As our CCAR Rabbinic mission, “Start-Up Israel” started today, we asked two key essential questions:
1. How do we understand the changing face of Israel and bring that back to our communities?
2. How do we capture the spirit of entrepreneurship and use that in our communities?
We began by meeting a dynamic woman, Joanna Landau, the Executive Director of Kinetis, an organization whose mission is to market Israel to non-Jews who fall in the undecided category about Israel (in America this number is 69%, meaning they have not positive or negative feelings towards Israel). What they have discovered is that in this generation as people decide what has meaning and value to them as individuals, Israel is in fact a product that can be “sold”. They have taken influential bloggers on various subjects, food, art, dance, music, sports, environment etc. brought them to Israel and have shown them that what Israel offers is among the best in the world. These bloggers then share their experience, giving tangible stories about Israel. These stories change the images that people have about Israel from concrete, barbed wire, a bunker to one that is more authentic.
As rabbis, we could not help but think how this applies to our own youth who fall in that undecided category about Israel? We all know so many youth who see Israel as a far off place, that is inaccessible. What can we do to give them images about Israel? We can find out what interests them and bring that face of Israel alive for them.
To that end, we took a VIP gallery tour, with art critic Vardit Gross, who showed us the beauty of the modern art scene. Including how Israel can engage in Design Art and take concepts, design them and even manufacture them on a small scale. What an incredible face of Israel to show art lovers!
Our meeting with Reuven Marko and Lior Ben Tzur (both IMPJ members in Netanya) further helped us connect with the notion of Start-Up as an engineer and a businessman, have teamed together to accelerate start up ideas. They were involved early on with the PillCam and as well as the first “iPhone” an idea that came about that would use touch screen technology to surf the web. The idea was born in 1994 and the iPhone produced then was roughly the size of a desktop computer with a phone attached to to it.
As we learned, the spirit of “Start-Up” is built on bringing people with different expertise together to create ideas. This notion of teamwork is forged from the greatest teamwork experiment in Israel, called the Army. It leaves us to wonder how we can capture that creativity. We should not be afraid to disagree, fail 2 or 3 times before getting it right, and focus on a key idea rather than a far reaching idea. (Reuven also mentioned how excited he was about the new 6 points Sci-tech academy, the URJ’s newest summer camp opening this summer that will put kids in a communal society and help them discover the tools towards ingenuity.)
Our challenge is how can we capture that innovation in our own communities? Perhaps some of the ideas mentioned above can be helpful and perhaps others will come to fruition. As Joanna Landau taught us, Israel is built on a creative energy.
Rabbi Rick Kellner serves Congregation Beth Tikvah in Worthington, OH