Putting the spotlight on our Fellows
Want to learn a little bit more about our PresenTense Jerusalem 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:
- Single Mothers
- Founder: Aviva Harbater
- Alumni Outreach
- Founder: David Bernstein
- Mandel Leadership Institute
- Founder: Jo Mandel-Cohen
- Founder: Joanna Shebson
- Founder: Jonathan Plitmann
- The Alumni Community of Ein Prat
- Founder: Keren Appelbaum
- Radio Downtown Jerusalem
- Founder: Netanel Orbach
- Fair Pension
- Founder: Noam Melchior
- Oil 4 Peace
- Founder: Noy Mordekovitch
- Equal Salary for Women
- Founder: Poochy Shturchan
- Beit Hachibukim
- Founder: Ruthy Bracha
- Yeshivat Talpiot
- Founder: Shoshana Cohen
- Founder: Yizhar Cohen Tsedek
- The Peer Learning Program
- Founder: Zvi Hirschfield
Founder: Aviva Harbater
Single Mothers supports Jewish women who decide to start nontraditional families. It represents them to the relevant authorities, the general public, and the religious Jewish community, with the goal of enabling religious women who make this decision to feel like an integral part of the Jewish world.
Challenges she sees in her field: Interestingly, a major challenge is the women themselves. Many are afraid of taking this path because of social pressure, religious misconceptions, and financial considerations. What she hopes to see change in her field in the next 10 years as a result of her work: I hope that many older women will decide to start a family and have happy Jewish children. They will realize that it is possible to have a baby first and then get married.
Founder: David Bernstein
As technology has advanced, Jewish education now has the opportunity to reach a wider audience. Alumni Outreach will reach Pardes alumni and others in an engaging and stimulating manner through distance learning.
Inspiration to Innovate: To help Pardes enter the 21st century. Challenges he sees in his field: Finding a way to replicate the dynamic of Pardes learning online. Where his project will be one year from now: Pardes will have a variety of online learning programs, and more than one way to reach our alumni and others. What he hopes to see change in Jerusalem in the next 10 years as a result of his work: Jerusalem will have more connected Pardes alumni, more recruitment for Pardes, and more Torah study taking place.
Mandel Leadership Institute
Founder: Jo Mandel-Cohen
Through the Mandel Leadership Institute, Jo is developing short-term leadership programs in Israel for senior Jewish educators and community leaders from Israel and the Diaspora.
Who at PresenTense has made the most impact on her project: As an intrapreneur, it has been very valuable to share ideas with other intrapreneurs from other organizations in the field of Jewish education. Learning their ways of thinking, hearing their evaluation of my ideas, and seeing how they tackle similar problems will make an impact on my project. How she would like to see the PresenTense Fellowship grow in the future: Inspired by my husband, a dedicated high school teacher, I would like to see a version taught in Israeli high schools, beginning with an investment in talented teachers. Such a program would encourage teachers and students to think big, work hard, and develop their entrepreneurial spirit for themselves and the greater good.
Founder: Joanna Shebson
FunKey will be a new tool for the Israel tourism market that enables tourists to create personal profiles and then be given attraction and event suggestions that are right for them. FunKey will improve communication with returning tourists and let tourists and even local Israelis know about the fabulous attractions and events in this country.
Inspiration for embarking on the path of an innovator: My needs as a new, English-speaking mom in Jerusalem were not being met. Once I started to do my own research, I realized the information I gathered was valuable to other mothers in the area as well. Challenges she sees in her field: Being a new member of Israeli society, I need to learn the best ways to work with the local government and tourism offices while still keeping my options and creativity open. What she’s learned from PresenTense that has made the most impact on her project: PresenTense facilitators convinced me to take a step back and not fixate on the project, but rather focus on the general issue I am trying to solve. This helped open up my mind and caused me to change the direction of my project.
Founder: Jonathan Plitmann
Festigalgal is a Jerusalem bicycling event first launched October 2010 with nearly 200 participants. In Jerusalem, buses and cars struggle to navigate roads originally created for camels, and there are problems with traffic, parking, gas prices, and air quality. Festigalgal encourages locals to lobby for an increase in services for bike riders.
Inspiration to embark on the path of an innovator: After finishing my military service, I traveled throughout Central America. The sights I saw there made me reflect on societal problems in Israel. Big question he’s struggling with right now: How to keep the creative sting of the innovator while becoming more and more institutionalized. What he hopes to see change in Jerusalem in the next 10 years: Jerusalem should welcome bicycle use for transportation and leisure and offer safe bicycle paths and parking places. Car drivers should be aware of the two-wheelers on the side of the road and severely punished when risking cyclers’ lives.
The Alumni Community of Ein Prat
Founder: Keren Appelbaum
The Alumni Community of Ein Prat is comprised of approximately 800 young people who have learned at Ein Prat over the last eight years, discovering the many complexities that exist in Israeli Jewish society – and how live with them. It provides holiday and group learning activities and creates connections between cohorts of graduates.
Challenges she sees in her field: Community growth. Belonging to a community elicits feelings of visibility and intimacy. With increasing numbers of graduates (now 300 per year), we need to allow growth without hurting the feeling of belonging. What she hopes to see change in the next 10 years as a result of her work: Many young people will share a spiritual home: Ein Prat, with educational and cultural centers in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa. Graduates will have a relevant educational model to replicate widely in diverse Israeli communities.
Radio Downtown Jerusalem
Founder: Netanel Orbach
Radio Downtown Jerusalem will broadcast from a café-bar amidst a young Jerusalem. Both a physical and virtual space, the café will be used for discussion and influence on the creative scene, enabling youth from across the country, as well as worldwide, to connect to a young, vibrant, and attractive Jerusalem.
