>>Tue Apr 1, 2014
Reposted from the NYC Fellowship blog
By Liz Traison, Tirtzah
Sometimes, when I think of myself as an entrepreneur, I picture Crazy Old Maurice from the Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast. If you remember, he has big hair and even bigger ideas – not too unlike myself. Though it’s been years since I’ve watched the movie, the things that stand out to me are that he was an inventor, a dreamer, and that he had to fight an uphill battle to get people to take him seriously.
As a young professional, it’s easy to feel the same way. Our ideas and dreams can get lost amid the bureaucracy and “the way things are done”. As a young entrepreneur, the stakes are almost higher; the dreams are bigger, loftier, and the willingness of our communities to necessarily take us seriously can be mountainous because we’re young, because we’re inexperienced, because we don’t know how. These are the shadowy clouds that loom over us, but, if we’re willing to ride out the dip, and not let anyone keep us from dreaming big, the reward can be so much greater.
I have always been a practical dreamer. When I was 11, I dreamed I could be a hippie, so I became a vegetarian and took my mom’s record player out of the basement (and subsequently ended up working in Jewish Outdoor, Food, and Environmental Education). When I was in high school, I dreamed I could save the world. And while I might not have saved the world - or even really come close, I did bring awareness to my community about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. As a health coach, it’s currently one of my dreams to help people eat better, because I believe that when you eat well, you feel well; and when you feel well, you’ll be more empowered to make a change in our world in need of mending.
>>Tue Feb 4, 2014
nazTech, the first tech accelerator for Arab Entrepreneurs in Israel launches in Nazareth last night
By Guy Spigelman, CEO of PresenTense Israel and Director of nazTech
“You look at a community and look at what is missing, and look inside to see what you can do.” These were the words of inspiration that Tareq Maayah, CEO of Exalt Technologies had for the entrepreneurs of nazTech, which launched last night in Nazareth.
Tareq is from Ramallah, and the software, web and mobile application business that he founded in 1993 after working in Silicon Valley, is one of the leading hi-tech firms in the Palestinian Territories, with over 90 engineers. Exalt’s customers are Israeli, US and European companies – including technology giants like Cisco, HP as well as smaller/medium size start-ups.
And while Tareq did mention some of the challenges he faced over the years that related to the conflict – his story of entrepreneurship is universal, as were his words of encouragement.
“Why am I doing this?”
This is the single most important question that an entrepreneur has to ask him/herself.
For with all the roller coaster ups and downs that define entrepreneurship – if you can’t answer this question – then you are going to find it hard to keep going.
In Tareq’s case, in 2000 he not only had to deal with the telco bubble bursting, but with the second intifada as well. This led to his partner – Siemens – who held 51% of the business to take a decision to exit the business.
>>Thu Dec 26, 2013
1. Give us your best elevator pitch and tell us about your venture!
The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development (ICSD) accesses the collective wisdom of the world’s religions and of science to promote co-existence, peace, and sustainability through education and action. Together with partner organizations, ICSD organizes an annual interfaith environmental conference in Jerusalem, interfaith eco gatherings for women and students, and a coalition of faith and science leaders speaking out on ecological issues. ICSD’s eco tourism branches, Eco Israel Tours and Jewish Eco Seminars, engage groups in Israel on the connection between Israel, ecology, and faith teachings. Based in Jerusalem, ICSD has a growing team of staff and volunteers.
2. How did you come to establish it? What need does it fill?
I grew up in California and now live with my wife, Shana, and son, Shacharya, in Jerusalem. I completed a BA and MA at Stanford with a focus on global environmental issues. In 2003 I came to Israel and over seven years studied at several yeshivot and completed a rabbinic degree. I consulted with the Jewish environmental organization, Canfei Nesharim in producing two publications on Judaism and ecology. I founded The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development and its branches Jewish Eco Seminars and Eco Israel Tours based on my background in experiencing the richness of Jewish and faith teachings on environmental sustainability, and realizing their relevance for the world we live in.
