Monday, September 07, 2009

Why I'm Not Attending The 2009 JBloggers Convention

18 of the Sixth Month 5769

I'm not attending the JBloggers ConventionBefore I get into why I'm not attending this year's JBloggers Convention, let me take the opportunity for some qualification. Steve Leavitt of, the main organizer of the convention, is a good guy, means well, and is doing to a service to bloggers,...socially, and networking wise. He has always returned my e-mail questions about the Convention very quickly and clearly. Even though he could easily have gotten away with ignoring them or answering them with some kind of snarky comments (...but didn't).

I have absolutely no intention of encouraging a boycott of the convention, or even suggest that other bloggers should not attend. I would never want to harm another Jew's business opportunities, and do not believe that this e-mail will result in anything of the sort (has wehallilah). On the contrary, it may even generate additional interest in the convention, as this kind of material often does.

I am simply posting views on the convention which I believe are worthy of contemplation, as well as answering several bloggers' personal questions as to why I am not attending in one easy to find location, rather than sending out multiple, personalized e-mails.

(Note: I just re-read my own post as to why I did not attend this convention last year. You may want to check it out, and see how things have changed, and how they haven't.)

Remember last year's "branding" presentation? (eyes rolling) Well, our lovely representative from the Foreign Ministry will be back. (10) I am totally against any participation by a representative of the Israeli government, right-wing, left-wing, pseudo-right wing, as in the case of the current government, or career employee or consultant, if for no other reason, than the symbolic power of such presence or participation. I was completely dumbfounded by the representatives assumption last year, that we were prepared to be the Israeli government's front line, Hasbara soldiers. (, I don't think so!)

"Defending Israel" is great, if you mean defending Am Yisrael (halachic Am Yisrael), Torath Yisrael, and Eretz Yisrael. But I sincerely doubt any of these concepts regularly enter the minds of Foreign Ministry representatives, while they are functioning in that role.

Talkin' 'bout the State of Israel?

I will criticize the Erev Rav-based Israeli government when I believe it needs to be criticized. No matter how independent bloggers can be, no matter how much we can stand by our principles, I refuse to give anything even remotely associated with this government the time of day.

Most bloggers I spoke to told me to get over it, and take the opportunity to enjoy meeting all of the other bloggers I've connected with on line. (not a bad idea, and one of the few reasons why I actually considered attending) After all, there are two alternative workshops held at the same time as the workshop featuring the Foreign Ministry representative, and who's to say I have to go to any workshop. I could just kibbitz the whole time. The only question is will Bibi be back? Or some other "celebrity" be there to take his place as "surprise guest."

As a Southern Californian (from the city, not the country), I am immune to being starstruck. What I am not immune to is being thoroughly annoyed by those people who aren't immune. (9) I experience a violent, allergic reaction when I encounter "fawning" and "slobbering" over celebrities. I have this strong, unyielding desire to gag myself with a spoon.

The only other things which give me an even worse allergic reaction are pompousness, gaivah, and arrogance so thick that they can be sliced with a knife. I not even talking about the majority of bloggers. Trust me. There are two or three who have enough for all of us. This is, of course, a very minor reason, a reason which, in itself, would not prevent me from attending. However, it is a reason nonetheless, which warrants mentioning.

(7) Where's the diversity at the convention? The inclusion of a couple of token lefties on some panels does not equal diversity. How about including an active duty IDF soldier, a kibbutznk, a mom, someone from the North, someone from the South, someone from Tel-Aviv, someone from Los Angeles, a kibbutznik, or a combined left-wing/right-wing yeshiva student?? Nope. Just the same boring faces and personalities from last year. (I must admit, though, I was happy to see Rebecca Markowitz of The Big Felafel on one of the panels.)

And, speaking of diversity, um,...did someone say she suspects (6) there might be some good ol' fashion Haredi bashing at the convention? (Hmm...)

Meanwhile, (5) I think some mention of Jewish Blog Carnivals could have been squeezed in somewhere (Haveil Havalim, Kosher Cooking Carnival, JPix), as well as some mention as to how they fit into the greater scheme of the JBlogosphere. I still think it will be, but not officially, and not by any of the workshop facilitators nor panelists. Stay tuned....

