Meet Alyssa and Hannah
Alyssa Kapnik and Hannah Kapnik Ashar, Co-founders, Come & Listen
Alyssa Kapnik and Hannah Kapnik Ashar began developing the podcast Come & Listen: Jewish Food for Thought in 2010. As sisters and co-hosts with different relationships to Jewish thought and practice, the tensions and discussions that arise between Hannah and Alyssa are relevant to a broad spectrum of Jews. They are constantly questioning their own, and others’, Jewish ideologies. The podcast's weaving together ideas and narrative opens ideas and concepts beyond what the listener might have expected, and will encourage listeners to engage in meaningful Jewish conversations in their home and community.
Alyssa has worked for years as an independent audio producer, and now produces radio with KALW. She has a rich and varied background in writing, which works its way deeply into the production of high quality episodes.
Hannah’s foundation in Jewish learning is rooted in her time at, among others, the Pardes Institute, Wellesley College, and Yeshivat Hadar. As a Kevah Teaching Fellow, she learns how best to present different kinds of Jewish texts.
Come & Listen strives to engage listeners in a range of relevant Jewish responses to timeless essential questions, transmitting progressive and innovative conversation in a beautifully crafted audio form accessible to listeners with a variety of comfort levels and familiarity with Jewish learning.
Meet Arielle and Maya
Arielle Angel & Maya Joseph Goteiner,
Co-Founders, KetuvArielle Angel and Maya Joseph-Goteiner, co-founders of Ketuv, met while working as art administrators at a non-profit organization in midtown Manhattan. At the time, Arielle was making ketubahs for friends and their network of acquaintances. “It was the first time I saw my artwork used in such a meaningful way” said Arielle.
Maya meanwhile marketed artistic talents by curating unique project and exhibition opportunities. It didn’t take long for each to quickly recognized they had complementary skillsets and share a common goal. Seeing an opportunity in Arielle’s budding business, Maya gathered a group of talented and motivated artists to fashion fine art ketubahs.
Even though Arielle resides in Brooklyn and Maya lives in San Francisco, together, they are reinvigorating the modern ketubah. Through Ketuv, couples now have a fine art option for wedding ketubahs, while artists gain dynamic career opportunities outside of the commercial and Judaica spheres.
UpStart has already begun its work with Maya and Arielle to guide them toward a business model that will accelerate their desired growth and sustainability.
This business venture goes beyond financial ambitions. Their goals are three-fold. Ketuv: strives to create an inclusive and welcoming opportunity for people interested in integrating the Jewish tradition into their wedding day, regardless of religious observance or sexual orientation; help artists capture a wider audience while establishing functioning and sustainable roles in society; and lastly to approach Judaica with a fresh perspective, helping to ultimately ensure continuity of the Jewish tradition by upholding its sophistication and cultural relevance.
Ketuv is committed to creating new opportunities for artists in the marketplace, with the ultimate goal of allowing artists to pursue their craft sustainably and with integrity. Ketuv is also committed to honoring the diversity of the Jewish people, as well as people influenced by the Jewish tradition.
Founder, A Wider BridgePlaces that allow people to be LGBT and Jewish are really important in my life,” Arthur stated. An accomplished leader in the corporate business and Jewish community, he noticed that over the past several decades, LGBT Jews have made great strides in being included and welcomed in Jewish organizations yet despite this progress, LGBT Jews in the United States have a weaker sense of Jewish identity, remain less involved in the Jewish institutions and have a lower sense of connection with Israel.
How to fix this broken link? The prescription was to work to bring the human face of LGBT Israel to the U.S. and that’s exactly what Arthur, Executive Director of A Wider Bridge set out to do.
UpStart partnered with Arthur and his Program Director Josh Weisman in creating a business plan that acted as a roadmap to their success, providing consultation on trainings, offering fundraising techniques, and connecting them with experts in the community. Arthur has ambitious goals for his organization. In five years, he envisions reaching 15-20% of U.S. LGBT Jews with their programs, producing a conference with LGBT leaders from Israel and the U.S., brokering partnerships between a variety of Israeli and American Jewish LGBT organizations, providing programming in at least ten cities and on numerous college campuses and organizing at least three LGBT trips to Israel.
With a special aptitude in building rapport and gaining the confidence of a wide variety of people, Arthur is an agent of social change, fulfilling the obligation to do his part to create a better world by empowering other LGBT Jews to do the same.
A Wider Bridge seeks to inspire Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Jews to deepen their Jewish identity through connection with Israel and to build international collaboration among LGBT Jewish and Israeli communities.
