Jerusalem, Israel – As cyber-activism and Facebook revolutions sweep the Middle East, Jewish social and business entrepreneurs, technology whizzes, thinkers and artists from Hong Kong to Zagreb, Sao Paulo to San Francisco, and Melbourne to Beersheva, converged on Jerusalem for the ROI Global Summit of Young Jewish Innovators, to connect and create new tools and novel approaches to shape the Jewish world and beyond.
ROI Community is an international network of 600 social entrepreneurs and Jewish innovators in 40 countries on six continents who are creating innovative ways to connect to Jewish life. At the heart of the program is peer-to-peer training and collaborative project-building led by ROI’s network of members from around the world.
“The ROI Summit was very impressive,” said Next Dor St. Louis Program Director and ROI participant Yoni Sarason. “You see face-to-face people who are dealing with the same issues in their own communities. It is a great opportunity to learn from their experience. These partnerships are crucial and help make the pieces of the Jewish community puzzle fit together.”
Sarason was one of 150 ROIers at the summit this year. Sarason has been in St. Louis since 2003, when he began college at Washington University.
Since graduating from Wash U, Sarason founded the St. Louis Moishe House, HipHopInspires.us and Next Dor STL. Sarason blogs extensively, running his own blog called TheStLouJew.com, and has spoken to small and large groups on Israel, the Middle East conflict, Jewish young adults in the USA, Judaism, social media and social entrepreneurship.
His most recent project, Next Dor, is a vibrant center of activity that builds community for young Jewish adults in St. Louis City, Missouri. “The concept behind Next Dor is creating a platform for community-building for young Jews,” says Sarason. “Next Dor functions as kind of a hospitality committee to young Jews moving to St. Louis. We get emails from people moving to St. Louis asking for help finding housing as well as connecting them to their peers.”
Next Dor engages young Jewish adults by providing coordination, networking and marketing support for individuals, groups and organizations who wish to connect to other young adults. Next Dor uses a space donated by Central Reform Congregation to host events that leverage the interests and talents of community members to provide engaging and diversified programs that often cost little or nothing to execute.
In the year since its inception, Next Dor has quickly grown to be one of the most dynamic organizations for young adults in St. Louis. More than 2000 visits have been made to Next Dor, connecting over 350 young adults. Sarason explains that “Next Dor enriches local Jewish experiences. For example, we sponsored a Tu Bishvat seder and connected with people who had no idea such tradition existed. We also hosted the first-ever Mimouna celebration in St. Louis. Additionally, we host visiting Israeli artists, activists and leverage each skill within our community and produce talent shows and the like.”
Sarason expressed how important attending summits like the ROI Young Innovators Summit is for social entrepreneurs like himself. “Next Dor by its nature is connected to innovative initiatives and fits naturally within the ROI Community. I see a lot of room for collaboration. For example, I’d like to screen in St. Louis fellow-ROIer Evan Kleinman’s Punk Jews documentary to expose alternative ways to connect Jewishly.”
What Sarason took away from his participation in ROI is a sense of social empowerment and inspiration. “The greatest challenge of social entrepreneurship” he explained, “is that if the idea is a good enough one to make money, why make it social/non-profit, and if it is important enough work, how to you find a way to generate enough revenue to support yourself.”
By providing a forum for young social entrepreneurs to come together and exchange ideas, ROI effectively “creates the social fabric in which there is no longer a dilemma” says Sarason. “ROI creates a community which socializes and normalizes the idea of being a part of something bigger, something that is worth putting aside immediate monetary concerns and stresses the importance of the greater cause.”
ROI Community not only provides networking opportunities for young Jewish innovators, but it also provides inspiration to continue their cause. Sarason explained that “knowing that I am now connected to a network of 600 young innovative, interesting, and creative individuals is truly powerful and helps me to push the boundaries of the community development work in which I have been engaged.”
ROI Community has played a key role in seeding and supporting other cutting-edge Jewish start-ups, including Moishe House, G-dcast, Jewcology, Omanoot.com, and Haggadot.com. ROI also offers an expansive Micro Grants program to help ROI members turn ideas into actual meaningful projects.
“These young Jewish social entrepreneurs are transforming the Jewish world through their vital initiatives and commitment to tikkun olam, repairing the world,” said Lynn Schusterman, the American Jewish philanthropist who, in 2005, created ROI Community as a partnership with Taglit-Birthright Israel. “As change agents within their own communities, in Israel and beyond, these 20- and 30-somethings are key to ensuring the vibrancy of Jewish life 3,000 years down the road.”
