If the world of young Jewish policy wonks had an annual ball then it would
probably look a lot like the ROI Community, the yearly gathering that kicks off
in Jerusalem Sunday.
Some 150 young adults from dozens of countries who
are involved in Jewish doing will take part in the gathering held at a hotel in
During the five-day event participants will exchange ideas
how to rejuvenate their communities, listen to lectures from innovators and
leaders and, yes, do a little bit of mingling.
ROI Community is the pet
project of billionaire Lynn Schusterman, the widow of the late oil mogul Charles
Schusterman and a major donor to Taglit-Birthright, which brings young Jewish
adults on free trips to Israel.
The folksy Oklahoman philanthropist
launched the conference – whose acronym stands for Return On Investment – back
in 2005 and has since taken place in various formats on several continents and
spun off dozens of Jewish initiatives.
Two of the better known groups to
emerge from ROI Community are Moishe House, which creates hubs for young Jewish
adults to meet, and GodCast, a podcast on Jewish religious, cultural and social
“ROI is a proudly diverse community, bound by our love for the
Jewish people and for Israel,” Schusterman said. “Individually and collectively,
ROI members are creating new avenues of Jewish expression and experiences that
are enabling more people to explore Jewish life in exciting, meaningful ways. At
the heart of our investment in these young leaders and activists is our belief
in their limitless potential to inspire their peers, transform communities and
strengthen the Jewish future.”
This year, according to the group’s press
release, participants include “Moshe Madoi of Uganda, who is now studying in
Israel and will return to teach and serve as a ritual slaughterer for the 142
other Jews in his village, and Melisa Goldfinger, of Argentina, who oversees a
network of 10 golf therapy schools in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay for children
They will meet Yossi Vardi, the businessman often dubbed the
“godfather of Israeli start-ups” for his ability to identify good hi-tech
investments; Noa Tishby, an actress and Hollywood producer; and Itamar
Rabinovich, the former ambassador to the US.
Participants in the ROI
Community conference are admitted into a semi-formal club. Alumni are often
invited to follow-up gatherings and social events, and sometimes receive grants
to launch their initiatives. This year, for instance, a new fund has been set up
to subsidize costs for ROI participants who wish to take part in Limmud UK, a
Jewish confab that is the inspiration for hundreds of similar educational
gatherings around the world.