Co-Founder & CEO, Moishe House“The idea for Moishe House came to me in 2006 when I realized that there was a serious lack of appropriate programming for Jewish young adults who had graduated from college but not yet settled down with partners,” said David, Moishe House founder. Shortly after, his friend hosted 70 guests in its first Shabbat dinner in Oakland. Today, their original model has expanded to 41 Houses worldwide that engages more than 40,000 attendees a year. From Shabbat dinners to book clubs to sporting events, residents find ways to connect their peers with the community wherever they are.
By connecting Jewish young adults in meaningful ways and providing low-barrier access to Jewish community, Moishe House reaches a wider audience than a typical institutional setting could, ultimately creating an environment where young Jewish leaders can grow and flourish. And it’s working. Through its unique peer-led programs, formerly disconnected and disinterested participants are becoming active in their communities.
When it came to setting up an office, they chose the Bay Area in large part due to the opportunity to partner with UpStart. With their built-in network of colleagues, access to an office and most important, the support of a terrific staff, UpStart connected Moishe House with their CFO, business mentors, marketing opportunities and even new funders. Currently, Moishe House is in the beginning stages of expanding its model to incorporate its alumni and those in their early 30s and young families through a similar style of informal programming.
David added, “We envision Moishe House as the global leader of pluralistic Jewish life for young adults. By facilitating a wide range of experiences, they’ll have the leadership, knowledge and community to enrich their Jewish journeys.”
Moishe House provides meaningful Jewish experiences for young adults in the Bay Area by supporting leaders in their 20s as they create vibrant home-based Jewish communities.
Elana Naftalin-Kelman, Founder, Rosh PinaElana has been working at the intersection of special education and Jewish education for over 15 years. She directs the Tikvah program for kids with special needs at Camp Ramah in California, which includes a camper program, a vocational program for young adults, and a camp for families that have children with special needs. Elana has consulted with multiple Jewish institutions to aid them in thinking about how to be more inclusive of Jews of all abilities. She has taught professional development courses in differentiated instruction, behavior management and teaching Hebrew. She was the co-founder of Edah, a Jewish after school program located in Berkeley, California, and lives there with her husband and three boys, Yair, Nevo and Etai.
Rosh Pina will support Jewish institutions to become special needs certified by leading them through a year-long journey during which the institution engages in deep study on the board, clergy, lay leader and teacher level, and will include aspects of community building, program modification and development. Rosh Pina will be a national home for organizations and institutions to turn to while learning how to become more inclusive of all of our communities’ members.
Founding Director, Fair Trade JudaicaIlana was introduced to fair trade while traveling in Nepal in 2003; later she discovered fair trade kippot made by Mayan women in Guatemala, and wondered if there were other fair trade Judaica products? “After some research, my husband and I put together a website featuring all the products. I requested samples from the fair trade organizations and Judaica stores were excited to add them to their inventory.” Said Ilana.
Since then, Fair Trade Judaica has grown organically, focusing on education and outreach to consumers, supporting artisans by creating a demand for their products (as well as providing technical assistance in designing new products), and making those products more accessible to consumers.
By expanding market demand for products, Fair Trade Judaica creates work at fair wages. The result being artisans and farmers are then able to raise their families and communities out of poverty, send their children to school, and live more sustainable lives. “We are creating an alternative to sweatshop made products which currently dominate the Judaica market.” Added Ilana.
Besides connecting Fair Trade Judaica with many people who have been instrumental to growth, UpStart was essential in helping them develop their business plan, create outreach materials, assist with programmatic development, fundraising and grant proposal writing, and think through different funding models. Fair Trade Judaica provides the opportunity for Jews to express their values through every day consumer choices. Their services are easily accessible to the entire Jewish community – both affiliated and unaffiliated Jews, across religious denominations and demographic factors.
Ultimately their goal is to build a strong movement in the Jewish community, where fair trade is considered an essential expression of Jewish values and identity.
Fair Trade Judaica is building a fair trade movement in the Jewish community, with a special focus on Fair Trade Judaica products.
Julie Hammerman, Founder, JLens
Julie’s career in traditional finance started seventeen years ago as an investment banker on Wall Street. During the week she focused on Fortune 500 companies, while on the weekends she tutored at-risk youth and organized professional women’s clothing drives. These separate pursuits converged when she discovered the Social Enterprise Initiative at Harvard Business School. Armed with new models of finance and business, Julie became a social entrepreneur and proponent of Impact Investing (also known as Socially Responsible Investing).
