>>Tue Dec 3, 2013
I opened my email a few weeks ago to find this headline:
The ONLY 30 things you need to wear this winter.
My jaw dropped. I am used to emails about the four staples you need for any outfit! Now I have to buy 30 new things to keep up with winter trends?
Besides the fact I live in an NYC apartment smaller than most people’s bedrooms (I am literally the little not-so-old lady that lives in a shoe), and don’t have the budget to buy 30 new things, I am growing increasingly frustrated by the consumerism overtaking our country and world. Hard-working people, deserving of their holiday off, now need to leave their Thanksgiving meals early to go work because Black Friday starts earlier and earlier each year. Cyber Monday emails came in seemingly once per minute yesterday. And just because there are great deals doesn’t mean people aren’t going into debt to score the next hottest thing.
It’s ironic that we are tempted with so many deals right after a holiday where we are supposed to be grateful for what we have. And it’s hard to not give in.
Then I received a special Cyber Monday email that I loved. Shocking, you may think, given my bargain-hunting tendencies, my friend Kristin who started Seamly.co, an apparel company dedicated to creating sustainable clothing out of surplus fabric (check it out, it’s awesome!), explained why she wasn’t sending out Cyber Monday deals.
>>Wed Nov 27, 2013
Ani ve’Ata NeShane et Ha’olam – me ha’kantri
You and I will change the world – from the Country Club
Farewell Arik Einstein, and farewell Morrie Finberg
I woke up early today to the music of Arik Einstein being played loudly in Rabin square (I live up the road). I opened up Facebook and realized that one of the great musicians and cultural figures of Israel died last night.
While I was on Facebook, I also saw that the former Deputy Prinicpal of my high school Moriah College in Sydney, Morrie Finberg, had passed away. So many former students were commenting on what an incredible educator he was. And indeed he was.
For me, and I am sure for many alumni from Moriah, these two individuals have something in common - Inspiration. A huge amount of it.
Mr. Finberg was a rare type of educator. He would open school assemblies, addressing the rabble of well-to-do Jewish kids from Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs with a reference to us being at the “country-club” and it was time for us to settle down so we could proceed. From his office overlooking the schoolyard, he yelled out at students who littered or didn’t have their uniform right, masking his true purpose of making sure we were all safe.
The sternness was always delivered with good humor. Mr. Finberg cared deeply that we get the best possible education and learn the best possible values - not just to succeed as individuals, but to go out and do good in the world. If you were lucky enough to be taught by him – Chaucer was his favorite – you could actually feel like you were in England in the late 1300’s.
>>Tue Nov 5, 2013
“Russians aren’t social or entrepreneurs, therefore it will be impossible to create community-based and community-supported grassroots projects.” These were the words of a Jewish communal professional, who shared them with me a year ago, prior to my very first trip to Moscow. I didn’t quite believe him, but I didn’t know what to expect either.
Eight months later, I stood in the hall of Moscow’s “Zavtra” restaurant, waiting for Launch Night to begin, surrounded by the social entrepreneurs of our second Moscow Fellowship, run in partnership with the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). I heard how Ludmila created the first Jewish old age community in a suburb of Moscow; Yulia ensured the entire Launch Night was zero-waste as part of her ecological venture; and Oksana created the first Russian interior design website aimed at people with special needs.
A week later, I joined our St. Petersburg fellows at their Launch Night. Dasha pitched her newly-established Jewish job placement service, Ira discussed her initiative to provide psychological consulting services for parents, and Valentina presented her plans for the first free health clinic in the city.
>>Thu Oct 24, 2013
Rami Ozeri is the founder of The Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art, and a fellow in PresenTense's 2013 Yazamim Jerusalem Accelerator for social entrepreneurs.
What is the Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art?
The Jerusalem Biennale for Contemporary Jewish Art is a stage for artists active today to exhibit artwork that is somehow related in one way or another to Jewish world of content. The artwork doesn’t have to be religious, the artist doesn’t even have to be Jewish, but we do target art that has Jewish content in some way.
There is a shortage of places to exhibit this kind of art. Many institutes of art in Israel are interested in Jewish art as long as it’s not contemporary art, or contemporary art that’s not Jewish. There is no place for art that is both contemporary and Jewish. Someone who’s been in the field for many years said there’s a “Chinese wall’ between contemporary and Jewish, and we’re trying to tear down this wall.
>>Sun Sep 29, 2013
photo by Karin Dvora
Give us your best elevator pitch and tell us about your venture!
Keren Baktana is revolutionizing Israeli philanthropy in a strategic manner for young people in Israel. We are providing a way for young Israelis to enter into philanthropy without it being too big a task through the use of giving circles. We teach participants about giving circles and how they can leverage small donations to make a larger difference. These circles tap into all sorts of different causes that people can rally around, helping them set up their own circles.
How did you come to establish it? What need does it fill?
I established Keren Baktana together with two other friends, Orly Shafir and Emily Friedman-Novak. The three of us were involved in fundraising and third sector jobs in Tel Aviv and wanted to make philanthropy more accessible and relevant to young Israelis. Our secondary goal was to generate more money for small projects through social entrepreneurship. We specifically chose to focus on small projects rather than funnel more money into larger amutot. The social entrepreneurship ventures are more relevant to young people because they’re able to make a larger difference when donating to a small organization. We’re funding a lot of projects that have been started by social entrepreneurs.
>>Thu Aug 29, 2013
Eight years ago today was one of the most emotionally strenuous days of my life (and the lives of many others). Two days prior I had packed a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and my new Tulane sweatpants and headed out of New Orleans on a beautiful sunny day to Atlanta. I thought I was leaving my new home for a few days, I didn’t realize it would be a few months before I could even go pick up the things I left behind. I watched CNN from a distance in utter disbelief upon realizing that my “normal” start to my college career was entangled in one of the country’s largest and most destructive natural disasters of all time.
