Pivoting in the Era of Covid – How Jewish Coworking Spaces Around the Globe are Creating a New Sense of Connection

By Jenny Camhi, Rabbi Avi Finegold, and Irene Lehrer Sandalow

It all started in the lobby of the Brooklyn Marriott at the 2019 Collaboratory, an annual gathering where leaders, ventures, and philanthropists come together to ignite new thinking and seed game-changing collaboration. Co-working spaces within a Jewish context were popping up all over the United States and overseas, each with a unique model, but a shared mission to create a new form of Jewish community engagement. In the spirit of the Collaboratory, a few of us working in this space met to learn more about each other’s experiences and find ways to be of support.

During the initial conversation, we grappled with issues such as maintaining a Jewish identity, leveraging resources in a coworking environment, determining programming ideas, and identifying trends in the coworking field. All of our spaces shared a common experience of colleagues reaching out from cities around the globe, interested in starting their own coworking spaces, and looking for advice. We decided that we wanted to continue this conversation post-Collaboratory and committed to meet monthly online. As we grew we began to find other organizations with a similar model and welcomed them into the fold. 

Then, in March 2020, the pandemic hit and our network of Jewish coworking spaces was faced with an incredibly challenging set of circumstances. What value could a communal gathering space provide in a time when physical distance was our new norm? Our monthly calls took on a new level of significance as we tried to stay relevant and meaningful to the communities we serve. And thus, JCoco was born- the Jewish Collaborative Coworking network. JCoco is an international cohort of coworking spaces and collectives designed to enhance the engagement and connection of their local Jewish communities through inclusive, creative, and deeply meaningful programs. We believe in the power of collaboration and learning from our peers around the globe. We exist to support other communities and by extension we have become communities of collaborators in our own right.  

With so many programs either shifting to a virtual space, or changing their entire organizational model, we realized that we could leverage our resources and networks of talented colleagues and collaborate on our virtual programs. Coworking is a hyper localized activity and this pandemic has given us the opportunity to open the doors of our programming to a global audience with the hope that learning from colleagues in different time zones can spark new ideas, new approaches, and relationships. Our first collaborative series, Pivot Masters, is designed to highlight how members of our collective networks have pivoted their work in the areas of spiritual connection, fundraising, staff culture and community engagement. On Tuesday September 8th, we will hear from Chaya Gilboa, Director of Jewish Engagement at the Leichtag Foundation, Nimrod Baratz from the Jewish Activism Summer School, and James Evans From SVARA on a panel moderated by Rabbi Avi Finegold as they share examples of how they engaged each of their local communities in inspiring forms of Jewish learning. To learn more about the Pivot Masters series and JCoco, click HERE.

Jenny Camhi is Director of The Hive at Leichtag Commons; Rabbi Avi Finegold is co-founder of espace MO and the founder of the Jewish Learning Lab; and Irene Lehrer Sandalow is Director, Sketchpad.