Rank and File

Ramping up return on investment; resolving conflicts around the world; learning about Tu Bishvat.

Courtesy Matan

INNOVATIVE ENTREPRENEURS: American-Israeli collaborations are among the winners of 2015 Natan Grants for ROI Entrepreneurs — the ROI refers to return on investment. The grants totaling $40,000 are provided by the Natan Fund, which says it “supports entrepreneurial organizations that demonstrate an innovative approach to transforming the Jewish future.” This year’s awardees include Digital Shmita, which uses the Internet to teach people the tradition of letting the Land of Israel lay fallow every seven years. Another winner is “Israel Story,” Israel’s version of the popular U.S. radio show “This American Life.” Digital Shmita is run by Amichai Lau-Levie, an Israeli-born educator who is a rabbinical student at the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary, and Evan Bartholomew, a Portland, Oregon-based producer of downtempo electronic music. “Israel Story” was founded by four Israelis, all with at least one parent from North America: Mishy Harman, Roee Gilron, Yochai Maital and Shai Satran. The name Natan Fund comes from the Hebrew name of JJ Greenberg, the executive director of the New York-based Jewish Life Network before he died in his 30s in 2002.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION: With conflicts over collective identity grabbing headlines from Europe to Africa and the Middle East, Bar-Ilan University is launching Israel’s first academic international summer certificate program, taught in English, in conflict resolution. The four-week program in July will examine identity-based conflicts worldwide with an emphasis on conflicts based in Israel, Bar-Ilan says. The school’s Graduate Program in Conflict Management, Resolution and Negotiation will run the program. “This topic is the topic that makes Israel so volatile that also makes it so dynamic,” says Prof. Jay Rothman, the program’s director who will teach a course on Jerusalem. He says the program will provide “new tools for dealing with old problems,” which he refers to as “creative imagination.” For more info, go to http://pconfl.biu.ac.il/en/node/1950.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT AT TU BISHVAT: As Tu Bishvat seders have grown in popularity, the options for English-speaking celebrations of the agricultural holiday have also expanded. At Jerusalem’s Matan: The Sadie Rennert Women’s Institute for Torah Studies, Long Island native Rabbanit Shani Taragan ran a seder with over 100 men and women. The group learned about almonds, a symbol of the holiday. The Emek Learning Center, also in Jerusalem, hosted about 90 people. Shalom Meyers, originally from Cape Town, told Haaretz the community he runs with former New York Rabbi Azarya Berzon holds its programs in English to make Torah more accessible to non-Hebrew speakers. Other sites with 100 or more seder participants included Hineni International, which featured New York Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, and event-organizer Boo-yah, also in Jerusalem.

Rank and File was compiled by Steven Klein.
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