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July 11, 2017 2:54 pm

The ‘Olympics’ of Jewish Innovation

avatar by Eliana Rudee /


A view of Jerusalem. Photo: Wikimedia Commons. – As the so-called “Jewish Olympics” (the Maccabiah Games) kicked off last week in Israel, another Olympic-style Jewish event sought to ignite global Jewish leadership.

From July 2-6, the 2017 Return on Investment (ROI) Summit in Jerusalem hosted more than 150 young Jewish leaders from 29 countries. An initiative of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, the summit is the flagship program of the ROI Community, a movement that aims to “[connect] dynamic Jewish leaders from across the globe, enabling them to turn their passion into action and shape the future of the Jewish world.”

Coming to Jerusalem from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas, ROI Summit participants lead initiatives that are as diverse as the range of Olympic sports. Some aim to build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians, others work to improve life for underprivileged communities outside of the Jewish community, and others put a new spin on arts and culture. Here is just a sampling of the groups and individuals that participated in the most recent summit:

  • Jacob Weisenthal, the operations manager for Semilla Nueva, who is working to develop a species of corn in Guatemala to address local malnutrition.
  • Julia Spiegel, a social justice and impact litigation attorney for the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office in California, who is leading a case against President Donald Trump’s executive order stripping “sanctuary cities” of Federal funding.
  • Jewish and American-Israeli rapper Rami Even-Esh, better known as Kosha Dillz, who has shared stages and songs with everyone from Eminem to Macklemore and Matisyahu.

Amid the diversity of their initiatives, the summit participants also share a broader goal: reshaping the Jewish future.

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As the name “Return on Investment” suggests, the gathering’s goal is to invest in young leaders within the Jewish community in order to impact future generations.

In a “brain date extravaganza,” participants networked with Israeli change-makers in speed-dating-like meetings, enabling local experts to tap into the summit’s talent. The summit also included peer-led workshops.

“The conference has been this mishmash of the most successful people I’ve ever met,” rapper Even-Esh told the Haym Salomon Center. “It’s the perfect place to come and share our stories and talents, because everyone here just gets it.”

The ROI Community offers ongoing opportunities for professional development year-round, and networking and financial support, such as micro-grants of $2,000 for projects.

Philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, cofounder and chair of her family’s foundation, said that the ROI Summit “is much more than a conference. It is a fertile meeting ground for the most creative, talented young minds working in the Jewish world.”

“It is no coincidence that we bring them together in Jerusalem, a city that has both challenged and inspired humankind for thousands of years,” she said. “It is here that we hope these rising young leaders will connect, create and collaborate on a vision for the future of our community.”

Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center news and public policy group. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, New York Daily News, Forbes and The Hill.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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