Last summer Julie completed two years of intensive study on Jewish texts and history with the Wexner Foundation’s Heritage program. Using her newly enhanced knowledge of Jewish values, Julie began researching the Jewish community’s involvement with Impact Investing. She learned that other faiths are significant contributors to the growth of responsible investments, currently at $3.7 trillion in the US and $13.6 trillion globally. However, the Jewish community remains primarily in traditional investments and there are very few impact investment options that align specifically with Jewish values. A recent JLens survey of over 150 Rabbis from every denomination found that 93% believe the Jewish community should make an effort to align investments with Jewish values. Julie created JLens to encourage Impact Investing in the Jewish community, and to enable Jewish representation within the broader Impact Investing field. From Julie’s prior role as the Impact Investing Strategist for a multi-family office, she was very familiar with the variety of investment strategies available.
JLens is developing a Jewish investment lens, defined a a focus on social justice and environmental preservation, with a special emphasis on impactful Israeli innovation. Through research, education, customized consulting, shareholder activism, and Jewish values-aligned funds, JLens aims to put the Jewish community's capital to work bettering society and the environment, and proudly supporting Israeli advnacements that improve the world.
Founding Co-Director, Wilderness Torah
“About 35 of us from our synagogue thought it would be fun to connect Judaism and the earth so we celebrated Sukkot on a farm,” said Julie, “that’s how it all began.” Shortly after, she and her co-founder Maggid Zelig Golden found themselves organizing Passover in the desert and Shavuot on the Mountain.
Because of her own connection to Judaism and a desire to make it relevant, inclusive, and alive, Julie utilized her intuitive talent of being a natural organizer, community builder, and event planner to create experiences where people get the opportunity to connect, learn, grow, and shine.
She and her Wilderness Torah co-founders partnered with UpStart to turn their vision into reality by collaborating in developing a strategy, setting up accounting systems and creating the foundation for their business plan with a higher purpose. Julie currently manages Wilderness Torah’s finances, operations, Pilgrimage Festival program and leadership development. What first started in 2007 as a personal passion project with friends has today bloomed into a non-profit with more than 165 people (plus a waiting list) participating in a variety of experiential festivals.
“We’re hoping to seed a movement,” said Julie, “one where nature based programs exists in every community engaging people in their own spiritual journey – all in the service of Tikkun Olam.”
Wilderness Torah revitalizes Jewish life by reconnecting Jewish traditions to the cycles of nature. We facilitate individual spiritual growth, strengthen multi-generational community, and connect people to nature through land-based festivals, rites of passage, and sustainable life skills education. Our programs cultivate understanding of Judaism’s earth-based roots, inspire appreciation for Creation, and offer skills that empower participants to engage in living sustainably in the modern world.
Founding Rabbi, The KitchenRabbi Noa Kushner, who led Jewish engagement programs for young adults at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael for six years, has an intuitive insight on leading people. Her innovative idea for ‘The Kitchen’ came about after many conversations with Gen Xers and Millennials who were looking to build a relevant, spiritually alive Jewish practice but did not know where to start.
With the belief that Jewish religious practice can transform and change lives, Noa has created a living, flexible ecosystem of Jewish experiences.
The Kitchen is comprised of two channels: one is community based, and builds off the successes of independent Jewish communities around the country. The second is personally initiated, taking advantage of existing social networks, and is cultivated by Kitchen curated teachers and staff. But she couldn’t do it alone. “UpStart has helped us find people in the community who were willing to donate their time and expertise to help us get off the ground.” She said.
Recognizing the many challenges, The Kitchen participants experience the greater benefit - a collective power to do good. “We are doing nothing more than other generations have done before us,” Noa added, “insisting on harnessing the power of Jewish life in our time.”
Their future goals are to grow Jews and the range of serious and relevant religious Jewish experiences available in San Francisco. The good news is, only six months in, The Kitchen is welcoming hundreds of people coming every month and wanting more.
The Kitchen is one part indie Shabbat community, one part San Francisco experiment, and one part tool kit for DIY Jewish practice. We’re building a connected, spiritually alive Jewish generation and a new resonant approach to religious life in San Francisco.
Meet Rena and Elana
Rena Dorph & Elana Naftalin-Kelman,
Co-founders, EdahNo one could have predicted that Rena Dorph and Elana Naftalin-Kelman, life-long friends, would one day work together toward a new model of complementary Jewish education. But that’s exactly what they’re doing today.