Inspiration to embark on the path of an innovator: To produce a communications body to represent and act for the young people in Jerusalem. Looking at Jerusalem through the media, you see mainly a picture of the conflicts in the Holy City, rather a reflection of the city’s infinite cultural wealth. This image is bad for the city, and affects the identity and pride of its residents. Big questions he’s struggling with right now: First, how will the project look organizationally? How can I attain cooperation to achieve the best results? Second, my project reaches deeper questions, like: What is “Jerusalem culture”?
Founder: Noam Melchior
Fair Pension will be a nonprofit providing advice, understanding, and guidance in reading annual updates of pension calculations from pension companies, and will help achieve optimal settlements in these calculations.
Inspiration to embark on the path of an innovator: In everything I do, I try to do the best I can. I did not have very much knowledge about pensions, but it was clear to me from the experiences of family members and others that it was a very important issue. Biggest challenge he sees in his field: To change the current situation, where most of the country has no idea of their pension status and whether they are getting or will get what they deserve. The most valuable thing learned from the PresenTense community: It is very important not to jump into the project before you’ve been through the whole process and are really able to implement your goal.
Oil 4 Peace
Founder: Noy Mordekovitch
Oil 4 Peace is an olive oil marketing initiative that builds trust and financial partnership activities between Israelis and Palestinians.
Most valuable thing learned from the PresenTense community: PresenTense’s work is testimony that a community can work more efficiently toward a goal than lone individuals, and that support and inspiration, both material and spiritual, can come from the most unexpected sources. Big question he’s struggling with right now: How to involve more people in Oil 4 Peace and to better understand how to inspire them, delegate more responsibilities, and empower them to act. Hopes for Jerusalem in the next 10 years: I sincerely hope many more enterprises, financial, social, or cultural, will sprout in our land and the light of hope and peace will reach even the corners of our land that have long been shadowed by despair.
Equal Salary for Women
Founder: Poochy Shturchan
Equal Salary for Women will address the emotional, behavioral, and economic issues that may come with unequal salaries through working with young women and students before they start to work, high-position women that sometimes adopt prejudices against other working women, and employers.
Inspiration to embark on the path of an innovator: I wanted to continue conducting women’s groups dealing with female empowerment through outdoor activity, but I changed my target issue to equal salaries for women because I feel that this is an important source of inequality in Israeli society. Where her project will be one year from now: The project will be actively facilitating groups that foster female empowerment. There will be seminars for women in high-level positions to increase their awareness of these issues. Also, I will work together on some of these ideas with other women’s groups that deal with similar issues in complimentary fields, such as the judicial system.
Founder: Ruthy Bracha
Beit Hachibukim will offer a daycare center, a crisis center for teenage girls, a foster home, and a medical center for alternative healing.
Big question she’s struggling with right now: We’re in conversations about whether other institutions can cooperate with us to provide emergency services to children. Where her project will be in one year: The daycare center will already be operating, and we will be renting an apartment over the daycare for our other services. I envision dozens of volunteers, including youth who will help us at the daycare. What she hopes to see change in her field of interest in the next ten years as a result of her work: I hope to see more projects emerge which are similar to mine in that they are also solving several different societal needs simultaneously. That way each person who is receiving help can also donate and feel significant.
Founder: Shoshana Cohen
Yeshivat Talpiot offers a unique full-time, egalitarian learning experience for Israelis in Jerusalem. By creating an open religious community that includes prayer, learning, and social action, we provide a space fusing traditional and academic modes of learning, where religious life and commitments shape our actions beyond the learning space.
Inspiration to embark on the path of an innovator: Growing up in a Modern Orthodox progressive home, attending Conservative day schools, I always felt a dissonance between my sincere commitment to religious tradition and my sense of injustice in this very tradition’s treatment of women and other “others.” From a young age, I felt unwilling to leave the task of changing this world to others and felt inspired to come up with ways to create a model of community that is both critical of and committed to religious values. Yeshivat Talpiot is the next step in this fusion. Most valuable lesson learned from PresenTense: The switch from seeing the world as made of compeditors to one made of collaborators. This view has allowed us to see ourselves as part of something much bigger. We have a product to provide that benefits a larger population than we previously allowed ourselves to imagine.
Founder: Yizhar Cohen Tsedek
Choola employs individuals with special needs in a positive workplace with decent wages, where they manufacture a unique product line of high-quality wooden toys.
Inspiration to embark on the path of an innovator: I became inspired during my stint as a rehabilitation carpenter at the Summit Institute, where I focused on helping young people with mental disabilities discover vocational therapy and get involved in the community. The most valuable thing learned from the PresenTense community: Believing my project can create added value for the community through the work of mentally challenged people. Big question he’s struggling with right now: There are three major hurdles to pass: finding funds for my project, finding partners who share my vision, and leaving my current job at the workshop and having the financial confidence that I can support my family.
The Peer Learning Program
Founder: Zvi Hirschfield
The Peer Learning Program recruits and trains Pardes students to run learning sessions for other alumni and their peers upon their return to different North American cities, in a peer-led program during the course of their Pardes study.
Big question he’s struggling with right now: The question of how young adults want to build community. Should our focus be on creating groups in different cities in North America, or is cyberspace the answer? How much can virtual communities accomplish, and is there a way to blend technology with more traditional models of community-building and engagement? How he would like to see the PresenTense Fellowship grow in the future: I would to see a specially-designed track for those who want to develop programs or expand existing institutions. The program could include training in how to develop support among colleagues and engage current lay leadership.