For the third year in a row, JCC Chicago is providing an avenue for social justice activism interpreted through a Jewish perspective. JCC PresenTense Chicago is a largely volunteer-run, vibrant grassroots community of entrepreneurs, mentors, and volunteers, investing talent and energy to foster innovation and revitalize our community.
JCC PresenTense Chicago engages young entrepreneurs and professionals within the Jewish community through an intensive, six-month Fellowship. This cooperative Fellowship helps young entrepreneurs develop ideas into transformational, sustainable, and socially responsible ventures by tapping into the talents and passions of everyday professionals in our community. In turn, those mentors, coaches, and volunteers are also provided with opportunities to grow their skills, knowledge, and networks as they invest their experience and energy to foster the next generation of social entrepreneurs and to revitalize our established Jewish community.
"All great innovators and creators need a fertile environment to grow their ideas. PresenTense is an organization dedicated to doing just that," said 2012 Fellow Karen Berk Barak. Each Fellow works closely with at least one mentor and coach who have volunteered their passion and expertise in guidance and support. The Fellows also attend monthly seminars and learn business skills necessary to succeed as entrepreneurs.
Over the past two years, 20 Fellows have benefited from this fellowship, gaining skills and connections while working on the development of socially responsible ideas into sustainable businesses. Fellows focus on many different social problems, but they all share an idealistic mission and an urgent desire to make our imperfect world a better place. For example:
• Scott Beslow, a 2013 Fellow, is the founder of Hydrophilic, a cloud-based application that connects household residents and organizations into a data-driven conversation filled with metrics, incentives, and social nudges. He comments, "Judaism teaches a tremendous reverence toward water. But as modern-day Chicagoans, it is difficult to assign value to something which is cheap and seemingly endless in supply."
• 2013 Fellow Rachel Sumekh founded Swipes for the Homeless as a student at UCLA with two friends. This venture asks students to donate their remaining meal points at their dining hall, which are then used to purchase food for the homeless. Thanks to the fellowship, Swipes achieved a new level of maturity, and Rachel has become its first paid staff member.
Past coaches and mentors also have been inspired and enriched by this experience. Jeremy Forman, Sumekh's coach, comments, "It is more than just a volunteer program-it's a community of sharp minded, socially conscious people working together to create a safe place for budding social entrepreneurs to receive support, guidance and direction. Participating in this community gave me a feeling of deep satisfaction."
Forman, who was also a member of last year's Advisory Team, is an example of how enthusiastic volunteers drive the program's success. "We believe that a supportive community of bold thinkers can change the status quo, improve the quality of life in Chicago and impact the world," said Forman.
Becky Adelberg, JCC 20 & 30s Manager said, "If you are inspired by our Fellows' ideas, and the social good that this program aspires to accomplish, join us and learn more by attending an upcoming Social Innovation Night. If you have a great idea or have already started a venture, apply to be a 2014 Fellow." Applications for Fellowship are available through Nov. 12 at ww.gojcc.org/presenTense.
For more information, visit www.gojcc.org/presentense, or contact email@example.com or (847) 763-3629.
JCC Chicago is dedicated to ensuring a strong and vibrant Jewish life and community for generations to come. JCC is a partner in serving our community, supported by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.