“I had researched after-school programs and saw a wide range,” Dorph said. “That’s where the idea started percolating, wanting a place for my daughter to have a really extensive and intensive Jewish education experience.”
As parents of young children, congregants, and leaders in our community, they were looking for a way to actively engage and connect to Judaism through organic, interesting, and hands-on learning experiences. Drawing on lessons from research and practice in both Jewish and secular education, they helped develop the Edah program (translates to ‘community of learners”), a high quality Jewish learning opportunity for elementary school students and their families, operationalizing the concept of na’aseh v’nishma—we will do and we will understand (listen)—and providing participants, their parents and siblings with opportunities to engage in Jewish practice, learn Jewish content and values, and live Jewish lives.
How can Edah accomplish all this? By teaching children that Israel is a vibrant Jewish country with a living language that we cherish from its biblical roots; by participating in activities steeped in Jewish values, customs, and holidays. And by singing, dancing, cooking, playing, studying, and through sports –they not only teach the children, they educate entire families.
Executive Director, KevahSitting at a kitchen table, Sara, her brother Jacob and a couple of friends were chatting about innovative ways to bring Torah study to young adults, when an idea was born.
Kevah (meaning “fixed time,” in Hebrew) are groups that meet through an informal and organic process in living rooms, kitchens or cafes, to focus on classical Jewish text study. And In doing so, are building micro-communities through social networks and empowering adults to take ownership of their Jewish and spiritual lives.
“Torah study can be profound and engaging and transformative for people,” said Sara, Kevah’s founder. “Often you don’t know who your consumer is until you create a product.” Today, people of all ages regardless of their personal observance, religious background or previous knowledge of Judaism participate as well as institutions.“UpStart is a strong and warm support and an invaluable resource.” Says Sara. They provided Kevah information on fundraising, board development, financial management and instilled confidence when infusing her ideas into Kevah’s business model.
“The most important Jewish act is engaging in Torah study.” Sara said. She hopes to be launching the Kevah Institute which will offer individual classes and allow people to earn a degree or a certificate preparing them to lead Kevah learning groups. With the torah being the bedrock of the Jewish faith, Kevah’s grand vision is that the learning groups become a national phenomenon with Institute graduates returning to their communities where they’ll continue to facilitate Jewish learning for their own social networks.
Kevah creates a grass roots Jewish learning movement through a network of 36 Torah study groups that build Jewish identity. The program enables adults to explore the spiritual and intellectual richness of the Jewish textual tradition in a comfortable setting regardless of background knowledge or level of ritual observance.
Executive Director, G-dcastSarah Lefton has held some impressive titles -- tech media producer, journalist, and entrepreneur are just a few. She was also named as one of the Forward 50 most influential Jews of 2009. I heard a story from a friend that made me reply ‘Who knew that’s Jewish?’ said Sarah, ‘and that made me realize I could teach people things and start an interest in a learning adventure.”
That’s why since 2008, she and her crew of editors, animators, educators, and 55 diverse guest writers and narrators from across the globe have been working feverishly to restore credibility to the phrase The People of the Book. “Animation allows you to have fun, because it’s playful. “Said Sarah.
“UpStart was really helpful. They helped us set up our staff infrastructure, form a 501(c)(3), create our accounting system, and provided me with a mini-grant! ”She noted. Sarah’s goal is to raise basic Jewish literacy by introducing the building blocks that make Jewish life accessible. Her work has impacted everyone from kids to teachers, from secular to Hassidic. Sometimes even people she wouldn’t expect any interest from.
To date, G-dcast has created 62 short films - all available for free on their website - based on Jewish texts that have been viewed nearly a million times on the web, social media networks and mobile devices. Their companion curricula are in use by over 3000 educators at institutions across the Jewish spectrum and around the world.
By making quirky and charming cartoons of our classic Jewish texts, G-dcast is animating today’s telling of the Torah. Their new division targets educators and parents of young teens by creating films explicitly for a young adult audience to encourage conversations about Jewish life
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The National UpStarter program is a fee based program that utilizes a combination of in-person and online meetings with customized coaching and consultations to deliver the same benefits as the local Bay Area-based program. National UpStarters are included in the full UpStarter network including participation in the annual 2-day UpStarter retreat in the Bay Area and in-person or skype based participation in other Bay Area based meetings whenever possible.
National UpStarter Spotlight: Jewish Inclusion Project
With the generous support of the Ruderman Family Foundation, UpStart is currently working with one such Jewish social innovator, Shelley Richman Cohen, on her Jewish Inclusion Project.