By Erin Davis, Shabbatness
Last month, my 90-year-old, 4'10" Nana Roza Goldberg baked over 1,000 hamentaschen from scratch in the same little kitchen in Jacksonville, Florida, in which she's baked numerous delicacies since immigrating to the U.S. after surviving the Holocaust. Since my recent 29th birthday, Nana has been particularly distressed that I am the only one of her grandchildren who has hit this age unmarried. This past Purim, she packed two additional "special ingredients" in her famous annual batch of hamentaschen: love, in hopes that it infects all who eat it; and extra sugar, because "no man likes a tiny tucchus like yours!". With these two magical ingredients, she made only one request - that they be served after a Shabbat dinner hosted in my home. "Shabbat," she says, in her thick Polish accent, "is magical - nothing brings together nice Jewish boys and girls like a good, home-cooked Shabbat dinner." Although I may not believe the majority of my grandma's superstitious advice nor indulge in her tucchus-plumping tactics, I couldn't agree more strongly on her belief in the power of the Shabbat experience.
By Dalia Davis, UPROOTED: A Jewish Response to Infertility
This past month has been a time of birth. My venture began with its conception which occurred in the privacy of my own thoughts after trying for a few months. After the thrill of a successful conception and discovering a positive response in my email in the form of an acceptance letter from PresenTense, the gestation period began. During this time my vision for this venture grew and developed, and was impacted by the advice of those in my inner circle—my mentor, coach, colleagues, and cohort. However, after carrying this venture close to my heart for many months, it came time for my venture to enter the world. I realized I need to experience birthing pains and allow others to meet my venture, secretly hoping they will treat her with compassion and love. As I created my website and put my thoughts in the public domain I found myself experiencing both excitement and anxiousness wondering how my venture will fair in the world.
By Temimah Zucker, Tikvah V'Chizuk
When I first began my journey at Presentense, I was a frazzled, tired blonde with a mission in mind and the gumption to take down anyone who came in my way.
Most of these things haven’t changed. I am still determined, generally tired and overworked, sometimes frazzled, but I have to say that my sense of humility has deepened and expanded.
At the onset of my journey with PT, I had one thing in mind: my venture. I walked through the doors of the 86th Street Synagogue on the day of speed interviewing holding stamina in one hand and my go-getter attitude in another. I believe in Tikvah V’Chizuk and in my mind, all I had to do was be myself and show why Presentense needed to help me.
Apparently it worked.
By Alyssa Berkowitz, Real in Return
Growing up, I was the child who preferred a good book to a birthday party. Teachers were always urging me to “break out of my shell” or would come up to me to express concern when I would sit quietly by myself during group activities. I was called “shy” and “awkward” well into my teenage years. I had a small group of close friends, and never yearned for the popular limelight. I felt uniquely me, and I dealt.
It wasn’t until college, where bored nights led to the discussion of the popular Myers-Briggs personality typing, that I learned there was a name to describe the way I felt as a child, and still feel today. I am an introvert: a person who gets energy from inside herself, as opposed to an extrovert who gathers energy from external stimuli. As an introvert, I am someone who is almost constantly streaming an inner monologue through her head and someone who prefers to stay out of the center of attention. However, I also happen to be an entrepreneur. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about being an entrepreneur, it’s that we find our success through our voices.
By David Tuchman, OMGWTFBIBLE
I’m glad Purim happened during this year’s Fellowship. This year, I realized Megillat Esther contains the blueprint for the perfect pitch.
The stage for Esther’s pitch is set in Chapter 4 of the Megilla named for her. That’s when she learns, through Mordechai, of Haman’s plan of genocide for all the Jews in Achasuerus’ (or Xerxes’, if you’re nasty) domain. She’d like to petition the king to change his mind but, as she tells Mordechai, “any man or woman who goes to the king’s inner court without permission--there’s just one rule--they die.” It’s pretty clear her pitch is a risky one.
Esther goes anyway. After 3 days of fasting and market research (we can only assume), she enters the king’s inner court. Without permission. Achasuerus points his golden scepter at Esther, signifying he won’t kill her. Esther invites her husband and Haman to a string of parties, the second of which is her pitch meeting. When she finally pitches, in chapter 7, Esther demonstrates an intimate knowledge of her audience and the market context.
By Sarah L. Knapp, OutdoorFest
I didn't mean to become a social entrepreneur. It happened so fast and before I knew it my tweets had a funny new hashtag and my happy hours became filled with people who complained not of their day at work but of world problems.
I had grappled with the decision to leave my job for months, but when the day finally came for me to quit and start my own venture, everything shifted dramatically. A new world of flexible titles, hours and business plans opened before me. The day after I quit I could either be unemployed or an entrepreneur. Or with zero revenue perhaps the distinction was between an avid hobbyist and a businesswoman.