As I do not know the location of the convention (Do we know the location, yet?), (4) I am unable to prepare for the contingency that the location and atmosphere set aside for tefilloth will not be a conducive environment for me to pray with kewannah (Now, how's that for pompous, gaivadik, and arrogant?). Sure, I can always pray before and after the convention. That's why this is another reason not actually preventing me from attending. It would be nice to be able to pray at a "Jewish" Bloggers convention, though. For too long, I have considered this icing on the cake, instead of the cake itself. How dare I desire to eat it! (LeHathillah, I believe in praying tefillath minhah at p'lag haminhah and tefillath aravith at sheqi'ath hahamah.)

Benji Lovitt is performing. Sorry, Benji, but after I saw Eddie Murphy, (my SD home girl) Whoopie Goldberg, and Robin Williams all in one night, for only $13 (and that included two drinks), and on a Tuesday no less, with a drunk Bruce Willis getting up on stage to heckle Robin Williams (which backfired of course) there is no stand-up act which could possibly even hope to come close to making me laugh. (Although I have to admit that Margaret Cho is pretty damn funny. But I digress.... Benji, I'm sure you're a nice guy, and a talented comedian, so I hope you know I'm just messing with you here, OK?)

I'm what you call a "semi-anonymous" blogger, and would like to keep it that way. I have my reasons, which I won't get into here. I use my real name (believe it or not), but few other bloggers in Israel know what I actually look like (Batya, Yisrael, Yo'el, Bob, Shmu'el, Jameel, Donny, Michael, Avi, Miriam, Devash, and Ge'ulah Girl...). Hmm...I guess a lot more than a few could recognize me, after all. Now, assuming each and everyone of the above plays it cool with my identity at the convention, and assuming all of the non-bloggers in attendance play it cool, and my self-centered, arrogant enemies couldn't care less about revealing my identity, I am still not willing to take the chance. Two anonymous bloggers mentioned to me that they were satisfied with how the convention protected their anonymity last year. Yet, from where I stand, I see too many variables which cannot be unaccounted. I don't like when these kind of "surprises" pop up, and so, I am unwilling to take any chances.

Many bloggers in Israel have reported to me that the main reason they are attending the convention is the social component. Any dissatisfaction they have with the convention's content or arrangement is easily overridden by the social and other networking opportunities the convention provides. From this I have determined that the convention is essentially, or primarily, a social event. As a rule, (1) I do not attend mixed social events. You don't have to agree with this policy of mine; you do not have to like it, approve of it, nor understand it. I have no intention of dictating to other bloggers what they should or should not do. So, do me a favor, and accord me the same courtesy. (...and since my presence at the convention, or lack thereof, will not make or break it, who cares?)

I await your threats and other assorted hate mail....


Batya said...

"hate mail," G-d forbid, my once almost neighbor. I'm saddened that you won't be attending, especially now that we don't meet across a junction.

Actually, as a political observer, I got a lot out of the Bibi and rebranding sessions last conference. You must trust me that I didn't fawn.

I agree that there should be some focus, even minute on the blog carnivals, maybe you want to host the KCC....

rutimizrachi said...

Okay, I know it's wrong -- but I would like to see the spoon-gagging part. (Discreetly, from behind the lace of a mechitza, of course. Preferably not during the actual davening.) I ask mechila now, since I won't see you before Yom Kippur.

P.S. Editorial comment: Do a quick check of the first paragraph of your post, to see that it came out the way you wanted it to.

Risa Tzohar said...

Too bad you didn't put reason #1 first, I wouldn't have bothered reading the rest.
I am sick and tired of being seen as the enemy. If you can't get have intelligent interactions with women over serious matters you're absolutely and positively right. YOu should STAY HOME!

Miriam Woelke said...


Hi Esser Agaroth,

I am also not going and I neither miss anything nor regret it.
By the way, next Sunday, Tuvia Singer is giving his fourth session on how the church manipulated the Tanach and I am reporting about his lectures at the OU. So, I don't want to miss his last lecture and maybe you find the time to go as well.:-)

I agree with you. I don't need all this socializing. If I want to meet someone, I can do this privately. I also want to stay alone and especially INDEPENDENT !
I don't belong to a club or organization.

Furthermore, the conference may be a haredi bashing, as a guy called Kvetcher is appearing on the panel. He suggested the famous basher "Failed Messiah" to come as well. And we all know what that means.

The Kvetcher does have some good points and I do have him on my link list. However, what he has to say on circumcision and Haredim, well, it just sounds like a total ignorant and disappointed person.

My last reason is that I don't like this commercializing. Some celebreties show up and some bloggers already think that they are something as well.
I don't like this behaviour "I have more hits than you and therefore I know better than you and give you advise".

