Barack Obama’s political campaign in the United States showed the world the power of online community organizing and its potential for empowering the broad mass of individuals to participate in communal decision-making. In mobilizing community members to act in the interest of change for the better, social entrepreneurs can develop and utilize communications technologies to do for the Jewish People what Obama did for the American People.
Chaim Landau, Jerusalem, 27
Perspectives Israel aims to educate future Diaspora Jewish leaders, rabbis, and educators about the complex challenges facing Israel from a wide variety of Jewish-Israeli viewpoints in a balanced and nonjudgmental fashion.
Person you met at PTI who made the biggest impact on your project: That is a really tough question; each person I have met at PresenTense has impacted upon me in his or her unique way. I will say, however, that Aharon Horwitz has challenged me to further articulate my vision and come up with new conceptions and ideas to support it.
Big question you’re thinking about now: Perspectives Israel is all about exposing its participants to a wide range of perspectives on the Arab- Israeli conflict within the Jewish/Israeli spectrum. My question is how much of my own views and perspectives to share during a Perspectives seminar, and whether keeping them under wraps is even possible or desirable.
Rebecca Polivy, Jerusalem, 29
Follow-Up Network intends to build an infrastructure to transform the impact of Jewish-Arab encounter programs from short-term to long-term sustainability and to cultivate a civic leadership for the next generation that is committed to social change, most ideally, Israeli/Palestinian reconciliation.
Inspiration to innovate: Previous work with young social entrepreneurs made me realize I was similar to them. I had good experience behind me, an idea in mind, and nothing to lose. I felt that now is the time.
Where project will be in one year: The professional network will have met three times or more and the youth conference will have taken place or be in final planning stages. We will be evaluating the year to inform the strategic planning for the following year.
Manuela Zoninsein, Beijing, 29
Agrigate is an online match-making service to connect and encourage scientific and business exchanges between Israeli agricultural tech innovators and their Chinese counterparts.
Who she relates to in Jewish history: As a fierce leader, Deborah was able to transform a technological disadvantage (the lack of iron chariots) into an asset by taking the battle to a location where chariots were a liability. The re-envisioning of resources and strategy is what is necessary to confront the complex challenges of today’s world.
Most valuable thing learned from PTI: To see every new person who enters your life as a resource, and the first step to opening a world of opportunity.
Karra Greenberg, New York, 28
Kehillah Solutions creates active networks of Jewish academics, social innovators, and institutions that work within their own communities to solve their socio-economic challenges through research, analysis, and resulting communal interpretation for future policy development.
Where project will be in one year: We will be in the midst of consulting for our first schools. I will have a business plan, working model, good connections, and marketing experience.
Challenges in field: The enormous bureaucracy and skepticism of Jewish organizations, and fear of innovation.
Rebecca Zeffert, Jerusalem, 32
The Israel-Asia Center is an advocacy center and think tank aimed at helping decision-makers and opinion shapers better understand and forge strategic ties between Israel, the Jewish world, and Asia.
Challenges in field: Until now, very few steps have been taken to further Israel and the Jewish People’s relationship with Asia. The Israel-Asia Center can provide the information, expertise, and the initiatives to help create a strong relationship between China—which is playing an increasingly important role on the world stage—and Israel. The question is whether leaders in Israel and the Jewish world will step up to the challenge.
Vision for future of PT: I would like to see further diversification in the people and kinds of initiatives PresenTense draws into its network. There is a great deal of potential for attracting social entrepreneurs from the UK, Europe, Latin America, and Australia. It would be exciting to see what impact this kind of diverse participation would have on the PresenTense community.
Shelby Zitelman, Jerusalem/Washington, D.C., 24
The Level8 Network is a grassroots philanthropy fund that teaches the tools of effective philanthropy by utilizing the collective resources of young Jewish professionals to support innovative nonprofit organizations.
Most valuable thing learned at PTI: The value of exchange between individuals who are all working towards a common ultimate goal. We all come from diverse backgrounds—be they geographical, educational, or religious—and through the Institute we are able to build a network that we would not be able to otherwise. Everyone has something to contribute.
Vision for future of PT: Expanding the organization by establishing new hubs and programs in more communities, and having programs at different times of the year to reach more people. PresenTense can create the infrastructure for the whole continuum of social pioneers. It helps cultivate the ideas, find money for the ideas, and create a larger network.