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ROI Summit Brings Jewish Thinkers Together

150 Jewish social and business entrepreneurs from around the world are meeting in Jerusalem for the ROI Global Summit of Young Jewish Innovators.
By Elad Benari & Hezki Ezra
First Publish: 6/15/2011, 8:49 PM / Last Update: 6/16/2011, 1:16 AM

150 Jewish social and business entrepreneurs, technology whizzes, thinkers and artists from around the world are meeting in Jerusalem this week for the ROI Global Summit of Young Jewish Innovators. The purpose of the summit is to connect and create new tools and novel approaches to shape the Jewish world and beyond.

“The ROI Community is a network of 600 young Jewish innovators who reside in some 40 countries around the world,” said ROI’s Executive Director Justin Korda.

He explained that the idea behind the summit in Jerusalem is “to bring them together and allow them to connect with one another and create innovative Jewish work that will ultimately transform Jewish life around the world.”

“These young Jewish social entrepreneurs are transforming the Jewish world through their vital initiatives and commitment to tikkun olam, repairing the world,” said Lynn Schusterman, the American Jewish philanthropist who, in 2005, created ROI Community as a partnership with Taglit-Birthright Israel.  “As change agents within their own communities, in Israel and beyond, these 20- and 30-somethings are key to ensuring the vibrancy of Jewish life 3,000 years down the road.”

ROI Community has played a key role in seeding and supporting such cutting-edge Jewish start-ups as Moishe House, G-dcast, Jewcology, Omanoot.com, and Haggadot.com. ROI also offers an expansive Micro Grants program to help ROI members turn ideas into actual meaningful projects.

One of the participants in the conference is the NU Campaign, which designs t-shirts on behalf of Israeli organizations.

“We don’t just leave you with a t-shirt at the end of the day,” said NU’s founder David Kramer. “What we do is leave you with a story, because on the inside of every NU Campaign t-shirt we print the story behind the cause. The idea is that whoever wears one of these shirts carries the story of Israel and the charity in their hearts, literally.”

The summit’s keynote speaker is Marina Nemat, whose best-selling memoir ‘Prisoner of Teheran’ recounts the torture she endured while imprisoned by the Khomeini regime as a teenager.

At the heart of the program is peer-to-peer training and collaborative project-building lead by ROI network members from around the world. In addition, some of Israel’s most successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders teach Master Classes to inspire the ROIers with their personal stories and insights for effecting change.

“At this conference we’re very proud of the diversity that we have in this group,” said Korda. “We’ve got religious people and secular people and we’re very proud. This year we have a young man who is responsible for social media for Chabad.”