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Jerusalem Summit Encourages Young Jewish Leadership (with VIDEO)
Participants take part in a workshop on June 25 at the 2019 ROI Summit in Jerusalem. (Chen Wagshall)

Jerusalem Summit Encourages Young Jewish Leadership (with VIDEO)

Participants emphasize need for recognition of Jewish diversity, focus on personal, communal responsibility

Jews of color continue to be underrepresented on the boards of US Jewish institutions despite their growing numbers in the community, says a participant in this year’s ROI Summit for young Jewish leaders.

“Ultimately, if we start counting Jews of color better, the impact is massive [if] we start to really engage and understand that our community is more diverse than it has historically looked,” Angel Alvarez-Mapp, a participant, told The Media Line.

Alvarez-Mapp is program manager for the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative, which is dedicated to improving the way Jews are counted in the United States and getting better representation for Jews of color on the boards of Jewish community groups and businesses.

One out of every seven Jewish Americans is a Jew of color, he said, and many organizations tallying up statistics on the Jewish American community have not been properly taking count of them. But following the recent release of a demographic study by his initiative, Jewish federations have asked to partner with it to improve their surveys and better understand the population makeup of their community.

“If the rest of the US is becoming more diverse, why shouldn’t the Jewish community become more diverse,” asked Alvarez-Mapp, who was born in Kansas to Jewish parents from Panama and Puerto Rico, adding he hoped that in the future, one out of every 10 board members of Jewish institutions will be a Jew of color.

Some 150 young Jews from around the world are participating in the 2019 ROI Summit, taking place in Jerusalem June 23-27.

ROI – an acronym for “return on Investment” – sees its participants as “returns” on philanthropic investments from donors in the Jewish world, Justin Korda, the summit’s executive director, told The Media Line.

The summit this year focuses on personal and communal responsibility.

“We’re looking for leaders who are going to make an impact. That could be locally, all over the world or specifically with an impact on Israel,” Korda said.

A keynote speaker at the summit is the globally-known Palestinian-Israeli video blogger Nuseir Yassin, known as Nas, who emphasized the importance of continuity and persistence.

“Nas’s experience of risk-taking and jumping out of his comfort zone to create a globally recognized brand [that is] centered around community values is a message that resonates with any leader striving to create change,” said Korda. “As an inclusive and globally-facing community of Jewish leaders, we are proud to welcome Nas to ROI and we consider him a great friend and ally.”

Among the successful projects that have been supported by ROI is the Muslim Jewish Conference (MJC), founded in 2010 by Austrian ROI alumnus Ilja Sichrovsky. MJC brings together Muslims and Jews at an annual conference in Europe, where professionals can focus on commonalities rather than cultural and religious differences.

Up-and-coming comedian Noam Shuster, who grew up in the Jewish-Arab community of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam outside of Jerusalem, got her start at the 2017 ROI summit when she did an impromptu standup set. It went over so well that she chose to change professions. Today she tells jokes for money – in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

The ROI Summit is active, hosting two-minute “lightning round” sessions where participants present case studies of their projects in small groups and then receive feedback from each of the other group members.

“We spend the first full day on establishing trust. Once we have that, the sky is the limit,” Korda said.

David Yarus, founder of JSwipe, the trendy Jewish version of the dating app Tinder, was among this year’s participants. Yarus has now shifted his attention to a new endeavor called “Mllnnl,” which helps clients engage millennials through targeted internet marketing.

“[Organizations that target young Jews] are spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year putting fuel into the ‘Jewish Oldsmobile.’ Millennials want the Jewish Tesla,” Yarus told The Media Line, referring, respectively, to the car stereotypically driven by senior citizens and the electric vehicle becoming popular with millennials. “I don’t know what that is and I don’t know what it looks like, but I know it’s distinctly different from the Oldsmobile.”

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