• Participants of 248 Community Action Network's "Doathon" exchanged ideas and perspectives about bringing the Jewish people closer together.

    David Salem, The Jewish Agency for Israel ©

Jewish Doers: Connecting the Jewish People Around the World Through Social Projects

The 248 Community Action Network, a program now in its second year, brings together “Jewish doers” to bridge the gaps between Israelis and American Jews.

Dressed in a purple button-down shirt, a bow tie and sandals, Adam Schwartz boasts a>n electrifying sense of fashion >that matches his penchant for new ideas, humanistic values and cutting-edge technology to transform Jewish communities around the world.

Schwartz is among the dozens of leaders in their 30s and 40s, mostly American and Israeli Jews, who form the 248 Community Action Network, a program now in its second year. They are “Jewish doers,” who came together this past December at Kibbutz Ginosar on the Kinneret in northern Israel for a day devoted to answering challenges rocking the Jewish world. How to bridge the gaps between Israelis and American Jews, and how to connect individuals to Jewish communities worldwide.

This conference dubbed “Do-a-thon” by the organizers, the Jewish Agency for Israel along with several North American Federations and other foundations, to inspire the participants to redefine the Jewish world through action.

Take Schwartz, a recent Ph.D. grad in public health from the University of Minnesota who wants to channel technology to connect those who are economically disadvantaged with those who are more prosperous in Jewish communities. “So many people have Judaica items they no longer use,” he said, contrasting them with the plenty who’d be thrilled to use those.

 “So I’m the matchmaker,” he said. Schwartz’s initiative has already arranged for hundreds of objects to be transferred to people who need them. A kiddush wine cup, a challah cover and candlesticks are among the most popular.

“A kiddush wine cup on Shabbat is perhaps a small thing, but that could make all the difference about how Jewish a person feels.”

The Do-a-thon is a full day of workshops where social entrepreneurs hone skills and learn about virtual reality and podcasting. A highlight during the conference is the opportunity for participants to pitch ideas to a panel of Jewish Agency experts and Israeli entrepreneurs who offer advice and their unvarnished opinion.

The rules are simple: The floor is yours for three minutes while the panel silently listens. Then, in a reversal of roles, where the presenter becomes the fly on the wall, they listen to the panelists critiquing the presentation. It’s as if you are watching an all-Jewish version of the popular American program “Shark Tank.”

Deborah Fishman, 34, from New York was one presenter. She dreams of the ultimate culturally Jewish TED talk, in which lectures would be delivered over a meal. Her idea, she said, emerged from her experience hosting and cooking for guests.

“People will came for the food, and while munching, will listen to speakers and make friends,” she told the panel.

The panel loved the idea, and was even more excited about the name Fishman suggested, FED. Given the panel’s thumbs-up, Fishman exits the room all smiles.

Another pitch was presented by Efrat Shai, a 37-year-old member of the religious kibbutz Sde Eliyahu. She envisions “a community book created in eight hours.” The idea would be to confine several people to an isolated environment for a half day and empower them with one task: To compose a collective narrative drawn from their personal stories.

“We would like to nurture Jewish doers, people who help spread ideas and build communities,” said 248 Director, Gideon Vennor. He expects that the projects involved in 248 will reach thousands of people throughout the world, connecting Jews and Israelis to each other and to Israel.

07 Feb 2019 / 2 Adar 5779 0
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