“ROI Community creates a space where connection and innovation happens,” said Justin Korda, ROI Community Executive Director. “Our ultimate goal is to link up dynamic, creative young Jews, enabling them to translate their ideas into initiatives that bring the joy of Jewish life to Jews around the world and impact the world around them. Ultimately, we envision a thousand-strong network of innovators engaging a million people in diverse forms of Jewish life.”
Purim, a holiday which is often summed up as, "they tried to kill us, we survived, let's drink", combines a great story, fun rituals for enjoying said story, and encouragement to imbibe. . . What's not to love?
And Next Dor is helping you to get into the Purim holiday spirit with events both nights this weekend. On Friday night, we are teaming up with Bais Abe, a local Modern Orthodox Shul, to bring you Samosas and Hamantashen: A Pre-Purim Indian Shabbat, which is a chance to experience a musical Kabbalat Shabbat (Friday evening service) followed by an excellent (and kosher) meal from Gokul, a new Indian restaurant. Rabbi Hyim Shafner is former Chief Rabbi of India and will be doling out wisdom (as well as samosas). Check out more info here and RSVP here.
On Saturday night, the 2nd annual Pour-em Party Shul Crawl will give you an excuse to go to a temple (or 4). We'll have a bus ready to transport us to various synagogues to sample how each one parties on Purim. Details are here, so pick a costume and join us!
This Story was originally posted here on Jewishinstlouis.org: (St. Louis, MO) – While others roam from house to house this Halloween collective sweets, members of the young adult Jewish community here will be doing something else sweet. On Sunday, Oct. 31, Next Dor St. Louis and Moishe House St. Louis are combining their resources for “Halloween Version Jew.0,” during which these young professionals will go door to door collecting food and personal care items for the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry.
“Halloween is certainly not a Jewish holiday,” organizer Benjamin Singer said in a statement. “But that fact should not prevent us from helping people in need while having fun and building community.”
The Food Pantry collection at 7:30 p.m. will follow a free pizza dinner and Jewish-themed pumpkin carving at 5 p.m. The group of young adults that collects the most donations gets to choose a film to screen following the collections. More details are available online on the Facebook event.
The Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry, a program of Jewish Family & Children’s Service, provides food, personal care items and community resource referrals to help St. Louis-area individuals and families of all faiths and backgrounds, “with respect and confidentiality.” The Pantry saw a 75% increase in new clients from 2008 to 2009, while serving more than 4,000 clients per month from more than 89 different zip codes.
Susan J. Rundblad, program coordinator-community outreach for the Food Pantry, said she was “proud to partner with Next Dor. The members have always been supportive …by providing strong backs and generous hearts.”
The evening will be hosted at the Next Dor house at 5062 Waterman Blvd., with generous sponsorship from Moishe House, another community center for young adults in Clayton. These two institutions, both co-founded by Washington University grad Yoni Sarason, have brought new life to the increasingly vibrant young Jewish community in St. Louis. For information, visit www. NextDorSTL.org and find “Moishe House STL” on Facebook.
This past weekend, at Synagogue 3000's conference in Tenafly, NJ, four representatives of Next Dor STL presented, informed, and educated about the project's background, methods, and impact.
The conference itself presented research by Steven Cohen, who demonstrated by way of a participant survey, the efficacy of each Next Dor site to create relationships that led to increased participation, identification, and integration into the Jewish community.
The four St. Louis representatives, Aliza Haber, Ariel Lyons-Warren, David Elias, and Yoni Sarason, were exposed to some of the top Rabbis, professionals, researchers, and consultants in the Jewish communal world. But the group weren't merely passive participants.
All four used the opportunity to explain the impact of the project on St. Louis, both at the grassroots and structural level. These explanations took the form both of formal presentations, as well as open space discussions (of both the project itself and some potential outgrowths).
The Synagogue 3000 conference provided an uncommon opportunity for young adults in the community to represent themselves and their efforts on the national scene, and helped put St. Louis on the map to a group that often glosses over the Midwest.
This past weekend was another busy one around the Next Dor house. The monthly Shabbat dinner, sponsored by Jeff Becker and Adam Geller through Birthright Israel Next, included local produce, kosher meat, and some 50 young adults.