I don't think that we will miss too much and I am busy with other things anyway ! Maybe we should start our own conference.:-))) The anti - EREV RAV one !!!

Devorah Chayah said...

A wise decision, in my opinion.

Esser Agaroth said...

Batya, Once I get stabilized in my living situation, then I can think about hosting some carnivals. Hopefully, that will be in December. But I can't promise

Ruti, You are clearly as nuts as I am. Fortunately, you have a good eye. Thanks for catching that. I hate when that happens.

Risa, The enemy? I have intelligent interactions with women about serious matters all of the time. I just don't attend mixed social events, as a rule. Even with weddings, I often go for the huppah, then leave. Many bloggers will disagree that this is a social event per se. Nonetheless, I believe that it is.

If you review the last paragraph, you will see that I am talking about MY custom, and not anyone else's, nor am I saying anything about what I believe to be assur or mutar, nor am I suggesting the course of action that anyone else should aside from myself.

Miriam, Thanks. I'll try to work that in about Haredi bashing. I forgot about that. Although, I think in some ways Carl identifies as Haredi, a will be on one of the panels. It'll be interesting to see how things play out.

Re: Tovia,, no, I have better things to do, and don't believe in "good Christians in Israel." Hopefully, he'll end up putting Jeremy Gimpel back in the right direction....

Devash, Thanks.

Miriam Woelke said...


Except for once, and this was half a year ago when Singer claimed that John Hagee is a good guy now, Mr. Tuvia behaved during his lectures.

I like his examples he brings from the Torah but I would never listen to any of his radio shows !

YMedad said...

Too bad. But your decision.

I think socializing is beneficial and cross-fertilizing. It also gets you off the screen. That could be healthful if not downright helpful. You remind me of the person who prefers to identify himself by defining himself what he is not. Don't use religiosity as a crutch (but watch out for Risa, she'll smack you with one [not really, but heck, this is only a comment]). As for a gov't rep, that's they way the things go here. Ask Steve for a ballpark budget figure and you'll realize that these things are complicated. NBN helps out, gets status through gov't, NBN gets money from Guma, etc., etc.

Besides, what else better you to do that afternoon/evening? Since it's at Bet Avicahi, you've got a schule there, one next door, etc.

Esser Agaroth said...

Yisrael, Thanks for commenting. I think it's worthwhile for me to respond, line by line.

Too bad. But your decision.

Exactly. ...and I do not try to tell anyone else what s/he should or should not do. We all have our own priorities, customs, what have you. I do not judge others [in this post], at least I hope not. So, I do not understand why others need to judge me here. I don't happen to believe you're judging me, though, just giving me the requested feedback.

I think socializing is beneficial and cross-fertilizing. It also gets you off the screen. That could be healthful if not downright helpful.

I agree with this completely, including the "health" remark.

You remind me of the person who prefers to identify himself by defining himself what he is not.

Well, far be it from me to tell you what I should or should not remind you of. You could be right, though, in some respects. The currently available "boxes" Jews often try to stuff each other into, are not sufficient to describe me.

In general, I describe myself as a Yehudi Eretz Yisraeli [as to "what I am"]. Yet, this term is also insufficient. So, if I want to describe myself as accurately as possible, I must make statements of agree, disagree, and explanations of my reasoning.

For example, I am no big fan of the State, yet I appreciate what it has the potential of doing for the Jewish People, and you would never confuse me with a member Neturei Karta.

Don't use religiosity as a crutch

Well, I will have to take exception to this comment. I have put a lot of thought into this. If you want to believe that I am using religiosity as a crutch, then so be it. I will just say this. You and I have never discussed this issue, nor have I addressed it in my blog, so I do not understand how you could know my reasoning behind this.

I also did not mention the reason behind how a mixed social event would prevent me from going, however obvious it may seem. I did not make a big issue out of the "why."

In this post I stay out of the business of telling others what they should or should not do in regard to this particular inyan. If I wasn't clear enough, then I believe I clarified my opinion in my response to Risa.

(but watch out for Risa, she'll smack you with one [not really, but heck, this is only a comment]).

I don't exactly know what you mean by this. I was taken aback by her comment, myself. I don't know how many times I repeat that I'm not dictating to others what they should or shouldn't do. If this were a lecture or panel discussion on blogging with women, I don't see why I wouldn't go.

As for a gov't rep, that's they way the things go here. Ask Steve for a ballpark budget figure and you'll realize that these things are complicated. NBN helps out, gets status through gov't, NBN gets money from Guma, etc., etc.

