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PresenTenseLA 2015 Fellows View Their Ventures Through a Jewish Lens: Part 2

This post is a part of a series highlighting the social entrepreneurial ventures that each of the 2015 PresenTenseLA Fellows will be unveiling at PresenTenseLA Launch Night on June 9th. The Fellows were given the prompt “What’s so Jewish about your project?” and over the course of the series we will be sharing their answers and exploring the nature of Jewish change-making.

Sheera Goren – Dinating®

Dinating’s link to Judaism lies in its very existence.  Dinating raises money for the less fortunate, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity or religion.  If that isn’t Jewish, I’m not sure what is.

I grew up with parents, grandparents and a community that emphasized helping others and appreciating what you have.  To me, tzedakah and the art of giving are at the core of all Jewish values.

When you Dinate, you are satiating yourself by eating a delicious meal and satiating your soul by feeding those that suffer from food insecurity.  Part of the price of each dinner goes to feed a family of four for a day—Eat One. Feed One.™  You are living, breathing, and, in fact, eating tzedakah

Plus, what’s more Jewish than a nonprofit all about food—right, Nana?

Marissa Hutter – It’s Possible Project

It’s Possible Project is a teen-centric, holistic approach to health and wellness, relationships, and learning. Our custom-designed coaching programs are rooted in health, wellness, and personal leadership.

It’s Possible Project is not specifically a Jewish venture, but rather a human venture, a venture to repair the world in a meaningful way.  But are they different?

This humanity is precisely what makes It’s Possible Project so Jewish.  It teaches teens how to reconnect with themselves and, in turn, the world around them.

As Moses led the Jews out of Egypt to the Promised Land, It’s Possible Project helps teens find their promised land.  It is based on the notion that anything and everything is possible.  It’s Possible Project renews faith.  It builds confidence, self-efficacy, and accountability.  It teaches health as a way of living.  It focuses on mindfulness, gratitude, and resiliency.  We are no longer slaves in Egypt.  Yet the modern teen struggles to see a promised land.  A teen needs to believe. A teen needs to feel connected to a strong, healthy community.  It’s Possible Project empowers each teenager to be a part of something bigger then themself. It is a human movement. It is an empowering leadership movement. It is a Jewish movement.

Jessica Hekmat – Furthermore

Furthermore is an interactive, digital platform that inspires reflection, facilitates dialogue, and creates transparency and intimacy.  Our mission is to empower couples to participate authentically and intentionally in their relationships, so that they can create balanced, connected families and ultimately healthier, thriving communities.

PresenTenseLA has gifted me with a beautiful lens through which I have revisited my social venture – drawing parallels between Furthermore and key “Jewish sensibilities” that have guided its ethos and reinforced my own belief that social enterprise is a moral obligation. 

These sensibilities include:

  • Teiku: Translated as “let the conversation stand,” teiku is the idea that questions are what guide us, and that definitive answers are not necessary for meaning. A key Furthermore mantra is “You don’t have to have an answer for every question. You don’t need to agree on everything. You do need to be able to stay in the conversation.”
  • Elu v’Elu: Translated as both “these and those,” this phrase acknowledges that there are multiple perspectives to every issue and the value in being open.  Aligned with this concept, the Furthermore curriculum integrates dialectical argument, harnessing the value of ongoing debate in a partnership and recognizing that no conversation is ever really over.
  • Lech Lecha: Translated as “take yourself and go,” this Jewish perspective on life as a journey promotes learning, growth and trust in the process of moving forward. This is the core principle on which Furthermore is founded.