They stand in single file, shifting their balance, anxiously waiting their turn.
The signal is given, and the first person steps up in front of the
“There are queer people everywhere,” says Sara Weil, presenting
her company The Women’s Gathering.
Weil is one of 13 fellows of the first
10-day PresenTense Global Laboratory in Jerusalem, a mentorship and business
development program that aims to foster innovation in the Jewish community in
Israel and abroad.
Weil made aliya from California eight years ago and in
November 2011, started producing events for the Queer and LGBT community in
Jerusalem. Her goal is to “offer compelling content in a safe and loving
On the night the Global Laboratory launched its showcase of
graduates and their ventures, Weil is missing her own event that is taking place
in downtown Jerusalem.
“I decided it would be worth my while to get
connected with all the people who are involved in PresenTense,” she says of her
decision to apply for the fellowship. “[The] people [here] are involved in all
kinds of different things, any aspect of the Jewish world all over the
Founded seven years ago, the PresenTense Global Institute has
produced an alumni base of more than 400 social entrepreneurs operating in the
fields of profit or nonprofit ventures that include environmental, educational
or cultural connections between Israel and the Diaspora.
in Jerusalem, the program draws young entrepreneurs from all over the world –
the fellows hail from Australia, the US, Russia, France and Israel – to focus on
building Jewish community.
Sara Weinreb, associate program director and
coordinator of the Global Laboratory, says, “PresenTense was founded on Zionism,
pioneering and creativity to realize the potential of the Jewish people towards
building a stronger future.”
She says that keeping the program in
Jerusalem is the true embodiment of these ideals and gives the fellows a deeper
understanding of what they are working towards.
Known for its part-time,
six-month Global Institute Fellowship – it operates in 11 cities in four
countries – the long-term program evolved into a concentrated six-week program
Weinreb explains that PresenTense reimagined how the
institute could reach more entrepreneurs and support successful alumni, giving
them the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills and meet with industry
experts to further promote their ventures.
The concentrated program
allowed Dara Frank, an American-Israeli who lives in Jerusalem, the opportunity
to focus on her venture – in between university finals and returning from a
joint Muslim-Jewish conference in Sarajevo, just one day before the PresenTense
As the Israel director of TRIP (Tiyul-Rihla Project in Hebrew
and Arabic), Frank’s organization has brought Israelis and Palestinians together
on two- to three-day educational tours within Israel and the West Bank since
2011. The trips focus on sites of historical importance, traveling to Jericho
and Bethlehem in the West Bank, touring Jerusalem and visiting Haifa and Tel
Aviv. It is an alternative educational tour, focusing on discussions of history
that may not match up.
“The point is that we have these vast
misunderstandings in our narratives and our dialogues,” Frank says. “We learn
about the history of the other in order to have better conversations and more
productive conversations about the conflict.”
Frank was a participant on
the Laboratory’s SEED track, designed for first-time participants in the
PresenTense curriculum. She says the program taught her the skills to delegate
responsibility and manage her project more effectively.
“I applied with
the specific goal of taking this project and making it into something huge,”
Frank says. “I really feel I learned those skills. People sat with me and helped
me perfect my business plan.”
A SECOND track, unique to the 10-day
program, was the SCALE track. It invited five alumni back to go deeper into
skill-building and reach new levels with their ventures.
It brought back
Elizabeth Weingarten from Washington, DC, the founder of Tribelle, a jewelry
collective that aims to support and cultivate female entrepreneurship in
She graduated from the SEED program in June in DC and has sold a
few pieces. She is now looking to expand her venture into boutiques and online
Tribelle is innovative because it aims to reinvest part of the
profits from sales in programs that train low-income female entrepreneurs.
Weingarten is first focusing on the programs that have helped train her jewelry
suppliers but hopes to encourage and support more entrepreneurial training
programs for women across the board.
Weingarten had to come to Israel for
Tribelle, but it also provided her the opportunity to participate in the SCALE
track of the Laboratory. At the end of the 10 days, Weingarten says she has a
greater understanding of the tools necessary to sustain her business, such as a
focus on budget and projected longterm revenue. In discussing the benefits of
the SCALE program, she cites the one-on-one time with mentors and PresenTense
Israel CEO Guy Spigelman.
“What he really helped us with and emphasized
was building a sustainable business model. And he gave us a lot of support in
mapping out our budget and expected business revenues,” Weingarten says. “It was
Jared Jackson, a Philadelphia native, also described
SCALE as providing invaluable experience. The combination of meeting with
Spigelman and in small groups allowed him to think much farther ahead than he
could have before, he says.
Jackson is the founder of Jews in All Hues, a
community education and leadership training organization geared toward
“dual-heritage Jews,” people who come from mixed families, are converts or were
adopted. Jackson, who is bi-racial – his mother is an Ashkenazi and Sephardi mix
and his father is Native American and African American – says the first time he
was ever called a racial slur was by a rabbi. He started his organization to
build connections among Jewish people of all backgrounds.
participated in the six-month fellowship program in Philadelphia, meeting one
Sunday a month and attending seminars on weekday evenings. He says it was a
great experience that challenged the way he perceived the vision for his
But in participating in the 10-day Laboratory program,
Jackson says the experience was “tachlis” (Yiddish for “right to the
“They’re not afraid to tell you the truth,” he says. “They’re
going to tell you whether or not they think you [or your venture] will succeed…
but also to give you encouragement to give you skills that, even if you fail,
you’ll have to go on in other fields.”
Gili Finkelstein, director of
strategy and marketing, says she believes that in the 10-day program they have
found an interesting formula to bring people for an intense track that also
enables them to acquire the tools they need to get their ventures started or to
ramp up their existing ventures.
“All of us – the Israeli and the global
team – sat with them, worked with them on our different professional subjects
[and] helped them with whatever they needed to get their projects running,” she
The guiding principle of PresenTense is the belief that
entrepreneurs build communities, and communities build entrepreneurs,
“We believe these two forces in the field can empower
each other… when they come together, and we give them the right tools. They know
how to work together and bring their projects to life for the good of the