A special thanks to Rabbi Talve, who lent us her Lulav and Etrog, enabling those who wanted to take advantage of our hastily constructed and shoddy (but structurally sound) Sukkah, to do so
. On Sunday, Nishmah's high school group, Banot Buddies used the house to hold a board meeting, which was kicked off with a conversation with Next Dor Program Director Yoni Sarason, who spoke to the group about starting an organization, getting people involved and communication strategies.
Following this, renowned author, speaker, and entrepreneur, Sam Silverstein spoke to around the dining room table to a group of young adults about the five essential accountabilities of success. Drawing heavily from his recent book, "No More Excuses", Sam talked about seeing accountability in a proactive sense, instead of as a consequence.
A number of those in attendance were employed in the Jewish communal service field including YPD's Lee'at Bachar, who believed Sams', "Five Accountability's were easy to remember and resonated with me specifically as a Jewish Professional. His ideas and extensive research with successful individuals, were posed in such a way that made it easy to apply to everyday situations and consider the way I view my relationships and expectations for myself and those around me."
On Thursday August 19th, a group of young adults spanning Jewish, Muslim (Shia and Sunni), Mormon, and Christ Scientist faiths gathered at Next Dor for a night of conversation and dialogue.
The event, planned by the Anti-Defamation League, in conjunction with the Interfaith Partnership and Faith Beyond Walls, took the form of 'Speed Dating' in which the young adults spent a few minutes getting to know someone of a different faith before moving to someone else. During each conversation, the young adults were asked to describe how they perceive and practice their faith.
"It is always wonderful being around people who want to learn, and who are willing to step out of their comfort zone in order to do it," explained Karen Aroesty, Regional Director for the ADL. "Last Thursday, it was even more wonderful that so many different questions were raised, and answered, in such a positive, relaxed setting. It was a very good place to be."
"The Interfaith event at Next Dor was the perfect forum to not only share the differences in our faith, but to more importantly recognize our commonalities," said Hammad Haider, one of the participants. "I truly felt welcomed, like I was a part of a loving Interfaith family."
On Saturday July 24, 2010, the National Council of Jewish Women held the 10th annual Backto School! Store at CRC.
The Back to School! Store is an event that allows underprivileged kids to pick out essential items with the assistance of a personal shopper. The items are all donated and each child receives tennis shoes, socks, a winter coat, underwear, a hat, gloves, a backpack, school supplies, personal care items and a book. The children also have free eye screenings and dental hygiene information available to them. A family resource room is also available and connects the families with local community organizations which can meet many of their needs.
The event relies heavily on volunteers to operate, and this year a group from the Next Dor community came and donated their time to the cause.
“Back to School! Store is one of those programs that simply wouldn’t exist without volunteers," said Karen Goodman, one of the planners for the event.
"Each year we have about 50 volunteers on the steering committee who work all year long to pull together this massive one day event. But it’s the volunteers who show up on the last Sunday in July to help the kids in the store who really make the store come alive. Most of us who volunteer really can’t imagine what it would be like to be 6 years old and to show up on the first day of school without a backpack, new tennis shoes and everything that was listed on the school supply list. But for the kids invited to shop at BTSS, it’s a fact of life. These kids are embarrassed about their old shoes, hand me down clothes and that their parents simply can’t afford to buy them the things they need for school. It’s no surprise that the first day of school isn’t something to get excited about for these kids. BTSS doesn’t just give the kids a few things so that their families don’t have to buy it for them. BTSS volunteers get a chance to look a child in the eye and help them get excited about school. Little boys growing up in homes without positive male role models get to have a guy tell them it’s cool to get excited about school. Little girls get to pick out the sparkly outfit that their mom’s might pass over as not so practical.”
The group of volunteers, organized by David Elias, managed to provide volunteers for all three shifts and signals the the beginning of what we hope to be many community service oriented projects for Next Dor.
