"Entrepreneurship 101" is an introductory class for incarcerated and court-involved youth and adults offering important tools to reduce recidivism and increase employment by teaching students how to start their own successful ventures.
Inspiration to innovate: I saw an unmet need with tremendous social impact potential—and recognized that I could apply my skills and resources to fulfill that need in a creative way.
Where project will be in one year: In one year, I expect that the Entrepreneurship 101 program will be offered to 1,000 courtinvolved youth and adults in Massachusetts and New York. In addition, we will provide youth with mentors and adults with business advisors in order to support our alumni during their transition back into their communities and beyond. We will be in the process of continuing our goal of expansion nationwide.
"Project YALA" is a young adult Israel travel experience and networking alliance that brings Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians together to build relationships and find common ground through education, outreach, and community activism.
Inspiration to innovate: Our community is polarized on the issue of Israel and this has turned off large numbers of young adults from getting involved in any kind of meaningful Israel programming. It is a shame because there are many people who truly support Israel but simply want honest answers to important questions. Project YALA will serve as a meeting place for all those who seek out moderate, rational voices that care about productive paths toward a two-state solution.
Most valuable thing learned from the CJP/PresenTense community: The innovative spirit really can take flight with some focused momentum, some tools of the trade, and a relentless effort to reach out to other likeminded individuals.
Changes he hopes to see/effect in the next 10 years: As a result of this work, I would like to see organizations in our community—spurred on by demands from young leaders—become more willing to allow a wide range of discussion around what is possible for Israel and a future Palestinian state.
"WeDoTouch Jewish Education," a project of iDoTouch.com, provides mobile solutions to help members of the Jewish community communicate and learn from each other through apps developed for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.
Inspiration to innovate: My wife, Rachel, and my two sons, Alexander and Abraham, who have convinced me that anything is possible.
Big question he is struggling with right now: How can I incorporate interesting, unique content and make it profitable for all contributors?
Where project will be in one year: The WeDoTouch Education App for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch will have hundreds of lessons available for download, constantly fresh content, and a large base of returning users and content providers.
The Jewish Climate Action Network (JCAN) provides alternative Jewish experiences through environmental action and learning. By engaging disconnected Jewish youth from within an area of their own interest, JCAN aims to create a wave of connected Jewish youth working towards a sustainable future for the Jewish people and the world.
Inspiration to innovate: After several years of attending meetings and protests for environmental and social justice issues, I noticed multiple Christian groups were in attendance, but not a single Jewish group was to be found. This upset me, knowing that the Jewish people have deep ties to these causes. Furthermore, young Jews feel increasingly alienated from the mainstream Jewish community, much as I did. I want to show these young people an aspect of Judaism that is often ignored and in doing so strengthen their ties to their heritage and to their planet.
People he has met at CJP/PresenTense who have made the biggest impact on his project: My mentor, Michael Bohnen, has been unbelievably supportive. His thoughts, ideas, and connections have provided me with new directions and insights to help my venture grow. And none of this would be possible without the dedicated efforts of Elana Boehm and the steering committee.
Who he identifies with in Jewish history: I identify with A.D. Gordon’s conviction that Jews need to “return to nature” in order to fully experience everything Jewish life has to offer. I similarly share his passion for the value of working with our hands and bodies and the importance of not only being intellectual creatures.
What he hopes to see change in Boston in the next 10 years: I hope Boston’s Jews will more meaningfully connect to Jewish life by experiencing Judaism’s agricultural roots. I hope that they become increasingly connected to their local food system, resulting in healthier eating choices in Jewish institutions, at lifecycle celebrations, and at home. I hope that they will understand environmental stewardship, ecological sustainability, and the pursuit of social justice as essential, authentic features of Jewish life, and be inspired to make lasting commitments in these realms.
"Hebrew Play" aims to make Hebrew an integral part of the American Jewish identity by inspiring young children and their families to use Hebrew when they play together.
Where project will be in one year: The website hebrewplay.org will have 500 members who will connect with each other, share tips, and access great ideas to use Hebrew at home. Parents will form five playgroups throughout Greater Boston, where together they will sing songs, read books, and play games in Hebrew. More than a dozen partners—including preschools, day schools, and vendors—will have a stake in the organization’s continued success.
Changes he hopes to see/effect in the next 10 years: My hope is that in 10 years Hebrew learning will become an extracurricular activity of choice among American Jews. Through old-fashioned community organizing and the latest in technological advances, we will get there.
The Mosaic Art Institute of Natick (MAION) was founded in 2009 to build strong community identity through public mosaic art. Partnering with individuals, towns, schools, local businesses, and large corporations, it creates shared community art that expresses respect, understanding, and pride of environment.
