In May 2017, in partnership with WeWork Lincoln Square and guided by Lisa Colton, Chief Learning Officer at See3 Communications, we held a hackathon to reimagine Jewish Seattle. We already had an idea of the challenges: a skyrocketing price of living, micro-communities of Jews that don’t interact in an organic way, the “Seattle freeze” that leaves newcomers out in the cold, and the lack of genuine Jewish cuisine. Using design thinking — a process-driven approach to innovation that emphasizes empathy and experimentation — we placed everyone in groups and gave them a problem.
Meet the future of Jewish Seattle. What’s your next big idea?
Problem 1: Integrating Newcomers
Seattle’s Jewish population is growing like gangbusters with a booming economy and great quality of life. As people arrive, they’re making new friends and building their own communities — or maybe they’re feeling the freeze. How can we meet them where they are at, welcome them to Seattle, help them meet other Jews, and help them become integrated in the Jewish community? What would you design to make sure that Jews arriving in Seattle feel a true sense of welcome (not just lip service) and integration into our community?
The group members talked about their experiences in Seattle. The Jewish community here is large, but it’s spread out. How could we bring everyone together to create some kind of density? The idea of a shared living/working/eating space emerged.
A shared living, working, and
dining space on Capitol Hill that ignites instant community.
WeWork’s latest venture, WeLive — furnished, stocked, community-driven apartment buildings in New York; Washington, DC; and soon Seattle — inspired the group toward a vision of a multipurpose shared space. Anyone can live there, but programming and dining would be geared toward the Jewish community. In turn, residents would have to donate two or three hours a month to volunteering in the community.
Founder & CEO of Venture Kits, games and toys for future CEOs, and
founder of the Seattle Female Founders Alliance, a private community of
venture-scale startup founders committed to helping each other succeed
What is your greatest learning experience? Motherhood is by far the steepest learning curve you could ever experience. It was profoundly humbling and forced me to reconsider my priorities. I knew early on that I wanted to keep working, but that I had to work on something meaningful and mission-driven.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? I wanted to invite Melinda Gates to meet the Seattle Female Founders Alliance. I couldn’t reach her via introductions, so one day I got a dozen doughnuts, handwrote a letter, and dropped it off at her offices. As I was driving away I saw the receptionist throwing out the doughnuts and taking my letter out of the building. He must have thought I was a security risk!
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs? Someone once told me that it’s possible to be confident and humble at the same time. You need BOTH to be a successful entrepreneur.
What would you innovate about the Seattle Jewish community if you had no limits on time, money, or resources? I would invent teleportation. That way I could go to Shabbat dinner with my family every week. I could participate in any Seattle community no matter the distance and traffic. And we could all spend Passover “next year in Jerusalem” in a snap.
What innovation in Jewish history speaks to your identity? The oral tradition. Entrepreneurship is an active form of listening and storytelling. On a personal note, the oral tradition is at the core of my most meaningful relationships. Telling each other the stories that formed our family and friendships. It’s how I know who I am and who I love.
Problem 2: Fragmentation
Seattle’s Jewish community has been growing rapidly over the past decade, but we remain fragmented and isolated in our micro-communities denominationally and geographically. How can we cross-pollinate, break down these barriers, and build a city-wide identity as a Jewish community? Where are the opportunities, and what might be the result of building a more complex web of relationships and collaborations?
Figuring out the audience was the hardest part. The group decided to focus on the middle “third” of newcomers — those who want to connect Jewishly but for whom the perceived barriers weren’t worth overcoming. Another challenge to work through was the problem of organizations competing for members and resources. Finally, there’s the “tent.” The Jewish community often sees itself as a tent with open sides, including all Jews yet determining some Jewish ideas as “outside the tent.” To break apart these challenges, the team realized it needed an organic concept that evolves from the user experience.
Prototype: Disrupt the tent
A cloud-based app that allows users to subscribe to channels of events and information so that they’re better informed about what’s going on.
What if we could integrate the community calendar with effective social media platforms? You could subscribe to certain interest channels and check off which events you want to see and don’t want to see. This way, the tent includes everyone — but the cloud transcends the tent.
Founder & CEO of Omage Labs, an early stage company dedicated to enhancing the wellness of older adults through predictive analytics to support longevity
What are you most proud of, and why? At the risk of sounding dull and cliché, my kids. Ari is an MFA painter at UCLA, and Daniel is a UW senior studying jazz piano and environmental studies. They are both amazingly improvisational in their work, and are passionate about tikkun olam —repairing the world — justice and the arts.
