Wanted! Inspiring young Jews

Under the auspices of the Jerusalem U online portal for Jewish distance learning, Core18 aims to cultivate the next generation of Jewish leaders.

Mayim Bialik (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mayim Bialik
(photo credit: REUTERS)
‘As the countdown to the Emmys nears, it’s time for an Emmy outfit update. Heads up: Succot starts the Wednesday night before the Emmys, so once yontif [the holiday] begins, you won’t hear from me again until after the Emmys!” The quote above from Jewish actress Mayim Bialik in a recent blog post indicates that while she is busily preparing for TV’s Primetime Emmy Awards, she has more on her mind these days than her second nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role in the hit CBS show The Big Bang Theory.
Whether it’s her blog on the Jewish parenting website Kveller, or posts about the High Holy Days and other Jewish-themed topics on her official Facebook fan page, it becomes quickly apparent that Bialik’s Judaism serves as a guiding force in this celebrity’s life.
It is this passion for Judaism and its future sustainability which Bialik cites in a recent conference call with journalists as a motivating factor behind her decision to serve as a co-chair in a new “entrepreneurial boot camp” for select Jewish leaders ages 19 to 25.
Known as CORE18, the goal of the initiative, under the auspices of the Jerusalem U online portal for Jewish distance learning, is to cultivate the next generation of Jewish leaders by providing executive mentoring, traditional Jewish wisdom and social entrepreneurial skills, with a focus on maximizing each fellow’s unique strengths.
In addition to Bialik, who holds a PhD in neuroscience, the co-chairs of CORE18 include Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, emeritus chief rabbi of United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, and Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, who was voted best professor at Harvard University and taught a hugely popular course on positive psychology.
The program was conceived by Jerusalem U founder and CEO Rabbi Raphael Shore, who over the last several years has produced over 120,000 hours of Jewish and Israel educational feature films. These have been seen by thousands of students via the organization’s online multimedia courses, as well as by other college and high school groups, and via adult education programs for those seeking to gain a stronger Jewish identity.
CORE18, which is a fully funded fellowship, is divided into two separate phases: a seven-month learning academy for 36 fellows, followed by a 10-month accelerator for up to 18 accepted projects that will give selected fellows the opportunity to launch a social venture. When launching their social ventures in the accelerator stage, fellows will gain access to seed capital.
The program also includes national conferences, independent research, internships in Israel, an educational mission to Eastern Europe and a certificate program at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.
The deadline for application to CORE18 is October 15, with the launch of its inaugural program slated for this January.
According to Shore, the concept for the program came about since “the Jewish people are in need of new, innovative solutions and ideas.”
He says that one of the problems “plaguing the Jewish world for decades is that it [the Jewish world] has not done a stellar job in keeping Judaism and Israel relevant, and hasn’t advanced too much in keeping young Jews inspired.”
Shore adds that he believes CORE18 will aid in launching “more people with fresh, out-of-the-box ideas.” He says he would be delighted if “someone would come up with an idea better than ours [at Jerusalem U],” thus believing in the importance of “investing in these young people, so that they can receive an inspiring education.”
Shore is confident CORE18 will attract motivated individuals who want to make a difference, which will lead to “the creation of new Jewish organizations, or will invigorate existing ones.”
In explaining her decision to become involved in CORE18, Bialik admits she has an intense acting schedule and “I get asked to do a ton of things, especially in the Jewish community, which is a real blessing, but also [makes it] difficult to choose.”
Yet, she says, “I’m putting my name, energy and time here, because I strongly believe in it.”
She adds, “I got involved because there is more to life than what we see on the surface. Charisma doesn’t necessarily produce real leadership. Leadership depends on self-awareness, integrity, emotional wellness and moral clarity. This program gives self-empowerment [for the fellows], to become great Jewish leaders.
Bialik is also confident in the program, since the wisdom disseminated to the participants will be “rooted in Jewish texts, which teach that personal empowerment and taking responsibility for the world around us are truly Jewish ideals.”
She goes on to cite leaders throughout Jewish history, including Abraham, Sarah, Moses and Esther, as “ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things in changing the world, despite having frailties. Being human with frailties shouldn’t prevent one from being a leader, but rather allows for more potential, depth and complexities.”
She is confident that CORE18 will recruit “Jewish agents for change, who are passionate,” and will utilize the tools provided by the program, “to shape proud Jewish leaders who will have an impact in their communities, in Israel and around the world.”
Shore agrees with Bialik that one of the most important characteristics of the program is its reliance on the utilization of Jewish texts as the source when teaching Jewish values and leadership. He adds that CORE18 is a distinctive program in that “we believe that great people make great leaders. Therefore, we are focusing a lot on personal development.”
Bottom line: “We need more young [Jewish] leadership.”
CORE18 director JoAnne Papir stresses that another crucial element of the program is that “fellows can be involved in both phases of the program without disrupting their college or career track.”
She explains that the substance of the program will be delivered though dialogue in weekly webinars with venture capitalists, policymakers and Jewish thought leaders, with national and regional “meet-ups” from time to time.
The only time participants will be aware from home for an extended period of time will be during their seven-week Israel experience, which will include the Internship with an Israeli business or nonprofit institution, and study at the IDC.
Shore is confident that Bialik and the other highly accomplished co-chairs will be well-positioned throughout the process to “provide the students with the support they will need to help them launch careers as Jewish social entrepreneurs.”
He is certain that the program is a step in the right direction towards “meeting the needs and challenges of the Jewish people, by singling out what needs to be addressed and solved.”