Putting the focus on our Fellows
Want to learn a little bit more about our PresenTense New York City 2011 Fellows? Below are the Fellow’s own description of their venture, and a little Q&A where they talk about what being an entrepreneur means to them, their inspiration, the challenges they face, and their dreams for the future. If you’d like to meet the Fellows and hear their pitch in person, please request an invitation to their 2011 Launch Night. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!
The Fellows and their Ventures:
- The Jewish Teachers’ Network
- Founder:Adam Scheldt
- Founder:Adam Soclof
- Hashpa’ah – The Jewish Mentor Project
- Founder:Adam Tilove
- Founder:Cyndi Rand
- The Jewish Plays Project
- Founder:David Winitsky
- ElissaBeth SEO
- Founder:Elissa Shevinsky
- Punk Jews
- Founder:Evan Kleinman
- Heart to Heart
- Founder:Hart Levine
- Shalom Kids Yoga
- Founder:Jory Stillman
- The Warehouse
- Founder:Josh Nelson
- Museum at Eldridge Street
- Founder:Miriam Bader
- Founder:Owen Gottlieb
- Arts by Day
- Founder:Sarah Sokolic
- JS Matchpoint
- Founder:Sharon Haberman
The Jewish Teachers’ Network
Founder: Adam Scheldt
The Jewish Teachers’ Network will offer a forum for the exchange of ideas, lesson plans, curricular development, and teaching information in a way that allows users to organically contribute content and receive feedback from their peers.
Inspiration to Innovate: Growing up on a small Midwestern farm, my family always taught me to cultivate what’s important, to be mindful about what I do, and that with hard work, there is no end to what anyone can accomplish. Because of these tenets, I have been lucky enough to experience an amazing life filled with learning. Most valuable lesson learned from the PresenTense community: It is the coming together of so much talent, collective experience, and excitement that ultimately brings me undeniable value. The most important “thing” I’ve learned from PresenTense is the community itself—reaping the benefits from the inter- action of so many worthy people.
Founder: Adam Soclof
GeltRush is an online resource that aggregates funding opportunities, including scholarships, grants, and fellowships. GeltRush helps dedicated Jewish individuals find funding to further their Jewish identity and/or initiatives.
Inspiration to embark on the path of an innovator: I have participated in Jewish programming my entire life. Day school, synagogue, summer camp, Israel programs, service learning trips, and professional fellowships have helped me to forge a strong Jewish identity. My goal as an innovator is to make information about these opportunities more readily available and more affordable for Jewish people of all backgrounds, including those with little prior Jewish communal involvement. Most valuable thing he’s learned from the PresenTense community: PresenTense has taught me the importance of participating in a community where sharing good information is the norm. That includes networking, productivity tools, and progress reports. The open-source philosophy of PresenTense was definitely an inspiration for my venture.
Hashpa’ah – The Jewish Mentor Project
Founder: Adam Tilove
Hashpa’ah – The Jewish Mentor Project brings together Jewish professionals in their 20’s and 30’s to mentor teenagers from Jewish day schools in their field of expertise, at the same time providing students with positive Jewish role models.
Inspiration to Innovate: I love the Jewish people and wish to do whatever is in my power to help them grow, learn, and succeed. I teach in a Jewish day school, donate to Jewish charities, and participate in Jewish communal life. But sometimes, that’s not enough: I have innovative ideas that could invigorate the Jewish community and I am determined to see them come to fruition. PresenTense was the perfect opportunity to learn about best practices in Jewish communal in-novation. Most valuable lesson learned from the PresenTense community: PresenTense has been like business school-lite. I have learned how to build an organization, do an environmental scan, build a website, and create an online presence.
Founder: Cyndi Rand
The YM/YWHA’s Jewish education project, Yedidot, creates and sustains Jewish connections for young adults and families in Washington Heights and Inwood, who have had minimal or no prior connection to Jewish culture and Jewish life.
Inspiration to embark on the path of an innovator: When you are bitten by something you know is so amazing, life-altering, and indescribably positive, you need to share that with others. What is the use in keeping it to yourself? Challenges she sees in her field: It’s hard to convince someone on an intellectual level that Judaism is for them. It’s about getting people to think out of the box and enabling them to see what is possible. Who she can relate to in Jewish history: I relate to Tzipporah, wife of Moses. Despite all the difficulty surrounding her, passion and connection to God gave her great conviction.
