Local support for ‘social venture’ incubator

Local support for ‘social venture’ incubator

Short Hills philanthropist Leon Cooperman is among the supporters of a new effort to develop young Jewish leaders with social consciences and entrepreneurial values.

He is the backer of a film with the working title DestiNation, which will be part of CORE18, a new program sponsored by Jerusalem U.

“The film will show what the Jewish people have brought to the world and the leadership Jews have taken throughout history,” said Amy Holtz, president of Jerusalem U, a chiefly on-line program “designed to strengthen and broaden” knowledge of Judaism and Israel.

“The film really underlines the whole CORE18 concept,” she told NJ Jewish News in a Sept. 16 phone interview.

CORE18 is recruiting 36 young people from the United States, Canada, and Israel for five months of networking and study, followed by seven weeks in Israel in the summer of 2014.

The original group of 36 will be winnowed down to 18, who will then gain access to seed money to develop a “social venture” benefiting the Jewish community.

CORE18 is intended “to empower the next generation of Jewish social entrepreneurs by providing leaders ages 19 to 25 with mentoring, education, seed money, and hands-on activities to develop game-changing ventures for the Jewish people,” said its codirector JoAnne Papir.

There is no cost to participants; full scholarships for each participant are provided by “a number of wonderful, kind philanthropists who are very concerned with strengthening Jewish leadership,” said cochair Rabbi Rafael Shore, a Canadian filmmaker and founder of Jerusalem U.

Cooperman, a hedge fund CEO, is an active supporter of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.

“We are hoping to attract not just great Jewish leaders but also great leaders who are Jewish,” Papir told reporters during a Sept. 12 conference call.

Star power


Lending her star power to the program is actress Mayim Bialik.

Bialik, who has a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA, took time out from taping an episode of The Big Bang Theory — the CBS sitcom in which she plays Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler — to join the conference call. She said her acceptance of “traditional Jewish values” — she is Modern Orthodox — motivated her becoming a cochair of the project, along with Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, emeritus chief rabbi of Great Britain, and psychologist and author Tal Ben-Shahar.

“The leaders we see so beloved in Judaism — Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Esther — those were ordinary people who ultimately accomplished extraordinary things that changed the world,” Bialik said. “For Jews to become agents of change in the world, that activism should be rooted in Jewish values.”

Asked by NJJN whether CORE 18 projects could be directed toward the broader world or must be specifically aimed at the Jewish community, Papir said, “They must make a meaningful impact on the Jewish world. That is very broad.”

Conceding that such endeavors could be aimed at universal concerns such as human rights or the environment, she said, “We are not putting any specific parameters on our projects. We are leaving that open. If they bring in Jews who don’t normally participate in tikun olam projects, that is making an impact as well.”

Shore called CORE 18 a “pluralistic program” with no tests of applicants’ religious commitments. Jews who run the gamut of beliefs from atheism to Orthodoxy are welcome to apply.

Would fellows be encouraged to increase their level of religious observance? asked another reporter.

“I hope so,” said Bialik.

“One of the unique components of this program is we want to provide people with meaningful education and inspiration for Jewish wisdom,” said Shore. “That is the kind of thing we hope Mayim and other educators will share with the students in the program. What students do with that will be their own decisions.”

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