Building Community, Efficiencies, and Jewish Life: Why We Should Grow Jewish Coworking

Common Space @ Leichtag Commons.

By Jenny Camhi and Irene Lehrer Sandalow

Jewish coworking can foster collaboration, raise the bar for nonprofit performance, and pave accessible paths for people of all backgrounds to connect with Jewish life.

We see this firsthand as leaders of Jewish coworking spaces around the world. After trading notes about snack breaks and creative meeting spaces at a recent conference, we remarked on the unique value of our shared experience cultivating this growth. More than individual coworking spaces, we are outposts of a networked field of Jewish coworking that merits investment. We are committed to sharing our model, knowledge, and experience to grow this field of Jewish coworking spaces.

According to the Bridgespan Group working on behalf of the James Irvine Foundation, a field is a community of organizations and individuals working towards a common goal, and using a set of common approaches to achieve it. Jewish coworking spaces share several goals. We are committed to:

  • Providing a values-based common space for professionals with shared interests and needs;
  • Promoting collaboration between organizations and professionals to create new opportunities and solutions;
  • Helping resources go further by leveraging shared supplies, materials, services and space;
  • Incorporating and grounding our work in Jewish wisdom and values; and
  • Raising the bar to higher standards of excellence for nonprofits in our coworking spaces.

Investing in a coordinated field of coworking spaces will take Jewish engagement and professionalism to the next level. Recently published articles in Forward and Tablet provide overviews of existing spaces and models. Why and how should we grow this model?

Coworking is a Launch Pad for Personal Jewish Exploration and Connection

The Hive at Leichtag Commons in Encinitas, California discovered that Jewish coworking is an adult entry point to Judaism, like what Jewish preschools and camps provide children and families. Parents seeking education and enrichment often turn to Jewish early childhood education and camps. They end up learning about Judaism, joining a vibrant Jewish network, and seeing their children connect with Judaism on their own terms. Similarly, The Hive roots people who need a place to work in Jewish values. Employees of one organization join another’s programs and access professional growth. Because The Hive serves Jewish and secular organizations and Jewish and non-Jewish professionals, it is a place to hone Jewish identities, connections, cultural experiences and practices. At The Hive, previously marginally-affiliated Jews discover relevancy in Jewish concepts and even transfer between Jewish organizations to grow as Jewish communal professionals.

Coworking Leverages and Inspires Innovation and Collaboration while Saving Resources

Chicago is a vibrant scene for emerging Jewish educational, cultural and community organizations. Unfortunately, they share a common struggle: a long-term solution for work and programmatic space needs. SketchPad, addresses many challenges facing small organizations and the “lonely entrepreneur,” including staff retention, motivation and efficiency. Since SketchPad’s founding in December 2017, 24 organizations have joined. SketchPad fosters collaboration through its regular offerings of professional development, Jewish learning and networking opportunities. By co-investing in shared infrastructure, SketchPad saves members valuable resources and provides a support network – ensuring these trailblazers are not alone on their journey. This strategy ticks many boxes to strengthen the Jewish community.

Similarly, Melbourne’s first Jewish coworking space, LaunchPad, nurtures a culture of start-ups, creativity and collaboration in the Jewish community. The hub offers masterclasses, events and meetups to help attendees manage their organizations and projects as they grow.

Coworking is an Ingredient to Shift Perception in a Jewish Community

JHub in London, was established by Pears Foundation as a way to bring social action, innovation and community building into the mainstream British Jewish community. The Foundation provides selected grantees with workspace in their co-working space, seed funding and organizational and leadership development, which helps them to grow responsibly and sustainably, and at the same time gives their staff the skills and tools for success. The targeted, Foundation-led investment has contributed to a shift in attitude within the British Jewish community so that social responsibility is more intertwined with Jewish identity, and in British society where Jewish values can be seen as contributing to positive change in the world.

Coworking is an Instrument to Weave Essential Social Fabric

Restreet2 builds stronger bridges between demographic sectors in Jerusalem. Restreet2 was established by the Leichtag Foundation, in partnership with New Spirit, for social entrepreneurs who are members of the Jerusalem Model, a network of grassroots civil society leaders from all sectors of the diverse city working toward a better future for all of Jerusalem’s inhabitants. Restreet2 serves Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Palestinians, Muslims, Christians, secular Jews, modern religious and more. Restreet2 is situated near the “seamline” between East and West Jerusalem. Committing to coworking requires immense trust, cultural competency and professionalism between members. Utilizing the open workspace means inherently sharing resources and showcasing this trust. When community members use it for a meeting or ongoing membership, they publicly prove that they’re opting into this forward-thinking movement and network.

In Jewish tradition, an eruv creates a physical boundary that binds individuals and families and develops a supportive and close-knit community. Coworking forces a closeness and intimacy between professionals, and encourages sharing projects, challenges and questions.

As the Center for Social Innovation explains:

“The physical space sets the conditions for community […] a community of other creative, engaged people is what blows away the cobwebs, allows you to see an old problem in a new light, and helps you find creative ways of implementing solutions you might not otherwise have considered.”

We’re shining the spotlight on Jewish coworking because of these exponential returns. It offers new approaches to challenges in communities everywhere, regardless of demographics, local culture of innovation, or funding capacity. We witness how it adds much more than a valuable place for convening and collaboration. Coworking could be the jumping-off point for Jewish connection, idea incubation, and organizational efficiency to boost your Jewish community. If your Jewish coworking spot adds more than space to your community, if you want to explore how coworking can elevate your community, if you’re curious about our next steps … join us to build this field.

Jenny Camhi is The Hive at Leichtag Commons Director. She manages The Hive operations, curates meaningful connections between Hive members, and designs a robust professional development program for Hive members.

Irene Lehrer Sandalow is the founder and director of SketchPad; a Jewish shared workspace and community in Chicago for innovative, mission-driven Jewish organizations and professionals.