JCC PresenTense Chicago fosters entrepreneurship through 2014 Fellowship Cohorts

JCC Chicago is sponsoring a platform for social entrepreneurship, interpreted through a Jewish perspective – JCC PresenTense Chicago. A largely volunteer-run, vibrant grassroots community of entrepreneurs, mentors and volunteers, JCC PresenTense is fostering innovation by tapping into the talents and passions of everyday professionals in our community.

JCC is thrilled to announce the 2014 Fellowship Cohort of16 young entrepreneurs and professionals from the Jewish community who have committed the next six months to developing their original ideas into sustainable businesses.

Through an intensive boot camp like program, the 2014 Fellowship Cohort will develop transformational, sustainable and socially responsible ventures that will build a brighter future for and revitalize our community. The cohort includes 10 entrepreneurs: Aimee Halstuk, Miriam Ament, Cassandra Dara-Abrams, Laurel Grauer, Assaf Grumberg, Beth Jacobson, Jessica Katz, Alexey Kudashev, Devorah Richards, and Keri Rosenbloom, and six JCC Chicago intrapreneurs (those inspired to affect change, working and promoting within JCC ): Sarah Abbott, Wendy Singer, Alex Isaacson, Marnie Kalfen, Lawrence LeVine, and Elisa Lupovitch.

 “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 and 2014 mentor, Karen Berk Barak.

Each Fellow works closely with a mentor and coach for guidance and support. In turn, mentors and coaches gain the opportunity to grow their skills, knowledge, and networks. Fellows attend monthly seminars, workshops and shark tank simulations to build skills. The program culminates with Launch Night in June, when Fellows share and pitch their ventures to potential partners and funders.

Fellows share an idealistic mission and a passion to make our world a better place. For example, entrepreneur Aimee Halstuk, who as a child was taught that she could do anything despite cerebral palsy, will be working to further “Just Give Me a Chance,” teaching children that despite challenges, they can grow up to be happy, successful people. Laurel Grauer, founder of Gesher Chicago, seeks to foster a welcoming atmosphere where the GLBTQ Jewish community can gather.

JCC Fellows are well positioned to develop innovative ideas that enrich lives and create connections across the vibrant communities JCC serves. For example, intrapreneur Sarah Abbott, Florence G. Heller JCC Early Childhood Program Coordinator, seeks to foster a deeper connection between JCC families and the greater Jewish community through classes, workshops, playgroups and open gym. Marnie Kalfen, JCC Children and Family Engagement Program Coordinator, aims to raise money for Jewish programming through health and wellness with a “Run for the J” fundraiser. Intrapreneur Elisa Lupovitch, JCC "Say It In Hebrew" Ulpan Program Coordinator, seeks to remedy the scarcity of Jewish educational programs available for post bar/bat mitzvah youth.

In the past two Fellowship cohorts, 20 Fellows have benefited while working on the development of socially responsible ideas into sustainable businesses. 2013 Fellow Rachel Sumekh founded Swipes for the Homeless as a student at UCLA. Students were asked to donate their remaining college dining hall meal credits to purchase food for the homeless. Swipes continues to grow, and Sumekh is now working as the first paid staff member.

“Participating in this community gave me a feeling of deep satisfaction.” said Jacob Forman, 2013 Coach, Advisory Team member, and Chair of 2013 Launch Night.  

 “As both Manager of the program and a 2012 Fellow, I know that a supportive community of bold thinkers can change the status quo, improve the quality of life in Chicago and impact the world,” said Becky Adelberg JCC PresenTense Chicago Manager. “If you are inspired by our Fellows’ ideas, visit our Web site to learn more, volunteer as part of our 2014 team, or join us at an upcoming event.” For more information, visit www.gojcc.org/presentense, or contact badelberg@gojcc.org  or 847.763.3629.

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