This is the need that it fills: We are facing a planetary crisis. Glaciers are melting, hurricanes are intensifying, droughts are increasing. We need to act soon and in large numbers in order to leave a liveable planet for our children.
>>Tue Dec 24, 2013
At a November 2012 intimate breakfast for executives at UJA-Federation of New York, a facilitator suggested casually that participants in the room consider ‘reverse-shadowing’ one another to gain insights into other management styles and organizations. Two such executives took this suggestion to heart; below they each share the immense insights they gained from just two days.
Hers: Naomi Korb Weiss, CEO PresenTense Group
It was a typical Thursday in the life of a CEO – debriefing a board meeting, leading a staff meeting, checking a reference on a candidate, negotiating with a couple of partners and answering a bunch of emails. Or was it?
I wasn’t in my cozy PresenTense office or meeting with my own colleagues and partners. Rather, I was observing a day in the life of another CEO – Bob Sherman of the Jewish Education Project. I was simply his sidekick for the day.
After an inspiring breakfast together at the UJA Federation of New York last November, Bob and I took a casual suggestion to heart to ‘reverse-shadow’ someone else in the room. After juggling some logistics I shadowed Bob one busy day in June and he joined our team one day at the end of August. It’s pretty amazing what we each learned in less than a full day.
>>Tue Dec 17, 2013
Celebrating my first year as CEO of PresenTense Israel
I have the best job in the world. It’s true. Every day, I get to meet incredible people who are going to make their communities, countries and the world a better place. If optimism was a currency, and some say that it is, then I am surrounded by a treasure trove.
One year ago today, I had the good fortune to join a relatively young organization with very solid foundations, made up of a fantastic professional team, unique curriculum and methodologies, and a large and growing community of supporters. Co-founders Ariel Beery and Aharon Horwitz and team did a great job of launching and sustaining the organization.
Of course there were and are challenges, but as my friend Mike Prashker, the founder of Merchavim, says, “joy at work is about facing challenges that you know you can meet head-on.”
The main task at hand was to do more, to scale. To take PresenTense’s central fellowship program – the Community Enterprise Partnership, or as we now call it, our community-based Venture Accelerator, to more locations, to more populations and to more content areas.
And this is what we are doing. Together with our fellow travellers – the community partners we deliver programs with and the venture philanthropists who support us – we are impacting local economies, changing the narrative for disaffected populations, and transforming neighborhoods and communities.
In Ra’anana we have launched the first Venture Accelerator worldwide for new projects that will improve the lives of people with disabilities – in partnership with Beit Issie Shapiro and the Ruderman Family Foundation. We call it A3i –“Accelerating Inclusion In Israel.” Applications are still open here.
>>Wed Dec 11, 2013
On December 21, 2012, by a vote of 141 in favor, 31 against and 11 abstentions, the plenary of the UN General Assembly adopted an Israeli-sponsored resolution on “Entrepreneurship for Development” in the developing world. This is the first time that the UN adopted a resolution on the subject of entrepreneurship as a new means to meet the challenges of poverty. In his speech that day Israeli ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said “entrepreneurs are dreamers - risk-takers who dare to change the world”. The characteristics of entrepreneurs that Ron Prosor described seem to be even more prevalent in social entrepreneurs. In order to better understand how entrepreneurs change the world, it is key to look at some of the largest global trends in social innovation today.
Crowdfunding must be the most common trend in the world of social entrepreneurship today; with Indigogo and Kickstarter as the two biggest players in the game and a growing number of “specific” sites opening everyday based on geographic locations, languages, interests and more. One of the most well-known examples of an attention-getting campaign was run by musician Amanda Palmer, who received over 3 million views of her TED talk on the matter. The feeling created by the popularity of crowdfunding is that virtual communities are much more generous than offline communities.
>>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.
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