The energy at Launch Night was electric as 200 community members gathered at the Centre for Social Innovation to hear the 11 PresenTense NYC 2014 Fellows pitch. The inspiration of the evening was amplified by the space that it took place in-- a 24,000 square foot co-working and event space dedicated to supporting NYC's cutting-edge change agents. For the first time we charged individuals to attend and pooled the funds to use as a social innovation fund, where four fellows who received the most votes on Launch Night received 90% of the total funds collected. Attendees enjoyed the evening of networking, a fun Photo Booth, and delicious food and libations, and left feeling inspired by the innovative solutions PresenTense Fellows are using to address our community's needs.
By Erin Davis, Shabbatness
Last month, my 90-year-old, 4'10" Nana Roza Goldberg baked over 1,000 hamentaschen from scratch in the same little kitchen in Jacksonville, Florida, in which she's baked numerous delicacies since immigrating to the U.S. after surviving the Holocaust. Since my recent 29th birthday, Nana has been particularly distressed that I am the only one of her grandchildren who has hit this age unmarried. This past Purim, she packed two additional "special ingredients" in her famous annual batch of hamentaschen: love, in hopes that it infects all who eat it; and extra sugar, because "no man likes a tiny tucchus like yours!". With these two magical ingredients, she made only one request - that they be served after a Shabbat dinner hosted in my home. "Shabbat," she says, in her thick Polish accent, "is magical - nothing brings together nice Jewish boys and girls like a good, home-cooked Shabbat dinner." Although I may not believe the majority of my grandma's superstitious advice nor indulge in her tucchus-plumping tactics, I couldn't agree more strongly on her belief in the power of the Shabbat experience.
By Dalia Davis, UPROOTED: A Jewish Response to Infertility
This past month has been a time of birth. My venture began with its conception which occurred in the privacy of my own thoughts after trying for a few months. After the thrill of a successful conception and discovering a positive response in my email in the form of an acceptance letter from PresenTense, the gestation period began. During this time my vision for this venture grew and developed, and was impacted by the advice of those in my inner circle—my mentor, coach, colleagues, and cohort. However, after carrying this venture close to my heart for many months, it came time for my venture to enter the world. I realized I need to experience birthing pains and allow others to meet my venture, secretly hoping they will treat her with compassion and love. As I created my website and put my thoughts in the public domain I found myself experiencing both excitement and anxiousness wondering how my venture will fair in the world.
By Temimah Zucker, Tikvah V'Chizuk
When I first began my journey at Presentense, I was a frazzled, tired blonde with a mission in mind and the gumption to take down anyone who came in my way.
Most of these things haven’t changed. I am still determined, generally tired and overworked, sometimes frazzled, but I have to say that my sense of humility has deepened and expanded.
At the onset of my journey with PT, I had one thing in mind: my venture. I walked through the doors of the 86th Street Synagogue on the day of speed interviewing holding stamina in one hand and my go-getter attitude in another. I believe in Tikvah V’Chizuk and in my mind, all I had to do was be myself and show why Presentense needed to help me.
Apparently it worked.
By Alyssa Berkowitz, Real in Return
Growing up, I was the child who preferred a good book to a birthday party. Teachers were always urging me to “break out of my shell” or would come up to me to express concern when I would sit quietly by myself during group activities. I was called “shy” and “awkward” well into my teenage years. I had a small group of close friends, and never yearned for the popular limelight. I felt uniquely me, and I dealt.
It wasn’t until college, where bored nights led to the discussion of the popular Myers-Briggs personality typing, that I learned there was a name to describe the way I felt as a child, and still feel today. I am an introvert: a person who gets energy from inside herself, as opposed to an extrovert who gathers energy from external stimuli. As an introvert, I am someone who is almost constantly streaming an inner monologue through her head and someone who prefers to stay out of the center of attention. However, I also happen to be an entrepreneur. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about being an entrepreneur, it’s that we find our success through our voices.
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.
By David Tuchman, OMGWTFBIBLE
I’m glad Purim happened during this year’s Fellowship. This year, I realized Megillat Esther contains the blueprint for the perfect pitch.
The stage for Esther’s pitch is set in Chapter 4 of the Megilla named for her. That’s when she learns, through Mordechai, of Haman’s plan of genocide for all the Jews in Achasuerus’ (or Xerxes’, if you’re nasty) domain. She’d like to petition the king to change his mind but, as she tells Mordechai, “any man or woman who goes to the king’s inner court without permission--there’s just one rule--they die.” It’s pretty clear her pitch is a risky one.
Esther goes anyway. After 3 days of fasting and market research (we can only assume), she enters the king’s inner court. Without permission. Achasuerus points his golden scepter at Esther, signifying he won’t kill her. Esther invites her husband and Haman to a string of parties, the second of which is her pitch meeting. When she finally pitches, in chapter 7, Esther demonstrates an intimate knowledge of her audience and the market context.
By Rinat Levy-Cohen, Ivrit with Ivry
I was walking home after my first meeting with my Mentor, Rabbi Ed Harwitz, from the Jewish Education Project in NYC. In our meeting, we spoke about the status of Hebrew language acquisition in North America. As a leading figure in Jewish educational leadership, Rabbi Harwitz strengthened my observation that Hebrew language teaching has a lot of catching up to do.
As an Israeli who has been living in NYC since the summer of 2012, I found it surprising how so few people, if at all, are trying to align Jewish education with 21st century learning standards and how desperately Hebrew teachers are sought for.
Our conversation made me curious, and I decided to surf the net and see how many people speak Hebrew in North America. I knew that some American Jews know how to speak Hebrew but I never saw this one coming: out of approximately 5,500,000 Jews only 216,343 speak Hebrew.
That is less than 4%!!!
By Carla Friend, Yachad Ashira - A Jewish Community Music School
Klezmer music is commonly known as the instrumental music traditions of Ashkenazi Jews. What you might not know, nor will Wikipedia inform you, is that the term “Klezmer”, as most of us know it, came about 40 years ago here in New York City! The coining of the term for this genre of music was part of an initiative by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance (CTMD) to recover this art form.
“We take Klezmer music for granted now but when we started [this initiative], the musicians didn't really call it 'Klezmer music',” says Peter Rushefsky, Executive Director at CTMD. In 1978, they did a concert series with David Tarras, sparking a huge interest in promoting and resuscitating the art form. Their researchers were searching for a spicy term to use when one of them suggested using the word “klezmer,” previously a somewhat derogatory Yiddish term used to refer to less-than-trained folk musicians. “It’s kind of amazing,” Rushefsky says, “40 years later, it’s embedded in world music.”
By Sarah L. Knapp, OutdoorFest
I didn't mean to become a social entrepreneur. It happened so fast and before I knew it my tweets had a funny new hashtag and my happy hours became filled with people who complained not of their day at work but of world problems.
I had grappled with the decision to leave my job for months, but when the day finally came for me to quit and start my own venture, everything shifted dramatically. A new world of flexible titles, hours and business plans opened before me. The day after I quit I could either be unemployed or an entrepreneur. Or with zero revenue perhaps the distinction was between an avid hobbyist and a businesswoman.
Anyway, as a committed hobbyist I jumped right in to creating the yet unnamed OutdoorFest. I was building the festival of my dreams to strengthen the outdoor community in NYC. Yet I began to discover this wasn’t just about organizing outdoor enthusiasts but rather building a platform that could shift urban lifestyles and, ultimately, change city culture.