This evening, young Jewish leaders from twenty-nine countries will gather in Israel for the fourth annual ROI Global Summit for Young Jewish Innovators. The Summit, which runs through Thursday, is an innovative project of the Center for Leadership Initiatives (CLI), in partnership with Taglit-Birthright Israel. CLI was founded by American Jewish philanthropist Lynn Schusterman. This year, for the first time, and in celebration of Tel Aviv’s 100th birthday, the Summit will be held in nearby Kfar Maccabiah (Israel’s Olympic Village).
Competition for the coveted 120 slots was fierce; CLI received nearly 600 applications from all over the world. This year’s outstanding innovators, all first time attendees, were chosen as 120 who are engaged in projects with the potential to change the face of the Jewish world.
Lynn Schusterman, herself an innovator and the founder of the Summit, explains its importance: “The participants at this conference work in a wide variety of areas, yet each of them is an innovator in his or her field. The link between them is that they are all seeking to change the world and to contribute to a dynamic future for the Jewish people.”
The program is divided into eight themed tracks, designed to allow for individuals to share best practices within the track that is most appropriate for their work: Service/Tikkun Olam; Arts and Culture, Visions of Israel, Environment, New Media, Jewish Education, Bridge-Building and Networks of Purpose.
In addition to networking and collaborative project development, the summit will feature special skills training for participants. The 18 Professional Workshops – including classes in social entrepreneurship, technology, fundraising and more – are being presented by professional trainers, four of them alumni from the ROI Community network. The 17 Peer-Led Skill Sessions were all proposed and will be conducted by members of the 2009 ROI Summit cohort, and include grassroots organization-building and fundraising; technology; public speaking; moderating dialogue groups and more.
According to Yonatan Gordis, Executive Director of the Center for Leadership Initiatives, “The purpose of the gathering is to advance innovation in Jewish fields by enhancing and improving the management skills of ROI participants and to foster connections and collaborations among them. These young people are deeply connected to their local communities, but also care deeply about the land of Israel. Their fresh perspectives, their innovation and their enthusiasm all point to a vibrant future for the Jewish people.”
This year, the Summit also features some brand new innovations including,
- Several of the proceedings will be simultaneously translated into English, Spanish and Hebrew;
- ROI Peer-to-Peer – based on the very popular series of workshops offered at registration last year, and this year offered in advance and led by ROIers for ROIers themselves. This learning from colleagues sends an inspiring message that everyone has something to teach and something to learn, and that ROI is giving them the space to do that.
Many of the projects are already underway by this summer’s participants. They include:
- A Jewish summer camp focusing on environmentalism and social justice;
- The Jewish Salons International project, with representatives hailing from Vienna, Amsterdam and Mexico City;
- Music incorporating Zionism and Jewish values into their music – ranging from pop to rap to hip-hop to rock;
- An eco-conscious film production company;
- Comedy and documentary film projects about Israeli society.
But perhaps the most exciting result to develop over the past few years, and a refreshing change for the Jewish world, is the collaboration of the various networks of young Jewish innovators and the free interchange of both individuals and ideas between them. For there is meaningful overlap between the participants of Jewlicious programs, KolDor, PresenTense and the ROI Community (to name just a few); a sense of one global community and the subsequent breaking down of silos.
Let’s hope this continues – for, as a community, we will all be better served.