Inspiration to Innovate: I was inspired by the opportunity to help regenerate connected community at the local level. My vision is that public mosaic art will bring forth the shared community values of respect, understanding, and pride of environment. I want to exemplify the highest standards of artistic excellence and the Jewish values of pluralism, respect, and tikkun olam.
Changes she hopes to see/effect in the next 10 years: Art inspires conversation, imagination, and the ability to see things in a new light. By creating large community art projects, we will be teaching fundamental community and philanthropic values such as engagement, problem- solving, giving back, cooperation, group dynamics, and business management, with an emphasis on the importance of working together toward a common goal.
"Attar" is a spiritually-grounded, community-based approach to sustainability that engages the Jewish community in reimagining the world we want to live in. By combining text study, innovative ritual practice, and sustainable living skill development, our programs inspire and give us the skills to shift our behaviors toward more sustainable practices in a way that is hopeful and enduring.
Challenges in the field: For the Jewish community to model what it means to live sustainably, all of us will have to shift behaviors and routines that have become comfortable. We’ve begun to move in this direction, but we need to accelerate this momentum by providing tools that are connected to our tradition and opportunities to develop hands-on skills that we can bring into our daily lives.
Most valuable thing learned from the CJP/PresenTense community: The fellowship has given me structure and time to refine my ideas as well as connections to people willing to provide feedback and advice on how best to move my venture forward.
Changes he hopes to see/effect in the next 10 years: The Boston Jewish community will be a model for building and sharing skills of sustainable living through a framework of text-based learning and reimagined ritual.
"Yenta Travel" will provide the necessary information to Jewish travelers who would like to connect with the Jewish community wherever they are traveling.
Most valuable thing learned from the CJP/PresenTense community: I learned how to turn an idea into an actual product. There was a steep learning curve in taking the step from identifying a problem to developing the skills and confidence to actually solve that problem. The effort, assistance, and concrete tools that CJP/PresenTense provided to help us launch our ventures made me aware of the true passion that the leaders in the Boston Jewish community have for supporting new and innovative programs.
Vision for the future of CJP/PresenTense: I would like to see an alumni portion of the fellowship, where previous fellows could make themselves available for consultation and mentorship. In addition, I think it would be beneficial if the program ran for a longer period of time to allow the fellows to more fully develop their plans before the launch.
"BioIL" is a program to connect life-sciences entrepreneurs, investors, and researchers to facilitate the exchange of capital, talent, and technology between Boston and Israel.
People he has met at CJP/PresenTense who have made the biggest impact on his project: Andrew Becker, my coach, and Scott Yaphe, my mentor, have both been incredibly supportive, and their advice and suggestions are key to the success of BioIL.
Where project will be in one year: BioIL will be organizing regular events and programs to accelerate the exchange of capital, talent, and technology between Boston and Israel.
Changes he hopes to see/effect in the next 10 years: Bostonians will increasingly think of Israel as a place where cutting-edge technologies are being developed that are of economic and social benefit to Boston and the world.
"The Jewish Birth Network" aims to connect soon-to-be and new parents with the resources, skills, and community they need to make good choices for their families in the realms of health care, parenting, and Jewish practice.
Most valuable thing she’s learned from the CJP/PresenTense community: I’ve been learning that I don’t need to wait for perfection in one area to start working on another area or to start talking about what I’m doing. Building relationships has helped me refine some elements of my venture and allowed others to be involved in the venture’s development.
Changes she hopes to see/effect in the next 10 years: I’d like to see more confident, engaged, and informed young families making choices, including Jewish choices, in ways that work for them. Children will see Judaism as an integral and meaningful part of their lives because it has been there from even before day one, and because their parents have found ways to practice Judaism that feel meaningful and authentic. More women telling their friends and relatives positive, empowering birth stories will change the overall attitude toward birth for the better.
"The MEM Project" works with Jewish young adults interested in exploring their identity and spirituality through Jewish art workshops. The shared mural experience provides them with an opportunity to connect with and give voice to underserved populations in an innovative model of community partnership.
Challenges in the field: Unfortunately, our society tends to view art as an “elective” rather than a necessity. People are often intimidated when asked to explore their artistic talents, funds have not been easily accessible, and artistic endeavors are not always recognized as providing value that can change lives. Breaking these stereotypes and inviting people to engage in the creative process and discover hidden talents are challenges I am happy to take on.
Where project will be in one year: The MEM Project will have reached out to a wide audience of Jewish young adults and engaged them in actively exploring their Jewish identity through art. In turn, these Jewish young adults will have participated in leadership roles to bring more art into their neighborhoods through community mural projects. Participants from the Jewish community and from under-served communities will have been able to proudly say “I did that” and point to a lasting visual representation of their creative efforts. PT