Jewish youth gather outside Damascus gate on 'Jerusalem Day,' May 17, 2015..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Some 150 young Jewish leaders from 32 countries gather in Jerusalem this week for the ROI Summit, a Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation-sponsored event that aims to boost Jewish leadership.
“ROI [Return on Investment] is a global community of reciprocity with over 1,000 members spearheading projects to infuse new energy into the Jewish world,” said Justin Korda, executive director of ROI Community. “This year’s ROI Summit gathered some of our most dynamic, entrepreneurial young innovators who inspired one another creatively with groundbreaking ideas that have the power to change the Jewish landscape.”
“The energy is impressive, the people are impressive, there’s a positivity. Obviously they’ve curated a group that’s trying to change the world, so you have a self-selection of optimists. It’s hard not to feel very good things around people like this,” said Randall Lane, the editor of Forbes
magazine, who came to speak to the group about entrepreneurship.
For Lane, the young generation has a unique opportunity to make it in business because technology is making it easier for people with great ideas to turn them into products.
“If you have an idea, it really doesn’t matter what your age is. Not only is it a level playing field, but young people have an advantage because they grew up with devices in their hand,” he said.
The meeting’s location in Israel further contributed to the sense of optimism, he said.
“The entrepreneurial mindset: You feel it. You feel the Start-up Nation vibe,” he said. “It’s one thing to hear about it and another to feel it.”
The event, which featured Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, included impressive young Jewish activists from a variety of fields.
Anna Phillips, the manager of strategic partnerships for Start-up Nation Central (the group set up by Start-up Nation co-author Saul Singer and his wife, Wendy Singer), said the summit was a good reminder of the talent in the Jewish world.
Phillips had spent several years in Uganda setting up a nongovernmental organization called Girls Kick It, which helped support and empower female former child soldiers through sport.
“Having been in Uganda, it’s nice to remember that there’s this Jewish leadership world, that I’m there, that I’m part of it,” she said.
Another activist, Mordechai Levovitz, works with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in the Orthodox community through JQY (Jewish Queer Youth), where he is the executive director.
Throughout the summit, the leaders met for “brain dates” arranged on a Tinder- like interface; they would enter the topics they wanted to discuss on their smartphones and set times to chat about them with other interested participants.
“It helps them to be more optimistic, and particularly for Israelis, checking their cynicism at the door and shedding those onion layers is important,” said No’a Gorlin, associate executive director of ROI Community, of the event’s success.
Once the summit is through, ROI leaders stay in touch with other members and are eligible to receive microgrants of up to $2,000 a year to further their endeavors and professional development.
“The idea is to bring these people together to connect and create. We bring them together so together they can create,” said Gorlin.