, I might, but not with my arch-nemeses. And, why on earth would I want to participate in "Team-Building" designed by the very Israeli Defense Forces [IDF] which expels Jews from their homes, destroys batei keneseth (synagogues), and whose "rabbis" have been silent about it?

Why would I want to participate in "Team-Building" designed by the very IDF which throws soldiers in jail for choosing HaShem and Torah over anti-HaShem and anti-Torah "orders?"

Why would I want to participate in "Team-Building" designed by the very IDF which takes soldiers to the Kotel (Western Wall) to teach them about Christianity and Islam as truths side by side with Judaism, and if anyone complains, saying that we should be talking exclusively of Judaism, s/he gets written up? (Yes, this happened, only a month ago at the Kotel.)

No thanks. I don't care how effective, or ineffective their indoctrination "team building" techniques are. I want no part of them.

Clarification: My issue is not with the soldiers not IDF per se. It with the generals, and in particular any pseudo-religious generals, running the show.

7. Mehadrin?
As I commented on Life In Israel's post on the conference, the minute someone makes a big deal an event's food being "mehadrin," when half the people at said event may not even know what that means, yet feel they to pretend that they do, my experience is that I should be suspicious about how "mehadrin" the event itself will be....and no, I am not talking about separate seating.

But now that you brought it up...

I do find it odd that the "frum contingent" is apparently "frum" based on its livush, not the least of which is its collection of black hats. Oh brother. It looks like Jerusalem maybe be invaded by even more "American Haredim" (sigh) For those of you unfamiliar with this term, one neither has to be American nor "haredi" to qualify. In fact, some claim that being truly haredi automatically disqualifies you from being "American Haredi."

I mean let's face it. Anyone who identifies as "frum" couldn't be THAT "frum," and anyone who identifies as "ultra-orthodox" couldn't be THAT ultra if s/he is attending a mixed, essentially social, event.

See, leftists? The conference isn't as slanted as you thought!

8. Security
Sure, lots of bloggers have expressed concerns about anonymity. The conference planners believe that they have taken care of this with the video feed option. Even though those watching could be easily traced.

Let's face it. The Shabba"k (Israeli secret police) already knows who each and everyone of us is. They have already "visited" Nati of Mystical Paths. They READ English language blogs. I also have no doubt that there are bloggers out there who are actually sympathetic to the Shabba"k "Jewish Department." That's not the point.

As a very wise rabbi once said, "If a Shabba"k agent is too lazy to pick up the phone book to see that your address and phone number are listed, then by all means, do NOT help him do his job."

(Some of us pay good tax dollars toward their salaries. Let's get our money's worth.)

But, seriously, Tomer Devorah's comments on her own post Comment On Current Events says it all.... (check it out)

Even for those not so concerned with anonymity, the conference organizers have made a point of screening who attends. Initially I was taken aback by a note on the conference on-line application form:

"*Spaces are limited and admission is subject to approval."

Subject to approval? How would they decide who approved and who is not? Bentzi Kluwgant of Nefesh b'Nefesh, was also kind enough to respond to my inquiry:

Hi Ya’aqov,

As spaces are very limited, and there has been huge interest, we are trying to ensure that everyone who is admitted is a bona fide blogger.

You will be notified shortly regarding admission to the conference.

Benzi Kluwgant
Marketing & Communications Manager

Small comfort, as I am more concerned about the nut jobs who ARE bona fide bloggers, than anyone trying to sneak in. Yeah, who would try to sneak in? I guess we'll have to see how good the security turns out to be.

9. Final Note
Batya does make a good point:

"Any jblogger can sign up to participate. Kvetching before it happens and not taking part is like complaining about the results of elections you don’t vote in.
Vote with your feet or mouse…"

In theory, this makes sense, yet, I believe I have produced enough evidence (my opinions aside) to show that "establishment" is involved. To what degree it is involved you may choose to debate. To what degree one is comfortable with the involvement of the "establishment," is for each individual to decide.

I, for one, stopped feeling comfortable with the "establishment," long before the "establishment" failed to prevent an Arab from blowing himself right next to me, six years ago, and failed to compensate me with a single "establishment" sheqqel.

Now you know why I blog. It's because of the "establishment" I blog.

And, now you know why I am not attending the First International Jewish Bloggers' Conference.


Anonymous said...


I'm not attending because there is no cause to attend for.

Anonymous said...

I'm not attending because bloggers meant to blog. Otherwise they would be called attenders or attendees.

Anonymous said...

Last but not least I'm not attending because I'm not a genuine blogger yet and therfore they would filter me out, a circumstance that I want to avoid by not attending.

Batya said...

Ya'aqov, you'll be missed. But it's not a requirement to attend...

Now, I don't do facebook to make friends; I prefer f2f. And I like the idea of f2f-ing with some jbloggers. I'm sure that some will be friendly and some will snub me, but nu, that's not new.