The Jewish Plays Project
Founder: David Winitsky
The Jewish Plays Project (JPP) celebrates and develops Jewish identity through the study and production of Jewish plays.
His motivation: The opportunity to spend the next decade sharing my reconnection to Jewish identity through art while supporting the work of other great Jewish artists inspires my dreams for the JPP. The challenge in his project: The theater is a mirror on our lives and our experiences, and it is also a magical place of community. It’s astonishing: In this cynical, faith-challenged age, we still have a place where people can come to believe. For unaffiliated Jews, the Jewish theater can be a place to have Jewish faith, without needing a high level of Judaic literacy. Once we discover the power of communal Jewish faith, we are on the road to a reengagement with our people and our religion. The challenge is to get them in the door and away from **
Founder: Elissa Shevinsky
ElissaBeth SEO is a marketing firm which provides training and employment in digital marketing for housewives (and househusbands) seeking meaningful and lucrative work.
Motivation to Innovate: The way I see it: If you’re going to be working anyway, why not work on the most interesting projects? From the perspective of a social entrepreneur, innovative solutions are often necessary to effectively address social issues. Vision for her project: A year from now, ElissaBeth SEO will provide training and employment for housewives (and househusbands) seeking interesting and relatively well-paying Shomer Shabbat work. Many Jewish housewives face the impossible task of providing income for their families while also staying at home and taking care of their (often quite large) household. The community benefits are obvious: Jewish housewives will have the opportunity to receive both career training and employment meeting their unique needs.
Founder: Evan Kleinman
Punk Jews is a documentary series showcasing Jewish artists, musicians, and activists expressing Jewish culture and spirituality in unique and unconventional ways. We also organize events and have an interactive website where people from any Jewish background as well as non-Jews can come together.
Who he can relate to in Jewish history: Lots of people credit Joey Ramone (who also happened to be Jewish) with embodying the original punk spirit. However, thousands of years before him lived a man named Abraham, both the original Jew and, in my opinion, the original punk. He refused to worship idols, which went against the mainstream practice of the time, and he stood up for what he believed in. The most valuable thing he’s learned from the PresenTense community: The simple concept of “how to lead the Israelites from slavery into the Promised Land” has given me the clarity I need on a physical, mental, and emotional level to approach a proposed venture and carry it out effectively.
Heart to Heart
Founder: Hart Levine
Heart to Heart is a grassroots movement of Jewish college students sharing their vibrant Jewish lives with their peers on college campuses through simple friendships integrated with initiatives such as intimate Shabbat dinners, explanatory learning, and holiday programming.
The challenge he faces: We can’t leave it to philanthropists or Chabad to build Jewish community, to reach out and do something about the rising rate of apathy among young Jews. These issues are intrinsically tied to the identity and the future the Jewish people, and not enough people realize they can, and have a responsibility to, contribute. A mass empowerment and mobilization of the Jewish people is lacking, and overturning that mindset remains an uphill battle. Vision for the project: If all goes as planned, one year from now I won’t have to worry about drumming up enthusiasm. Self-sustaining groups of students on a dozen campuses will be building communities around sharing their Jewish selves and experiences with other Jewish students.
Shalom Kids Yoga
Founder: Jory Stillman
Shalom Kids Yoga is an innovative Jewish educational initiative that engages the whole child: body, mind and neshama. The first project is based on the Six Days of Creation and Shabbat, with each class combining yoga/movement, Torah, Hebrew, and original Jewish song. Included in the DVD will be a guide for parents, day school teachers, supplementary school teachers, and Jewish camps.
Inspiration to embark on the path of an innovator: I have ideas that I am excited about and I want to see them become a reality! Most valuable thing she’s learned from the PresenTense community: Passion, persistence, perseverance and the value of collaboration are essential to see an idea become a reality. Where her project will be one year from now: If all goes well, my project will be almost complete and ready to release to the world! Teachers and children will be practicing my media-based program. All will be gaining Jewish knowledge as they learn through a unique combination of yoga, movement, Hebrew, and Jewish songs.
