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Tips & Tricks: Make This Conference Your Best One Yet!
By Rachel Fraade, Lawrence Magdovitz ISJL Education Fellow
At this year’s ISJL Education Conference, attendees will likely be asked to stand if it is their first conference, their second, third, and so on until attendees who have been to over ten conferences are standing. As a second-year Fellow, I have only been to two – but these two conferences taught me a lot about what it takes to make the most of these three days. I want to share these tips with you, to make sure that you can enjoy the conference and learn as much as possible. I’ve broken them down into four main categories: preparation, packing, engagement, and enthusiasm.
Prepare in Advance
First and foremost, come prepared. Shortly before the conference, we will send out information about our sessions. We encourage you to read up on these sessions beforehand, and sign up where possible, so you can show up to conference ready to learn. If you are attending with multiple members of your community, you can also divide and conquer to gain as much information as possible. You should also bring your requested visit dates if possible; the sooner you put in your visit date requests, the better we can accommodate what works best for your community.
Pack with Intention
Next, let’s look at what you should bring. Monday is traditionally Seersucker Monday, because – well, why not? So if you own seersucker, or want to pick some up, we encourage you to do so. There will be a photo opportunity for all seersucker-wearing participants. Attire is casual, but the Hilton can get very cold, so bring a warm sweater or two. The days at the conference are long, so make sure your clothes and shoes are comfortable. You should also pack a notebook and pen with which to take notes.
Stay Engaged and Attentive
Speaking of that notebook and pen – stay fully engaged throughout! We recommend a notebook and a pen because it’s easier to stay focused than if you’re taking notes on your phone. We’ve all been there – you go to open your notes app, and all of a sudden you’re checking your email. Stay fully present throughout each session by using a notebook instead. Remember as well that the ISJL prides itself on running punctual conferences – we don’t run on Jewish Standard Time, so plan accordingly!
Care for Yourself
Remaining engaged is easier if you can stay enthusiastic throughout the conference, even when days feel long. It helps if you take care of yourself throughout these long, indoor days. There are snack and coffee breaks throughout, which we encourage you to take advantage of. Remember to stay hydrated with the water in the back of each room, or with a water bottle of your own. Food is provided, but let us know if you have any allergies or other specific dietary needs that we can take care of. Get enough rest, even when conversations are engaging! The better you feel, the better your experience will be.
Take a Chance
This leads me to the last tip, which is to explore outside of your comfort zone. The ISJL Education Conference brings together individuals from each of our communities, which span 13 states and all sizes. No matter the issue you face in your community, you will probably find someone who faces a similar one in another location. You can make connections with nearby congregations with whom you can plan collaborative programs. You can learn from top-notch Jewish educators and innovative volunteers. You can make new friends that will last! The key is to be open to new experiences. Try attending a session outside of your usual interests, or strike up a conversation with someone new at each meal. Get into the silliness of conference, which you will see firsthand if you haven’t already. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or share your opinion. Your full presence is what makes the conference so special, so come ready to share it with us. We can’t wait to see you!