Future of Jewish people to be discussed at J'lem summit

150 young leaders meet for five-day ROI Global Summit for Young Jewish Innovators to exchange ideas on issues shaping the Jewish World.

June 12, 2011 01:36
3 minute read.
ROI SUMMIT participants at a ‘community brainstorm’ session.

ROI 311. (photo credit: Adi Cohen)

The future of the Jewish people will be debated by 150 young Jewish leaders from all walks of life at a five-day annual conference in Jerusalem that begins on Sunday.

Jewish authors, innovators, artists and entrepreneurs from 25 countries will take part in the ROI Global Summit for Young Jewish Innovators to exchange ideas and opinions on the issues shaping the Jewish world.

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“ROI as an organization assembles a network of young innovators and brings them together to create a Jewish future,” Justin Korda, the executive director of the ROI Community, said on Friday.

ROI was created in 2005 with funding from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and the Bernie Marcus Foundation, and in partnership with Taglit-Birthright. Since then, more than 600 alumni have gone on to create initiatives and projects directly inspired by the summit.

“One great example I like to give is a group of ROI’ers who managed to form a collaboration of 17 participants and launched a website called Jewcology,” Korda said. “It connects anything between Judaism and environmentalism.”

Another example, he said, is G-dcast.com, spearheaded by Sarah Lefton, a digital media producer and Jewish educator.

“Her mission is to raise the bar of Jewish education around the world and put together Torah portions every week. Our goal in all these cases is to offer members a strategic network and support group – people who will help each other achieve those goals more effectively.”

Another alumna who benefited from the ROI summit is Netaly Ophir-Flint, the vice president of the Reut Institute, a policy group in Tel Aviv. In 2008, she took part in the gathering for the first time and was so impressed she comes back every year.

“One of the things that happened to me in 2008 was that the penny dropped, and I started asking myself what my responsibility is not only towards Israel but to the Jewish world, and that influenced my work at Reut,” she said.

Among her other responsibilities, Ophir-Flint now heads a team at Reut thatfocuses on global Jewish issues. In that capacity she helps draft reports on the big issues affecting the Jewish world and works with several major Jewish organizations like the Jewish Agency for Israel to advance reform.

“So many of my basic assumptions about the Jewish world burst in 2008, and that’s been with me ever since,” she said. “I was much more introspective and focused on how to strengthen Israel. The big change has been in asking what our role as Jews in Israel should be vis-à-vis world Jewry.”

Over the course of the five-day period the 150 carefully-selected participants – a third from Israel, a third from the US and a third from the rest of the world – will engage in workshops and attend lectures by parliamentarians, businessmen and activists.

“What really made the difference is the participants being in an intensive program for five days with quality people, young professionals and all sorts,” Ophir-Flint said. “As [Lynn] Schusterman says, ‘Just get them in the same room and things happen.’” In the future, Korda said ROI will launch a new platform where ideas for Jewish innovations could compete against one another “in a friendly way.”

He also said he hoped the ROI community would grow to include 1,000 members in its fold.

“We’re the glass half-full people,” Korda said. “A lot of the Jewish world does a lot of work on things like negative trends and assimilation work, but we like to focus on the optimistic side.”

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