Making Waves in the World of Jewish Education

by Frayda Laufer-Leibtag

Education is arguably one of the fields in most desperate need of innovation. The Threshold Fellowship, an important new incubator for Jewish Educational Entrepreneurship, was introduced by HaOhel Institutions, Yad Yaakov’s Jerusalem branch, to enable Fellows to create their own meaningful ventures and occupations, while continuing their lifelong dream of living in Israel. On Thursday, June 28, Threshold’s first cohort of Fellows pitched their ideas that aim to solve some of the greatest challenges facing Jewish education. Launch Night was the culmination of the Fellows’ hard work over the course of a six-month program where they learned about visioning, prototyping and assessment, business models, finance, and fundraising. The Threshold Fellowship is a PresenTense Community Entrepreneur Partnership (CEP) that strengthens the connection between young adults and their Jewish communities through a fellowship that engages local innovators and professionals in cooperative ventures.

In a high-energy, rapid-fire sequence, each fellow pitched his/her project at Launch Night. Afterwards, each Fellow was stationed at a booth displaying information about their venture. Community members had the opportunity to visit, network, ask questions, and explore the wide range of Jewish innovation these Fellows embody. The fellows’ exhibitions at Threshold’s Launch Night were colorful, creative and delicious. Fivel Yedidya Glasser, whose venture P’tach Libi offers Jewish informal experiential outdoor education, gave guests a sample taste of camping out in the wilderness with his tent, sleeping bags, hiking boots, and accompanying gear that were part of his exhibit. The Israel Herb School, a project of The Elah Initiative, offered home-made herbal brews. The healthful drinks were so good that many tasters encouraged the School to start selling them to a wider market.

One of the more memorable moments of the evening occurred when a quail escaped from the exhibit of Chaim Davids, a celebrated chef who aspires to revive and maintain the tradition of kosher “game birds” to be raised for their meat and eggs, while expanding the gourmet kosher food market, with his venture “Super Slav” Quail Farm. As a whole, the projects presented at Launch Night were diverse, addressing issues ranging from personal growth, to informal education, to the environment, to at-risk teens and more.

Threshold is unique in that the program is completely based on the involvement of the community. Over 30 Steering Committee members, as well as coaches and mentors who guided the fellows throughout the program volunteered of their time to help make Threshold a reality and assist the fellows in developing their ventures.

“I was impressed by the professionalism of the program and by many of the pitches. The energy at the evening was excellent. In my eyes, the pitches and Launch Night teach valuable skills and help to build confidence,” said Rabbi Zvi Grumet who mentored fellow, Uri Schneider. “I’m proud to be affiliated with this exciting initiative,” added Dvora Corn who mentored fellow, Rebecca Aminoff.

PresenTense co-founder and co-director Aharon Horwitz commended the Fellows on “an amazing Launch Night! The escaped kosher quail was just one of the great moments.”

If you are interested in applying for the 2013 Fellowship, or volunteering as part of Threshold’s Steering Committee, or as a coach or mentor, please contact

Frayda Laufer-Leibtag is the Threshold Fellowship Coordinator.

photos by Yonit Schiller