2016-01-20 / Home

Innovative spirit drives Community Shark Tank at Jan. 10 Kickoff

By DAVID PORTNOE Voice Editor


At the Community Shark Tank Kickoff event were (front, from left), Craig Nussbaum; Andrew Becker; and Scott Seligman, Federation Board member and Planning Committee member; with (rear, from left), Federation CEO Jennifer Dubrow Weiss; Federation Vice President Brad Molotsky; and Federation intern Maddie Phillips. At the Community Shark Tank Kickoff event were (front, from left), Craig Nussbaum; Andrew Becker; and Scott Seligman, Federation Board member and Planning Committee member; with (rear, from left), Federation CEO Jennifer Dubrow Weiss; Federation Vice President Brad Molotsky; and Federation intern Maddie Phillips. Nearly 100 people, comprising dozens of local Jewish organizations, gathered at the Jewish Federation Annex on Springdale Road to kick off the Community Shark Tank, a collaborative program modeled on the hit TV show that will see innovative proposals presented to local “Sharks” for funding. Organized by the Jewish Federation, the Jan. 10 kickoff saw synagogues, day schools, Federation agencies, and other organizations begin to form teams to work on proposals in four areas—Israel/Overseas, Seniors, Education/Engagement, and Special Needs. These areas were identified as key community concerns in the recent Pop Study.


Congressman Donald Norcross (second from right) visited the Shark Tank Kickoff to lend his support to the innovation and community collaboration taking place. Welcoming Norcross were (from left), Nanette Fridman, of Fridman Strategies, which is helping to organize and motivate the project; Jewish Federation CEO Jennifer Dubrow Weiss; and Jewish Federation President Vicki Zell. Congressman Donald Norcross (second from right) visited the Shark Tank Kickoff to lend his support to the innovation and community collaboration taking place. Welcoming Norcross were (from left), Nanette Fridman, of Fridman Strategies, which is helping to organize and motivate the project; Jewish Federation CEO Jennifer Dubrow Weiss; and Jewish Federation President Vicki Zell. Among the eager participants at the event were Charlotte Nordeen and Andrew Quigley. Leaders in the South Jersey Region of BBYO, they were looking forward to participating.

“We wanted to brainstorm with other people to get new teens involved with BBYO and Jewish life,” said Nordeen, SJR-BBYO president. Quigley, the regional programming vice president, added that it is important that teens get their ideas out there in the community. “Today’s teens will be leading the Jewish community in the future,” he said.

The tremendous showing and the enthusiasm in the room says a lot about the community, according to Michele Ettinger, Federation vice president and Planning Committee chair. It was the Planning Committee that spearheaded the Pop Study and is organizing the Shark Tank. “I think we’ve identified four priorities, each one of which is multi-generational,” she said.

The day’s events began with a welcome by Federation President Vicki Zell, who spoke about the collaboration and innovation the community could expect as part of Shark Tank. “This is one of the innovative ways Federation is looking to engage the community,” she said.

Zell introduced Nanette Fridman, of Boston-based Fridman Strategies. She spoke about how Shark Tank is being done by communities throughout the US, including Detroit, Minneapolis, Chicago and Atlanta. Each community is putting its own spin on the concept. She said that the goal was to spark innovation in order to meet the challenges facing the community. She told those gathered in the auditorium at the Federation Annex, 1721 Springdale Rd., that the proposals they come up with could be something completely new or could be a new twist on an existing program.

“Programs, services, and fundraising should always be innovating and improving,” said Fridman. Not every program will succeed, said Fridman, but there are things to be learned from failure, and people should not be afraid to fail. “Think big,” she said.

Jennifer Dubrow Weiss, Federation CEO, told Shark Tank Kickoff participants that the 2013 Pop Study had provided a lot of information about the Southern New Jersey Jewish community, including that the overall community was aging, that people were moving to Burlington and Gloucester counties, and that synagogue affiliation was dropping as millennials looked for different ways to engage. “Our community has a higher percentage of seniors than many other communities, and demand for services will grow.” She also spoke about the vital need to build the connections with Israel as well as to expand activities and programs for special needs.

After the introductions, people had an opportunity to gather at tables devoted to the four priority areas and to begin to form teams. Each table was staffed by a Federation agency executive director—JCRC Director David Snyder (Israel/Overseas); Katz JCC Director Les Cohen ( Education/ Engagement); Jewish Senior Housing & Healthcare Director Morris “Mo” Funk (Seniors); and Samost JFCS Director Marla Meyers (Special Needs).

At the Education/Engagement table, which attracted so many participants it had to be moved to a nearby classroom, Adam Roth said that sometimes people are “in a bubble” at their own organizations and don’t realize what the community as a whole is capable of achieving. A member of Cong. M’kor Shalom as well as part of the Shark Tank Design Team, he spoke about his proposal to have educational programs featuring local people connecting to Israelis using Skype. A teacher at M’kor, Roth said that the synagogue has had a special connection to Kibbutz Yahel for 25 years, and he would like to build on that connection to strengthen local bonds to Israel.

The initial Shark Tank proposals are due Mar. 1, so there is still an opportunity to join a team, according to Ronit Boyd, Federation planning director. Space will be available for the teams to get together at the Jewish Community Campus in Cherry Hill on Super Sunday, Jan. 31, from 2:30-4 p.m.

To join a team, email sharktank@jfedsnj.org .

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