You said the key word here. As long Since I do not have the willingness nor means to donate the money anonymously so as to avoid such potential conflicts, I am happy to accept that Steve and others are providing a service. However, to suggest that there is absolutely no conflict or perceived conflict of interest here by accepting funds and by having a gov't rep. at the convention is naive at the least. There are perceived conflicts any time money is involved, no matter how decent and well-meaning those involved are. Last year, the left-wing bloggers made accusations about this. I think they made some good points.

Besides, what else better you to do that afternoon/evening?

I learn Sunday evenings.

Since it's at Bet Avicahi, you've got a schule there, one next door, etc.

I am wondering when and where and to whom the location was mentioned. Was this made public, or only to attendees?

Having a beth k'nesseth available to me was not the issue. Having one where I could pray without distractions [which many Ashkinazim accept] and with my daleth amoth and kewanna is the issue.

Esser Agaroth said...

Miriam, ...understood.

Mark said...

Don't the same Rabbanim that assur any mixed gender events also assur the use of the Internet? :-)


Esser Agaroth said...

Mark, not necessarily...

I was EXTREMELY careful not to use the "H" word {halacha}.

To the best of my understanding, my rav would not have any problem with the "mixed" situation.

Benji Lovitt said...

I don't know who this Benji Lovitt is but I find his stand-up extremely unfunny. His blog however is the best thing since Rashi's commentary.

By the way, Benji will reportedly be performing in a kittel.

Signed, um,
Moshe Shmuel

Esser Agaroth said...

Moshe Shmuel, Thanks for writing.

Benji-bashing will not be tolerated on this blog.

Regarding his blog, he's being touted as a "progressive" by certain subversive elements in the Haveil Havalim community.

He is going to tolerate that?

Jewish fashion tip:
Kittels are SO '90's, and IMO will never be "retro-cool."

I'd go with a huge Tallith wrap-around, over the head.

Tzitzith are ALWAYS fashionable.

Benji Lovitt said...

I just heard that Benji is the hottest thing since fresh falafel. And that his blog is funnier than Israeli politics.

Moshe Shmuel (Lovitt)

Benji Lovitt said...

Hey! How come it took so long to approve Moshe Shmuel's comment? I love that guy.


Esser Agaroth said...

Because, some bloggers have day jobs WITHOUT the luxury of Internet access.

So, is Benji really "Moshe Shmu'el?"

How did you get from Binyamin to Moshe Shmu'el?

Never mind, the story is all too common amongst American Jews.


Jack Steiner said...

That Moshe Shmuel is funnier than Benji Lovitt, but Lovitt makes better chumus.

Esser Agaroth said...

That remains to be seen.

Benji Lovitt said...

Moshe Shmuel and I are most certainly not the same person. But he is arguably the most pious Jew I have ever met.


Benji Lovitt said...

Oh Benji, stop it. You are a riot.

Moshe Shmuel

I still need to return your kittel. I should tell you that Jack spilled techina on it.

Editor in Chief said...

Not sure why anyone would attend a blogger convention in the first place. It seems antithetical to the whole concept of blogging in the first place.
It seems to me the height of schmoozing arrogance to want to meet and greet others simply to find out where in pecking order of influence and credibility one might hope to be. For the most part i suspect the reading audience of most of the bloggers are themselves and like kind. For the half dozen that may on occasion get quoted by mainstream media as a an alternative view the reading audience may be substantively higher. But their influence is neither proportional nor important enough to warrant the excesses of "personality cult status". The JBlogosphere is overloaded with too many self important, self indulgent wannabe's with way too much time on their hands,whose opinions and "insights" are bereft of substantive quality and certainly lacking in any unique or ground breaking approach. I am in no way excluding myself from that group,but at least I am honest about it.

Esser Agaroth said...

Eli, most of the bloggers with whom I spoke welcomed the convenient set up for socializing. That seemed to be their most important reason for attending, and any ulterior motives of NBN, or of fellow bloggers did not seem to phase them.

I, too, have my moments of arrogance, but am also honest about it, and try to back up my opinions with relevant source material.

I take my issues seriously, but try not to take myself so seriously.

One blogger last year entitled a post "The Egos Have Landed," in reference to the first convention.

RivkA with a capital A said...

I'm sorry not to get the chance to meet you. The surprise was quite cute!

Set time to daven would have been nice.

Esser Agaroth said...

RivkA, Thanks for the sentiments, on all accounts.

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