Founder: Josh Nelson
The Warehouse, an alternative Shabbat experience, provides a point of reentry for under-served and unaffiliated young Jews in New York City. Held monthly in an unconventional physical space, the venture will utilize innovative music, new media, and a fresh look at contemporary worship.
Who at PresenTense has made the most impact on his project: Ariel Beery opened up my eyes to logistical methodologies I had never considered. When he teaches, I feel like a sponge, trying to soak up this incredible stream of information. Where his venture will be one year from now: We will have launched in NYC, moved to a higher-capacity venue to accommodate the growing numbers of attendees, and be laying the groundwork for a national launch. More importantly, we will have had a significant, tangible impact on young people seeking a Jewish spiritual connection but otherwise lacking a venue where they might find it.
Museum at Eldridge Street
Founder: Miriam Bader
Located within the Landmark Eldridge Street Synagogue in the heart of the old Jewish Lower East Side, the Museum at Eldridge Street is an ideal setting for the exploration of Jewish history and culture and is a fantastic resource for learning.
Challenges she sees in her field: There is no comparison between learning from the authentic object in a museum gallery and learning from a textbook. Yet, with so many competing pressures and limited resources, schools today are often not able to utilize museums as a resource for learning. Most valuable thing learned from the PresenTense community: I have learned that an amazing network and a quality framework is a fantastic tool for motivation and guidance. These resources will empower me to think more critically about my work and implement my ideas thoughtfully. Big question she’s struggling with right now: What role should American-Jewish history have within the Jewish day-school curriculum?
Founder: Owen Gottlieb
ConverJent is transforming Jewish learning using digital games, game design, and table-top Games for Learning. We excite, engage, and delight Jewish learners and educators through live events, technology, and teaching collaborative design techniques. Through the fun and excitement of games, we spread a love of Jewish learning.
Inspiration to become an innovator: A clarity that the path to transmitting my love of Jewish life and Torah is best served through another love: today’s vernaculars of new media and games. Big question he’s working on right now: What are the coolest core game mechanics for pre-B’nai Mitzvah learning? The mechanics should delight learners, instill an active curiosity for Torah learning, and encourage collaboration within the Jewish community. What he hopes to see change in his field in the next 10 years as a result of his work: A variety of Jewish game designers creating Jewish Games for Learning, and educators using games in the classroom to create deeply engaging, rich learning environments.
Arts by Day
Founder: Sarah Sokolic
Arts by Day utilizes Artist-in-Residency programs and an original curriculum to transform Jewish Day Schools into hubs of Jewish exploration via the arts. Each program fosters dialogue and identity-building, inspiring Day School teachers, students, and parents to lead the next generation toward a revitalized Jewish future.
Inspiration to embark on the path of an innovator: Ever since I was a child, I’ve thought that I would do “one great thing” in life. I realize now that I’ve done many great things already. Each new chapter of life brings new opportunities. You just have to be open to the possibilities and follow your heart. Inspiration is everywhere. What she hopes to see change in her field in the next 10 years as a result of her work: Jewish day schools will continue to be thriving hubs of innovation, culture, learning, and community. They will be viable educational options for all Jews, not only for those with great financial means.
Founder: Sharon Haberman
JS Matchpoint aims to establish an umbrella organization with highly trained professionals which will train specialized matchmakers, guide volunteers on how to match and coach singles through the dating process, and implement a complete educational curriculum for matchmakers, singles, communal leaders, and parents.
Inspiration to become an innovator: My husband and I have been hosting singles, young-leadership events, matchmaker meetings, and classes in our home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for the past 15 years and have watched the singles’ issue grow exponentially. Yet there is no umbrella organization addressing this issue in a professional and systematic way. I am inspired to fill that need. Where her project will be one year from now: My project will have initial funding, name recognition, and a team of trained, specialized matchmakers who are success- fully setting up singles. Additionally, curriculums will be in place for a matchmaker-certification program and workshops for parents, singles, rabbis, communal leaders, and volunteers. Finally, research and studies will be underway on what is causing the singles’ issue and how to educate our young adults to establish happy, fulfilling, and long-lasting relationships.