The 7th annual ROI Summit began this week in Jerusalem with 150 young participants from over a dozen different countries. They are meeting to engage in "idea generation exerices," various seminars, and to meet like minded people. The participants are all young Jewish leaders who range from musicians to businessmen, to new media technicians, to young rabbis, and more.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, a successful entrepreneur in his own right, spoke to the participants.
Arutz Sheva's radio podcast site spoke with Justin Korda, the executive director of the ROI Community. Born in Canada and currently living in Jerusalem, Korda spoke highly of the young people he has met. In the past 7 years, over 800 people have become a part of the community. One of the numerous success stories he related was that of ROI member Shoshana Bloom. "She was the co-chair of the 2011 Limmud Conference in the United Kingdom," Korda stated. "Pretty much on her own initiative, she created the very first Taglit-Birthright Israel program out of London for people with physical and learning disabilities. These are the kinds of stories we hear of people who are committed to making Jewish life it accessable to those who otherwise might not be a part of it at all," Korda said.
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Another young innovator from the ROI Community is David Cygielman, who co-founded Moishe House. "David is from Santa Barbara, California and he established a house with subsidized rent for young Jewish activists," Korda related. During their stay, the residents of the home are committed to organizing Jewish programming for the community. "Since he established Moishe House in 2006, there are now 40 of them of them across the world. One young woman from Kiev is spearheading a Moishe House in the Ukraine," Korda stated.
The name ROI is a common Hebrew first name, but it also stands for return-on-investment. "It's a business term," Korda explained. "The idea being that Taglit-Birthright and other organizations engage in massive outreach projects. That's the investment. The handful of people who emerge, sometimes then don't find the kind of community they want. Instead of turning their backs, they then build the kinds of communities they want to see," Korda said.
One of the main initiators of the concept is philanthropist Lynn Schusterman. "We have the great fortune of having a person who can take significant risks on young people and their ability to change the world and back it up with action," Korda commented. It was Shusterman who asked Korda to help create the ROI Summit back in 2006. That small, one-time project turned into the flourishing ROI Summit .
The idea of follow-up is one that Korda is very familiar with, being a veteran organizer of Taglit-Birthright. He helped start the first trip from Canada in the year 2000. "Lynn realized long before that the kind of change we want to see happening has to happen from the bottom up," stated Korda. "The young people themselves have to create the kind of community that would excite them."
The ROI Summit it taking place in Jerusalem from June 11th - June 14th.