Anyway, as a committed hobbyist I jumped right in to creating the yet unnamed OutdoorFest. I was building the festival of my dreams to strengthen the outdoor community in NYC. Yet I began to discover this wasn’t just about organizing outdoor enthusiasts but rather building a platform that could shift urban lifestyles and, ultimately, change city culture.
By David Glazer, Shira l'Tefillah
Ever since I was a kid, I was indoctrinated into praying three times every day. I never challenged or asked questions about what I was saying, nor did I understand it either. I did not particularly enjoy prayer or find meaning in it. I found it monotonous, uninspiring, and boring. It wasn't until I was in Israel for my gap year that I went to my first Carlebach minyan on a Friday night. According to Wikipedia, a Carlebach Minyan is a Jewish prayer service that follows the style of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and uses the melodies he composed for many prayers. These minyanim are distinctive for their emphasis on singing the liturgy, often using Carlebach's original nigunim. According to Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt, Carlebach "changed the expectations of the prayer experience from decorous and somber to uplifting and ecstatic as he captivated generations with elemental melodies and stories of miraculous human saintliness, modesty and unselfishness. "
This experience opened my eyes to the idea that music and melodies can be used to not only enhance one's involvement in their tefillah but to give people a new understating as to the reason we pray. Music stirs the soul and helps individuals reach places within themselves that they never thought possible. That evening, I found myself being enveloped by the music and the words naturally flowing from my lips; similar to hearing a favorite song of mine to which I begin to automatically sing to.
By Dalia Davis, The Akara Project
This year the world lost an icon in the Israeli music world, Arik Einstein (z”l). With his passion for social change and idealistic spirit he composed the well-known song Ani V’ata Neshaneh et Ha’olam (You and I will change the world). As my fellow PresenTense fellows and I looked to this song for inspiration in a seminar on Visioning, one line in particular jumped out at me. “Ani v’ata ne’naseh mehatchalah” (you and I will start at the beginning). As we progressed through the seminar and attempted dreaming, designing, and articulating our visions, it became very clear to me that my visions for The Akara Project are long range and riveting. With my suitcase full of plans for my venture, I am very much at the beginning of a journey. According to Einstein, a very appropriate place to start.
However, the beginning is not always the most comfortable and pleasant place. In this seminar, we characterized beginnings as Egypt—the place that one must leave in order to travel through the wilderness and arrive in the Promised Land. I see and hear this Egypt often. The other day I stood next to a woman struggling with infertility while another woman asked her advice about what to name the child she was carrying in her womb. Shortly thereafter, I was with another woman who has been trying to conceive for years and witnessed another woman ask her how long she’s been married, express surprise when hearing the high number, and go on to share with great pride that she bore three children in three years. These women are in Egypt. As long as we remain a community in which we cease to educate ourselves and our members towards a greater level of sensitivity, we are all in Egypt together. It is time to get out and begin our journey.
By Alyssa Berkowitz, L'gasher Et Ha'paar (Bridge the Gap)
Every runner knows that training for a race is a process of elaborate planning and goal setting. We start by training our bodies: logging miles and building strength. Next we train our minds: we become familiar with the intensity that comes along with rigorous, habitual training and learn what to do when we “hit a wall.” We blister, know down to the minute when we will need to eat, and know what activities we enjoy after a training run. I have been a runner for close to five years, but never once have I trained for setbacks. That is, until now.
What do I mean by "training for a setback?" This weekend, I ran my third half marathon ever, the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half, which is the first of three I plan to run in the next four months. At mile 9, which is usually where I hit that lovely sweet spot where tenacity and focus push me to the finish line, I felt a sharp pain course up my ankle. I winced (trying to ignore my pain), and finished, only to end up in the doctor’s office later that day with a torn ligament. As the doctor taught me to walk with crutches, I watched the dream of breaking personal records and trying new courses vanish before my eyes. A setback in every sense of the definition.
Engagement, a term that for many young adults means a promise to marry, has turned into one of the largest stumbling blocks I have encountered in the development of my PresenTense project.
No, I’m not struggling with commitment or marriage – instead I am challenged by how to get Jewish young adults excited about participating in Open דור Door. For me, engagement brings to mind how to get young people involved in the Jewish community through participation in social programming and volunteering.
In these first stages of my training as a social entrepreneur, I have been reminded many times that I need to come up with a “hook” in order to cultivate interest for my idea. What I am concerned with moving forward is the need for regular participation and commitment to Open דור Door.
PresenTense NYC Fellowship
Igniting social change in the NYC Jewish community.