By Julie Sugar, The Mincha Minyan
1. “Create something that will make the world awesome.”
I applied to the PresenTense NYC Fellowship with nothing more than an idea, and I got in. That may sound carefree and quick, but the truth is that I have been thinking about my idea—a project called The Mincha Minyan—for at least two years.
But why now? I studied playwriting in college, and
“why now?” is a key question I learned to always askabout my scenes and characters. So, in that same vein, if I’ve had an idea in my back pocket for years, why bring it to fruition now?
I want to do what Kid President urges us to do: I want to create something that will make the world awesome—with an emphasis on create. Thankfully I always have plenty of ideas, but I don’t yet know how to move an idea into implementation; over the next few months, this fellowship will be giving each cohort the tools to take those steps. And that will (hopefully!) make the world awesome.
By Samuel Klein, Limmud NY Connections
Among the scattered red clown noses and glitter I danced.
It was the closing hours of Limmud Los Angeles in 2010 and Craig Taubman, of Sinai Temple’s ‘Friday Night Live’ fame, was holding a Rosh Chodesh Adar get-together. With the cascading electric guitar riff of ‘Lord Get Me High’ by Shlomo Carlebach melting my limbs, I imagined the new month of Adar washing over, with its promise of joy, general abandon and spirit of community at play. On Rosh Chodesh, that spirit found expression in exquisite and delicious dance.
Dancing with me were children, teens, singles, young-marrieds and grandparents, drawn from across the Los Angeles Jewish community and internationally; the room reverberated with their laughter and their song.
Three years later, it’s almost the month of Adar again, but this time, I am track chair of Limmud NY’s Social and Communal initiative, Limmud NY Connections!
Tell me about your vision when starting DoGoodBuyUs.
The idea for DoGoodBuyUs came about the same way every great story starts, at the supermarket. I picked up two boxes of cereal, one was a name brand and the other was a Paul Newman's Own. I looked at the ingredients in the name brand and saw there were over 90 but only heard of 4. Surely this wouldn't be good enough for my son to eat. Fake sugars, things I couldn't pronounce. I then looked at the Paul Newman's Own and found 4 ingredients, all of them I recognized. This was it! Finally I had found something that was GOOD for us AND did GOOD for others at the same time. How many more could I find?
I went home and did some research, and unfortunately I couldn't find much other than TOMS shoes. I was sure that I was not the only one who wanted these products. On August 1, 2011 I launched DoGoodBuyUs. We now feature over 750 products, and have just hired our fourth employee.
What is the biggest lesson you learned when starting DoGoodBuyUs that you can share with other aspiring social entrepreneurs?
I learned how you know you have the right idea- if you go to bed physically exhausted but your mind doesn't stop racing. You have the right idea if you want to tell everyone you meet about your project. Without that passion, you won't get far.
What I think everyone entrepreneur should be prepared for is that it makes every day, the best and worst day of your life.
What do you read to keep up with the social innovation scene?
Mashable social good section, GOOD magazine
What appealed to you about being a PresenTense coach?
Personally, I believe that educating others is the greatest thing that we can give back. The world needs more social entrepreneurs and I wanted to do all I could in helping them get to the next step.
Zack Rosenberg is the founder & CEO of DoGoodBuyUs and 2013 PresenTense NYC Coach. Zack is hosting an outstanding panel on the intersection of nonprofits and technology in NYC on February 5. More information here. You can reach Zack at email@example.com.
By Monique Smith, Impact Israel
So, I have an idea. I have lots of ideas actually. Most of them are silly, like opening a franchise of gyms in airports or developing an automated pooper-scooper (the DogPoomba) or a hand-written and delivered greeting card company. It’s usually out of some sort of laziness that I start thinking about these things—like not wanting to clean up the backyard. And I get really excited. For about 10 minutes. Then I go back to watching TBS reruns. But what makes an idea worth pursuing? What makes this time different?
Socially minded entrepreneurship, as far as I can tell, appears to be composed of equal parts vision and feasibility.
Last Night we hosted a fantastic panel of PresenTense Alumni. Here's what they had to say:
“The biggest thing I gained from PT, in addition to the connections and the credibility, was the confidence to take my idea to the next level.” – Amy Fechter, NYC 2012
“I met my fiscal sponsor at Launch Night.” – Jayson Littman, NYC 2012
“When I first heard about PresenTense from Facebook, I had no idea what social entreprenership was – I just knew I wanted to help develop Jewish community.” – Naomi Nalogina, Moscow 2012
“I started working in the nonprofit Jewish sector, which was facilitated in large part by meeting a good friend at PresenTense.” – Adam Soclof, Global 2007
“PresenTense was like a think tank once a week.” – Evan Kleinman, NYC 2011
Our panel included:
By Adena Blickstein, Jewish Women's Talent Agency
There is nothing more precious than the Jewish woman.
We have so much to say. We have so many faces, feel so many things, experience through our souls and see the world deeply. We are responsible for the values of our families and are the gatekeeper, the port of entry, to what can enter and to what is not allowed. We are the soft, protective, skin to our family’s bodies, bodies that grow minute by minute, day by day, and year by year. We build and maintain those bodies. They are the fruit of our labor. We are responsible for identifying illness and providing nutrition. We protect, nurture and guide. We are firm and strong willed. We are sensual. We are the core of existence. Life begins in us. We struggle, we cry, we give, we inspire, we hurt, we speak, we emanate peace.
