We at David's Voice are thrilled to bring you this brand new feature series. The series, From Midwest to Middle East, will include exclusive content from writers in and around our fair Midwestern region, as they travel throughout the state of Israel.
Our first contributor is Yoni Sarason, who is taking part in an amazing program in Israel for Jewish social entrepreneurs. The trip is taking place through an initiative called PresenTense, whose mission is to "engage and inspire the most creative minds of our generation, investing their ideas and energy to revitalize the established Jewish community." The fellowship will have Yoni in Israel for a total of six weeks, learning about the practical skills of social start-up development.
Below, find Yoni's introduction to the series and more info about his trip in general. We hope you enjoy this exclusive look, it should be interesting! Read below the video for a bit more background about Yoni and his efforts in the Jewish Community.
I ended up getting connected to PresenTense through a random series of coincidences, starting with being invited to a Birthright Next conference in New Orleans. There, I met Ariel Beery, one of the founders of PresenTense with whom I discussed Next Dor and the incredible momentum we've witnessed. At the time, I knew almost zero about PresenTense, except that they had some buzz. After meeting Aharon, the other PT founder in St. Louis, I had a better idea of their mission to train and empower Jewish social entrepreneurs, but wasn't sure how I'd fit in. It wasn't until 2 months before their summer institute, a sort of entrepreneurial boot camp, was scheduled to begin that I was asked to fill out a fast track application, and not until almost a month afterwards that I was accepted and booked my flight.
On a professional level, I'm looking to this trip to give me a better understanding of the steps necessary to make Next Dor a sustainable and effective organization, and potentially a model that can work in other cities (like Cincinnati).
I'll be taking some of my precious little free time to record some of my thoughts, experiences, and adventures here in the land of chocolate milk in a sack, honey bees buzzing, plentiful hummus, and wonderful, if incomprehensible Israelis. Along the way, I'll hope to show you what it is like to party in Tel Aviv, pray in Jerusalem, and problem solve at PresenTense. Along the way, I'll make fun of all the silly things that inhabitants of this land do.
Yoni grew up in Cincinnati, attending Cincinnati public school from second grade until he graduated from Walnut Hills in 2003. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2007, with a degree in Psychology and African American Studies and stayed in St. Louis for a management training job with Miller Brewing Company. After leaving Miller for a small HR technology startup, he decided to start hosting Shabbat dinners as a way to meet new people and get closer to the people he had meet at the obligatory happy hours.
This led to the inception of the Moishe House in St. Louis (an organization that gives subsidies for these types of young adult events). A year later, he was approached by Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation (a graduate of HUC Cincinnati's Rabbinic School) to put a proposal together for how to use a house that CRC owned to turn around the young Jewish community. This proposal, which came to be known as Next Dor (Dor is Hebrew for 'generation'), ended up getting funded by local and national organizations and foundations. A little more than 6 months in, they've developed a community based around programs for young adults planned by young adults. You can learn more about what he's done at www.facebook.com/nextdorstl.
Cincinnati born and bred, Yoni found his way to STL by way of Washington University, where he earned a B.A. in Psychology. Mensch-wannabe, blogger, beatboxer, drummer, producer, Yid lover, hip hopper, and life explorer, Yoni just loves learning. Currently on loan from the Tel Aviv City Team (TACT), Yoni spends his evenings trying to understand metropolitan entertainment, networking and finance (music, people, and how not to go broke seeing as much of both as possible).