Next Dor kicked off what promises to be an exciting summer with a huge week of activities - all at the Next Dor STL house in the Central West End! Things kicked off with a 4th of July BBQ, organized by Jacob Albert and David Elias that attracted about 50 Jewish young adults. David grilled up some delicious burgers and hot dogs while guests brought side dishes, pot luck style. Many of those in attendance were new to Next Dor and the BBQ proved a great way for them to connect peers in the Jewish community. The week continued with yoga classes on Tuesday, July 6th at 8 and Wednesday, July 7th at 6:45. The yoga classes consisted of flowing movements and breath designed to bring strength, relaxation and joy. Attracting between 5 and 15 young adults, these free sessions do not require an RSVP and are a great way to do something for your health and wellbeing in a comfortable environment. On Thursday, July 8th a classic Kabbalah meditation at the Next Dor STL house , which included a discussion of classic kabbalah meditations and concepts from Sefer Yetzirah, Zohar, Chassidic Masters and the works of the Arizal. The intimate group was guided through classical Jewish meditations that give Jewish mystical and spiritual experiences. These classical Jewish meditation practices can be taken home and practiced by participants on a regular basis to infinitely enhance their Jewish spiritual life. Moving from mysticism to music, on Sunday, July 11th, Next Dor STL held a guitar lesson/jam session that gave a free guitar lesson to any Jewish young adults with a guitar and a desire to learn. Participants were broken up into 2 groups, led by Joel Miller and Jeremy Lieb. Thanks to the great turnout, a follow up lesson will be planned for later in the summer. Upcoming, check out yoga classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, and Ladies Night In on Thursday. Check out Next Dor STL on facebook and the website for information on upcoming events. Next Dor is powered by you, so if you have any ideas for events and programs at the house, email us at Info [at] nextdorstl.org.
Even when there aren't specific events, Next Dor is open for you to hang out and meet people. Just contact us and let us know when you want to drop by.
On Friday night, June 18th, about 50 Jewish young adults gathered at the Next Dor STL house in the Central West End for Third Friday’s. Third Friday’s - a Shabbat dinner event on the third Friday of every month - has quickly become a landmark program at the Next Dor house. Every month, different Birthright Israel alumni host the dinner with financial support from Birthright Israel Next’s ‘Next Shabbat’ initiative. This week David Elias hosted Third Friday’s and prepared fabulous food including chicken, salmon, and veggie options. Even better, the event benefitted from good weather allowing guests to spread out more and eat outside. Third Friday’s has continually attracted 50+ guests ranging from their 20s-30s, and coming from diverse backgrounds. It has quickly become one of the best events for getting out and meeting new people. Also, the event, just like most other events, does not require a rsvp and guests are encouraged to bring friends. View the pictures here!
Birthright Israel alumni who wish to host a Shabbat dinner are eligible to be funded by the Next Shabbat program. Contact David Elias to help co-host next month's dinner!
Local Social Entrepreneur Selected as PresenTense Global Fellow
St. Louis, MO (May 2010) – Yoni Sarason, the Program Director of Next Dor STL, has been invited to spend 6 weeks this summer living in Jerusalem as a PresenTense Fellow. Since opening its doors in November of 2009, Next Dor STL has connected hundreds of young Jewish adults in St. Louis. Each year, PresenTense selects a handful of social entrepreuers working on a variety of social ventures that seek to solve problems facing the Jewish People and the World to participate in the program.
Sarason connected with Ariel Beery, the co-founder of PresenTense at the Birthright Israel NEXT National Conference in New Orleans in March of this year. They immediately recognized the connection between the work that Next Dor STL has been doing in the St. Louis community and the work that PresentTense does on a global scale. After the conference, Beery invited Sarason to connect with Aharon Horowitz, his business partner, who encouraged Sarason to apply for the fellowship, believing that he could bring his knowledge to the table to help other projects. “I'm honored to have been selected for this fellowship” remarks Sarason, “Not only do I believe this to me an amazing opportunity for personal development, I think that it is really a testament to the power of the community that has grown around Next Dor STL and the impact that community has had for individuals involved.”
The PresenTense website describes the PresenTense Summer Institute as “a unique training program for Jewish social entrepreneurs, built by entrepreneurs. It incorporates a number of training modules to provide innovators the resources, skills and opportunities needed for venture success. Fellows are taught core business skills through skillbuilding sessions, the tool-kit is refined by leading academics and business professionals, fellows are mentored by leaders in their fields, coached by professionals, connected with industry peers -- and showcased to the greater community in a final Launch Night.” Sarason adds “I look forward to gaining skills related to leadership, management, organizational development and sustainability within a Jewish context that understands and respects the unique position of the Next Dor STL project.”
Sarason departs June 8, 2010. He shares “I anticipate coming back to St. Louis with an even greater passion matched with heightened abilities and more honed skills.” For the year following his return, PresenTense will continue to work with Sarason and Next Dor STL through the Venture Development services.
While Sarason is travelling, Jacob Albert and David Elias will assume his responsibilities.