What would you innovate about the Seattle Jewish community if you had no limits on time, money, or resources? I’d take the incubation hub idea, combine it with coworking space and services, add a great deli or bagel place, and include group meeting space. Then I’d wire it with state-of-the-art video conferencing capabilities, and build one of these facilities in a dozen various places around the greater Seattle area. In one fell swoop we’d create vibrant hubs of Jewish communal activity throughout our geographically dispersed neighborhoods, with the shared infrastructure to drive organizational excellence, facilitate educational opportunities, and stimulate innovation in expressions of Jewish life.
What innovation in Jewish history speaks to your identity? The first would be having been a high school student on my first trip to Israel when the Entebbe rescue happened in 1976. Experiencing history first-hand was itself an innovation in how we have come to think of ourselves as Jews. The second was the amazing opportunity I had to visit refuseniks in 1979. It was still the real Soviet Union, and the mantle of support to that oppressed community was carried largely by young people. For me, it remains one of the most powerful things I’ve ever done.
Problem 3: Food
Jewish food has always been an important part of our culture, and recently Jewish food and food issues have been leading a major resurgence in the national Jewish community. Seattle is also a foodie scene, but somehow the two have not yet come together. How can food play a role in strengthening our Jewish community and culture? What would you design to increase the Jewish food quotient in the greater Seattle area?
For his second wedding anniversary, Shmuel Tennenhaus took his wife to Island Crust Café, the kosher pizza place on Mercer Island. She almost made him stop the car. A pizza for their anniversary? But in this group, Shmuel was in the minority as a kosher-observant Jew. Lisa wanted good bagels, and everyone wanted shwarma. How could they meet all the dietary dreams of Jewish Seattleites?
A shared space for Jewish food with rotating pop-up restaurants and staples, like a bakery, butcher shop, and deli.
Think Uwajimaya’s Kai Market meets Chelsea Market meets Amazon Go (if you want to meet up with Jews on Shabbat but don’t carry money). There would always be the staples: a bakery, a butcher shop, shwarma. To keep it fun, in the middle you’d find pop-up restaurants and guest chefs. Did we mention the playground and on-site babysitting? And of course it would be paired with Uber Eats.
CTO at rover.com, a service that helps people find a dog sitter or walker in their neighborhood
What are you most proud of, and why? My children, because they’re talented and kind.
Your greatest learning experience? Measure twice, cut once.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? I jumped out of an airplane when I was 24 with a parachute on my back.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs/innovators? Making your product or service is the easy part. Finding customers — through marketing and distribution — is the hard part.
What would you innovate about the Seattle Jewish community if you
had no limits on time, money, or resources? I would invest in creating producers, not consumers, of Judaism.
What innovation in Jewish history speaks to your identity? The rebirth of the modern state of Israel.
CEO of Lemonhaze, a data company that publishes the top-selling cannabis
products in Washington state every hour on the :20
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? Commitment to live life as a religious Jew. It’s a daily recurrence. And it’s a pretty crazy lifestyle.
What are you most proud of, and why? My children being toilet trained. Why? Less diapers to change.
Tell us about your greatest learning experience — or fail. I fail big time every single day at work. It’s exhilarating to get knocked down and get back up again. Day in and day out.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs and innovators? Invest in your mental health. Exercise, therapist, meditation, weed. All the above. It’s hard to be productive if your head is not in the game.
What would you innovate about the Seattle Jewish community if you had no limits on time, money, or resources? A minyan for stoners. With a great Kiddush to follow, of course.
What innovation in Jewish history speaks to your identity? The Talmud. It’s genius and intricate, and unfortunately I have not studied much of it in years. To truly appreciate the wisdom/origins of many things Jewish, the Talmud is the key. Today, there are so many available versions in English it’s almost pathetic that I do not partake in some Talmud more often. It’s a real head-trip in the best of ways.
In 2010, Adam Neumann, an Israeli aspiring entrepreneur, and Miguel McKelvey, a University of Oregon grad, launched a coworking office concept called WeWork. Their intention: to help people “make a life, not a living.” With slick offices, open concepts, and beer on tap, WeWork is more than a shared work space. The company, which is now worth some $16 billion and has offices on almost every continent, calls itself a “platform for creators” and seeks to inject meaning into its members’ lives. By providing space, amenities, services, and intentional community, it is this generation’s answer to the workplace — and to America’s culture of work in general.
Jewish in Seattle would like to thank WeWork and Pacific Northwest Sales Lead Davey Friedman for hosting Reimagine Jewish Seattle, a Jewish community hackathon. —EA