I began Professional Women’s Theater in 2006 with this concept in mind although not fully articulated.
The PresenTense NYC Fellowship blog is back in action! Stay tuned for exciting updates from fellows and other members of our community. Have something to say? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Josh Nelson, Founder of The Warehouse
Sometimes, all you need is to find a doorway...
I suppose that none of us end up where we expect... that the life plan we imagine when we're children becomes, for most, a lovely bit of nostalgia. I didn't expect to be here, but here I am. Like each of us, I am a unique product of environment, surroundings, culture, family, and faith. I am an artist; a prayer leader; a composer; an educator. I am an American Jew, and I want to change the world for the better in any way that I can.
I feel fortunate to be able to do the work I do... it's fulfilling, challenging, and never the same from day to day. I dream big dreams, and try to pick up the skills along the way to turn them into reality. The PresenTense fellowship is a crash course in bringing ideas to life, and I'm honored and fortunate to have the chance to birth this venture while being guided and advised by such a brilliant, caring team.
Looking back on the path that led me to this moment, I can see that amidst a very challenging environment, I found a mission. (Or, perhaps, the mission found me). For years, I wandered through life without a spiritual connection. I didn't just doubt - I rejected, and planned for a long career featuring a professorship and a tweed coat. Somehow, Jewish music and prayer re-opened a door that had been locked for a very long time. I changed course, and left a Doctoral degree dangling in the wind. I was suddenly focused, aware and alive… looking at daily life with a different pair of eyes.
What I saw was a generation that was Judaically disenfranchised; disconnected, homeless, and lacking a center. I feel connected to this group because I was once a part of it. By a strange twist of fate, I found my way back, and it changed my life. And, I want that for others. My venture, The Warehouse, is a personal attempt to provide others with that point of entry. Everyone deserves an open door.
By Miriam Bader, Director of Education at the Eldridge St. Museum
A central goal of the Jewish day school movement is to instill students with a strong Jewish identity. Students need to be able to answer the questions of “Who am I” and “Where do I come from.” The study of Jewish history helps students shape their understanding of the Jewish people and their role within it. Most Jewish history classes focus primarily on ancient Jewish history, the Holocaust and Israel. American Jewish history often does not make the cut even though the topic is most relevant to students’ lives.
At the Museum at Eldridge Street, I take thousands of students through the Landmark 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue, the first great house of worship built by Eastern European Jews in America. As they explore the magnificently restored sanctuary, they step into history and grapple with the challenges faced by what was once the largest Jewish community in the world.
Out of all the student groups that come from both public and private schools, only a small percentage visit from Jewish day schools. As the Director of Education, this continues to surprise me. As a PresenTense fellow, I have been working to solve this mystery.
Four fifths of American Jews descend from the 19th century immigrant experience, yet how many Jewish day school students learn about this period? When I teach about this historical era, I am struck by the similarities between the Jewish immigrants 100 years ago and contemporary Jewish life. Just as Jewish immigrants debated which synagogue to attend, who to elect as community leaders and what role gender plays in ritual life 100 years ago, Jewish day school students are similarly confronted with these issues. Exploring these issues gives students insight into the development of American Judaism and new perspectives on their role as members of the Jewish community.
With over 5,000 years of Jewish history, figuring out which periods to study in the classroom can be daunting. What place do you think the 19th century Jewish immigrant experience should have within the day school curriculum? Is it extraneous or relevant?
By David Winitsky, Founder of the Jewish Plays Project
I’ve spent my entire adult life making theater. And theater doesn’t make any sense.
Here’s how it works: Group A, (let’s call them the audience) sits in a dark room and stares at Group B (let’s call them the actors), all of whom are working very hard to pretend to be people they are not. That’s weird, right?
But here’s the really crazy part: in the theater, Group A actively chooses to believe Group B. The audience, enlightened adult members of modern society, makes a conscious choice to believe that the actors are who they say they are.
The technical name for this bizarre phenomenon is “willing suspension of disbelief”, and it’s one of the most important things in the world.
When we suspend our disbelief, we take a break from our fact-laden world. We loosen our grip on the need to be right, to be correct, to be shown proof. When we suspend our disbelief, we make a leap that is – dare I say – religious. For what is faith but the active choice to believe things for which there is no objective proof?
When we gather in the theater and suspend our disbelief, we open ourselves to the possibility that there might be a world that we don’t know, a world that is different, and perhaps better, than the world we are in right now. And we do it together, as a group, as a people.
That’s crazy. And it’s beautiful.
It’s easy not to believe. It’s simpler to give in to the hard, hard world and disbelieve anyone who tries to change it. At PresenTense, we are so fortunate to find an entire community –Mentors, Coaches, Staff and supporters – that so willingly suspends that disbelief. Their faith in our ventures is inspiring and awesome and intensely Jewish in ways that make the daily trials of the entrepreneur’s life a joy to bear.
This process of making the Jewish world better is crazy. With PresenTense on our side, it’s beautiful, too.
PresenTense NYC Fellowship
Igniting social change in the NYC Jewish community.