And I also don't agree with everything on the program, but big deal. I'm not paying for it.

Nothing's perfect. Nobody's perfect.

And I guess that if you're not there, I'll probably be the most radical right wing jblogger there. Can I take pride in that? And if you had been coming then I'd just be the most radical right wing female jblogger there. But I'm probably the most radical right wing female jblogger there is. Do you agree with me on that?

Esser Agaroth said...

Personally, I have reason to believe that Nefesh b'Nefesh did not just come along and say, "Let's make a bloggers' conference." No. I think not. I suspect that it was one, possibly two, bloggers in particular who made this all happen,...a nice stage for pontificating. My investigation continues....

Esser Agaroth said...


Bayta, thank for your kind and thoughtful words.

I have been trying to down play where I live, so that no one from the conference will organize a lynching, and come hunt me down! But that's OK.

No, Batya, I'm afraid you're not the most radical right wing blogger out there, and not even the most radical right wing female blogger out there. (I email you privately.)

Sorry. :-(

Going to the conference? Maybe.

Wait a minute. Are you saying that yours truly is "right wing?"

I've always thought of myself as "centrist" as I do my best to keep Torah and misswoth. ;-)

Didn't you here? There is no longer any right and left....

Stay tuned...

Miriam Woelke said...


Secret cameras, Shabak ... doesn't all this sound a little paranoide ?

Don't get me wrong - I am not downplaying the issue but don't you think that the ministeries or whatever already have all the information. And honestly, I don't care.

I do attend the convention because I am just a curious person. And, furthermore, I am not American. Means that I won't be impressed easily and say: "Oh, wow, everything is just sooo great".

Cosmic X said...


You really gave a great explanation of your position which previously I really did not understand.

FYI: I'm attending the conference mainly to meet in person people that up to now are only screen names . I do not feel that my presence at the conference is a means that I agree with everything that will be done and said there.

Esser Agaroth said...


Secret cameras, Shabak ... doesn't all this sound a little paranoide?

I don't recall mentioning secret cameras.

Don't get me wrong - I am not downplaying the issue but don't you think that the ministeries or whatever already have all the information. And honestly, I don't care.

Yes, I agree that "they" already know who we are. In fact I said that in my post.

I do attend the convention because I am just a curious person. And, furthermore, I am not American. Means that I won't be impressed easily and say: "Oh, wow, everything is just sooo great".

I certainly hope that you are not generalizing and suggesting that those Jews who happened to have been born in the U. S. will react in the same way.

As a So. Calif. I personally am not easily star struck, if at all.

In addition, not every American in Israel (for example) lives in Efrat, Qatamon, Baq'a, or Ma'alot Dafna (not that there's anything wrong with that). We're not all the same.

Miriam and Cosmic, I believe very strongly that going to any "bloggers'" conference where a representative of the gov't is present, and not subjected to questioning sends the wrong message.

That being said, Cosmic, I certainly can relate to your reasons FOR attending. It's convenient as well, having everyone there in one place.

You're also right. My views were previously not clearly expressed. They were in development, as it were.

Miriam Woelke said...


"I certainly hope that you are not generalizing and suggesting that those Jews who happened to have been born in the U. S. will react in the same way".

No, I am not generalizing. I was just a little Israeli sarcastic.:-)

Honestly, it doesn't bother me that someone from the government will be there. I have absolutely nothing to do with our government, just as probably many convention participants.

The question I am asking is, why NBN invests so much money organizing such a convention. Okay, you could say that everything is to promote their own agenda but, nevertheless, couldn't they do so in a different way ? What is the real purpose of the event ? I mean for the organizers ?

Esser Agaroth said...

Sarcasm appreciated.

I don't know about NBN, but here's Steve of take on things, in his response to criticism of the conference on the Israelly Cool blog:

Steve Says:
August 13th, 2008 at 4:30 pm

As one of the people organizing the convention, I want to thank you for expressing your well-placed sympathies.

There are some 1000+ (possibly as many as 2000) active Jewish bloggers. I’ve sent out invitations to many, many hundreds of them (possibly even a full 1000) from all ends of the spectrum be it religious, political, or whatnot - over a period of a few weeks (yes, even Lisa was sent an invitation at some point in the past month).

We assumed (correctly) that the bloggers I didn’t/couldn’t reach directly saw the ads, press releases, other blogger comments and registered to join.

Our time and financial constraints limited us to a specific amount of bloggers for the flights and participants for the panelists and conventions.

There are plenty of people I/we wanted to be panelists and on the flight, but that is simply impossible.

I have heard every single complaint as to why the conference is slanted this way or that way. My favorite so far is “why are all the female panelists not religious and leftists?” and “why is it only open to bloggers?”