When I returned to New Orleans for the second time after Katrina in January 2006, things were different. The city was quiet. The National Guard was everywhere. There was even a curfew in place for the city. I can’t describe the uneasy feeling experienced from looking at the markings on a house to see when it was searched (sometimes two weeks after the storm) and how many bodies they found (hopefully, but not always, zero). New Orleans, it appeared, was starting from scratch. Rebuilding house-by-house, resident-by-resident. And it was coming together as a community to do so.
My understanding of human tenacity and people’s propensity for resilience was defined during that time. Additionally, the power of community was glaringly apparent.
>>Thu Aug 22, 2013
This past weekend I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. After I informed her about my job transition from PresenTense to The Zitelman Group she responded, “There’s something about the High Holidays that inspires change,” and pointed to a few other examples of friends and family who had or are going through significant changes during this time of year.
Rosh Hashanah occurs every year. It’s on the calendar, we know that it is coming, and yet the process of the New Year often evokes new beginnings. Why?
Why during Rosh Hashanah are we more comfortable to question old assumptions and inspired to take on new challenges? Why is there such an emphasis on self-reflection and self-improvement? And why during this time do we take it so seriously?
I don’t have the answers, but I do have a few ideas and an analogy to the mission of PresenTense.
During Rosh Hashanah we are guided through a systematic process, and, in the company and with the support of others, we are given permission (and affirmation!) that we can be better versions of ourselves. Even though the path to get to this better version may be difficult and the outcomes unknown, we are still strongly encouraged to try.
From the celebratory tune of the prayers, to the piyyutim (liturgy) that emphasize our awe of greatness, to the rituals of blowing of the shofar and “casting out” of tashlich - these traditions are performed with an intentional schedule and process in order to encourage feelings of reflection, humility and inspiration. And as we are invited to experience these emotions in the presence of friends, family, clergy and other community members, we are simultaneously empowered and held accountable. The change comes from within, but the rituals and community are crucial in inspiring the reflection and internal thought process that leads to change.
>>Mon Aug 19, 2013
Running is an entrepreneurial sport. You do not need a whole lot to get started, basically a good pair of shoes and a desire to go the distance. When you start your race, you cannot see the finish and often are not familiar with the course. For entrepreneurs, it is not all that different. They do not start with much more than an idea of where they will end up and the drive to see that idea launched. There is no set formula to finish, other than stay the course and keep going until the finish line.
PresenTense is one organization that has successfully drawn out the course map for entrepreneurs to take their ideas and run with them. PresenTense programs provide the framework for passionate people to address communal challenges. Over 1000 people have been touched directly by the organization and the ventures started as a result have exponentially been able to reach thousands more. PresenTense itself was just an idea several years ago, and today it is a start-up of good people helping to launch start-ups that do good things. All the while, PresenTense continues to challenge the conversation around what it means to make social change in communities around the world.
>>Sun Jul 14, 2013
BY ELIZABETH WEINGARTEN
Racing down King George Street in Jerusalem, I reached a sweaty hand into my messenger bag to grab money for the bus. I was rushing to an important meeting with an organization I hoped would be a partner in my social jewelry business, Tribelle. My fingers clawed the inside of my bag. No wallet. I dumped my bag on the cobbled pavement, and stooped over to peer inside. It was gone.
Calculating that I still had enough money for a round-trip ticket, I looked longingly at the oncoming bus. If I returned to my hostel to search for the wallet now, I’d be late for the meeting. I should cancel, I thought.
But then, I made what was – for me – a surprising decision. I hoisted my bag, trekked to the meeting, and sealed the deal. Critically, I learned I care more about the success of Tribelle than a whole host items critical to my survival. In other words, I had a Psyche Pivot.
Let me explain. Entrepreneurs launching startups often talk about “pivoting” – the decision to steer their venture in a different direction. It references a change in a business plan – usually the result of an idea that’s not as viable as imagined.
I’d like to coin a new term to define another equally important startup moment: The Psyche Pivot. It’s realizing you’ve cannonballed into your venture’s water. And you’re thrilled about it. Turns out, you can swim!
For months, I’ve been dedicated to creating Tribelle, a jewelry collection that showcases the designs and stories of low-income Israeli women. That’s because investing in Israeli female entrepreneurs is key to strengthening a whole host of developmental and economic metrics – like GDP, literacy, and health.
>>Sun Jul 14, 2013
Nonprofit organizations across the world are supported by donors in the $7,500+ category. Some call these donors Friends or Supporters. Others term them Leaders, Patrons, Guardians or Devotees.
But what name do we bestow upon the individual who quietly mails us a check enclosed with this simple note:
Keep up the good work
And that was it! No return address, no request for acknowledgement for tax purposes, no grant agreement and no punctuation.
How do we begin to thank this generous individual, not only for their financial contribution, but for their faith and admiration in our work? How can we share the impact that this gift will make on our organization and our community?
The donation administration process that I generally consider to be a formality suddenly seems so critical. I feel lost without being able to pull out my PresenTense stationary and hand-write a thank-you note. I’d love to give a shout-out to this supporter on our website and meet him or her for coffee.
There’s typically a feeling of elation that comes from receiving a contribution, whether it’s a gift of one’s money, time or services. PresenTense was built by volunteers and continues to engage thousands of individuals annually in donating their time and energy to the community.
The relationship that typically follows the volunteers’ gift of time, however, is precisely what makes it so special. Our mentors, coaches and fellows develop one-on-one relationships that regularly continue beyond the life of the fellowship. Our donors love engaging with our community simply to be a part of its energy and creativity.
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