Monday, June 6, 2011

ROI - The Global Young Leadership Network

This Sunday in Jerusalem, 150 of the most innovative young Jewish leaders from around the world will converge to build a global network. This convening, under the name ROI, is a relatively recent initiative of Lynn Schusterman and her foundation, which has grown into prominence in the Jewish entrepreneurship movement.

The goal of the summit is, "to connect and create new tools and novel approaches to shape the Jewish world and beyond."

A recent press release explains:

ROI Community is an international network of 600 social entrepreneurs and Jewish innovators in 40 countries on six continents who are creating innovative ways to connect to Jewish life.

“These young Jewish social entrepreneurs are transforming the Jewish world through their vital initiatives and commitment to tikkun olam, repairing the world,” said Lynn Schusterman, the American Jewish philanthropist who, in 2005, created ROI Community as a partnership with Taglit-Birthright Israel. “As change agents within their own communities, in Israel and beyond, these 20- and 30-somethings are key to ensuring the vibrancy of Jewish life 3,000 years down the road.”
Innovators in St. Louis have played a role in previous years' summits, including Hershey Novack, Chabad on Campus Rabbi, Michael Novack, CEO of Kiosite, and Lindsay Citerman of Omanoot. This year, Yoni Sarason, a founder of Moishe House St. Louis, Next Dor and will attend.

Stay tuned to The St. Lou Jew for blogging from the Summit.
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Friday, June 3, 2011

Jewish Confluence

As I was helping a friend work on her Hebrew pronunciation over the phone, I realized there was one word I didn't know whether or how to correct. It was the word for immersion. You see, this friend was preparing for her immersion in the mikvah as the final step of her conversion process.

This morning was the first time I'd been to a mikvah for a conversion. While many of our close family friends were converts (something I only vaguely knew growing up), their paths to Judaism had been formalized long before I could remember.

Knowing the history of hardships and expulsions, the first thing said to a person expressing interest in converting is usually along the lines of, "are you nuts?" But to see the process from beginning to end, as I had the good fortune to do, is really quite amazing.

Growing up in a Jewish home, with a Reform Rabbi for a father, going to a Conservative Shul, living in an Orthodox neighborhood, I have so deeply internalized many of the aspects of Jewish life that it is hard to understand the path of a convert.

To see much of the wisdom we take for granted as Jews, light up another's face is remarkable.

Transitioning back into the real world, try shopping for a 'Mazal Tov on your conversion' card anywhere other than The Source... it ain't easy. So when I informed the nice woman at the card shop on Euclid in the Central West End what I was looking for, I wasn't surprised when she didn't have much by way of wares to offer. I was surprised, however, when she told me that she was Jewish too and that her beautiful 22 year old daughter is in Tempe. I repaid the favor by name dropping the Hillel Rabbi down there, a good family friend, who, it turns out, had been her daughter's professor recently. The woman gave me her daughter's name and made me promise to send her a facebook message.

I should remember to tell my recently converted friend this story, to make sure she knows just what type of people, exactly, she has become a part of.
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