And of course certain bloggers that are complaining didn’t have the courtesy - or honesty - to investigate if their claims of this being a “frummy” or right-wing convention were true or not before they posted anything, and simply posted whatever they wanted to say, insulting bloggers like Jack, My Shrapnel, OlehGirl, Esther Kustanowitz, WhatWarZone, CK,and others.

Nor do they have ANY knowledge whatsoever of what went on behind the scenes, such as who else was invited (and supposed) to fly or speak which makes those comments even more “obscene” and “deceitful” and might I add “hate-filled” to that list of adjectives.

As to ONE of the agendas of this convention… this convention is hosted by NBN, and what of? They have an agenda, just like most bloggers have. If you don’t like it, then don’t make Aliyah.

We may organize an Israeli or Israeli/Arab or Arab blog convention in the future (the one in Jordan this week isn’t ours unfortunately), and we’ll select a different set of bloggers accordingly, and they’ll have their own agenda - and you know what, they’ll bitch and moan there too.

And Please God, we’ll run the 2nd Int’l Jewish Bloggers Convention next year and select different panelists and subjects, and then the 3rd year will be even completely different from that.

Miriam Woelke said...


Well, let's see how it is tomorrow. :-)

Leah Goodman said...

I would have gone but something came up. Then again, my blog isn't terribly political, and I'm not hiding anything that anyone in the blogosphere or Shabak or NBN or... would care about. I would have gone mainly to meet some people, try to drum up traffic, and get some free food.

Esser Agaroth said...

One final note before the "big meeting" (alla Pee Wee Herman):

I have received information confirming innocent, and only helpful intentions, regarding the conference.

I don't happen to think my post was in the least bit accusatory, but I'm posting this for clarity. It's all I can do.

Where IS the conference anyway?

Does anybody know? Was it posted, and I just missed it?

Hmmm.... Now, how can I crash it?

Esser Agaroth said...

Just in:

It was just revealed to me that the secret location of the conference is:

Nefesh B'Nefesh Conference Center
Beit Ofer, 5 Nahum Hefzadi St.
Jerusalem, Israel

Take the right turn toward the electric co. right before going into Har Nof. That really is way out there!

The 2, 11, 15, 33, and 35 will get you close, but you'll have to walk the rest of the way. It's on the way to the cemetery. Oooh. So, I guess if you see a 29 going by, you can catch that too.

YMedad said...

with hindsight, I guess I can say that you were wrong on most points, too suspicious on others, and on the points you were correct, it didn't really matter or that it wasn't different than any other conference I've been at. A good time was had by all; the few bumps (repetitive naming of sponser - there were only four; Bibi getting bogged (that's bogged) down and the For. Min. lady not succeeding in linking to blogosphere, were not really principled and the food was great. My post is here.

Esser Agaroth said...

Netanyahu being there just made me even happier I wasn't.

Let's us not forget his giving away of Hevron, and his failure to cancel Oslo.

The World Likud is also planning to assist Christians come to Israel and get citizenship.

I'm glad I wasn't there.

Would you care to elaborate on how I was wrong?

My main point which I stand behind is regarding bloggers' autonomy. Once we compromise that, forget legitimacy.

Were bloggers given the opportunity to ask Bibi any hard questions? Or did the just sit there, kvell, and fight for photo opps.?

I'll bet only "certain bloggers" were granted that.

BTW, I'm not talking about you. I believe you're not easily star struck and actually know what you're talking about on your blog.

YMedad said...

Thanks for the compliment. After reading the comments at DovBear (what a bunch of clique artists), I needed that.

From bottom up:
the security was a non-isue.
team-building also works for you not for the government or even for NBN.
For. Min. - most interesting insight into Israel's problems and Moshe Burt slamdunked her, even if a bit overboard and too loud.
Free flights. My wife got two in years past. Has that influenced her? Naw.
Sponsors. everybody has sponsors. freedom or independence was not imperiled. (you're too conspiracy-theory sensitive).
Panels were balanced. More or less although in the audience, well, let's just say that if the building was a ship, it would have sunk starboard first.
Agenda - it was fine but not enough time and I made already suggestions for next conference (IMYH)

Batya said...

missed you there
your neighbor talks of our own jblog conference
How about in the first Jewish Capital, If it was good enough for Joshua and Eli, should be good enough for us!

Esser Agaroth said...

YM, Flights for a bloggers' conference are different than for a specific cause she already believes in.

No, not everything has to have sponsors.

Good, I'm glad Moshe Burt make a slam dunk against the FM rep. But did anyone pay attention? Probably not (for several reasons).

Conspiratorial? Why? You didn't witness enough kushen tuchus to support my hypothesis about how some (not all) bloggers are star struck, publicity wh***s?

Batya, I emailed you privately, but I'll say this. I don't believe that location and a more focused agenda or group necessarily exempts a conference from problems. Maybe, but not necessarily.

I'm sure the Pesha Council will find some way of getting their fingers into it.