JNFuture’s Shabbat in the Park event was a hit — and a big miss

The Jewish National Fund’s young leadership division, JNFuture, held a lovely event last Friday night, hosting a Shabbat dinner in Central Park.

The event, which JNF touted as the first ever organized Shabbat in Central Park, drew a nice crowd, about 250 Jews in their 20s and 30s. And unlike a lot of Shabbat events on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, it drew a fairly mixed crowd in terms of denominational orientation.

About 250 Jews, who eschewed the Hamptons on the first official weekend of the summer, sipped champagne, schmoozed and Shabbated (yeah, I used it as a verb, sue me) under a tent on the northwest corner of the Sheep Meadow – a pretty good showing considering that JNF didn’t even have a young leadership division 18 months ago.

For most, the event was a positive change for the 107-year-old organization that helped settle the land of Israel. Or, as Amy Abramson, who made the trek into the city for the event with her husband, Jeremy, the president of the JNF’s Westchester, N.Y., chapter said as she surveyed the crowd: “It’s so nice to see people our own age at a JNF event.”

It was indeed a very nice event, and if that event and its attendance were any indication, JNFuture shows some real promise.

But JNFuture, please let the Fundermentalist give you a little advice for the next time you invite media to a dinner.

There are typically a few models for seating media at a gala event. Some organizations like to put press at tables toward the front of a room so they can hear speakers speak and pump out clear and accurate stories that convey what the organizations’ talking heads have to say. Some like to put reporters toward the back because, well, donors take precedent. Totally understood. Others like to disperse press throughout a room so they can sit and talk with people who are involved in the organization and get a more grassroots feel for it. That’s probably the best method.

But until Friday night I had never seen the kiddie table approach.

Event organizers actually put the press, which included The Fundermentalist, a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, one from the New York Jewish Week and television news producers from Fox and CBS, at a table that was about half the size of every other table set up for guests at the event. And I understand not putting press front and center in prime location, but putting the table virtually outside of the tent? Come on.

It was great that New York Congressman Anthony Weiner showed up to speak during dinner. I’m not the most Sabbath observant guy, but I wouldn’t have taken notes on what Weiner said. (To play on the words of the Big Lebowski’s Walter Sobchak, I don’t roll my pen on Shabbos.) But it would have been nice to have been seated close enough to hear what Weiner said. Judging by the laughs from the rest of the tent, I’m guessing he was funny.

Hey, I understand that we were invited guests and that we did not pay the $90 – $120 that others did to attend the event, and I appreciate that you let my girlfriend, the FundermentalMiss, come as well.

But don’t you know the old saying that you shouldn’t pick fights with those who buy ink by the barrel? Us lowly reporter folk spent three quarters of our talky time raggin’ on the fact that you made us feel like people who might actually use terms like “talky time.”

Really, though, how can I complain after what happened to Ben Rabizadeh, who ended up sitting next to me.

Rabizadeh, the CEO of Frumster.com, a more Orthodox and more marriage-geared version of J-Date, actually paid for his ticket. But Rabizadeh he lost his seat because, as he tells it, a bunch of girls decided that they wanted to sit together at an all-girls table, and none would budge so he could sit at the table JNFuture assigned him. (Not much of a chance for shidduch-making with that strategy, ladies.)

The guy paid full price and ended up at the kiddie table – and then had to listen to us complain.

So, let me make it up to you, Ben, with a little plug for Frumster.com and your new dating and marriage site for less religious Jews, Jwed.com.

For the marriage inclined, Frumster has made more than 1,000 matches, Ben told me, and it averages five weddings a week. Not bad.

Also, if anyone is in the market not for a bride or groom or date, but for a dating site, Frumster is up for sale. If you’re interested, contact me and I can pass you through to Ben. (And to the single women who displaced Ben: If you are the type of woman looking for a man who is a bread winner, judging by the price Ben quoted me for Frumster, you really missed out.)

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