Decorated bags for care packages

The Healing Path of Career Polygamy

Sally Mundell is the founder of The Packaged Good, a non-profit focused on cultivating volunteerism in children. Located in the suburbs of Atlanta, the Packaged Good offers families the space and programming to assemble care packages for various non-profit community partners. The packages include anything from toiletries to school supplies, as well as personal notes of encouragement and care. The Packaged Good opened its doors in July 2016 and has produced over 16,000 care packages during its first year of operation. It also became a great source of healing for Sally and her kids after a tragic loss.

You recently gave a talk at an Emory University Alumni gathering titled “The Case for Career Polygamy: Turning Passion Projects into Profit.” What’s a career polygamist?

The title came from my frustration that LinkedIn only allows you to list one career path on your profile. When I list my career path, I have to choose between my start-up career and my work in the non-profit world. It’s unfortunate, because ultimately I don’t fit into one profile. I am equally invested in both my career and my passion work.

What’s your story? What is your passion work?

I had always worked in the start-up world, helping build businesses from the bottom up. I had a particular career trajectory and worked my way up to an executive position at Spanx, helping Sara Blakely develop the e-commerce side of the business.

Four years ago, my husband, Grover, passed away just a few weeks after getting suddenly  sick. This was a critical point in my life and the lives of our two daughters who were 2 and 5 years old at the time.

When Grover was sick, he knew that he might not survive, probably before I did. He shared with me that he wished he had done more to give back to the community. At the end of his life, Grover had this clarity and he said, “Don’t wait.”

Initially, I was just focused on getting through the grief and taking care of my girls.   As a single parent, I had to find ways to give back in the community together with my kids, or it would never happen. I was surprised to learn that there are almost no volunteer opportunities with little kids. Now, my passion work revolves around creating the space and the programming for families to volunteer together with their children.

How did you come up with the idea for The Packaged Good?

After Grover died, my kids and I often went to the Purple Hippo, a local art studio for kids. It was a place of respite for me when I needed a break.   Just as I was formulating my thoughts about a non-profit, the Purple Hippo was moving to a new location. I loved their space and concept, but assumed that I couldn’t afford the rent.   I decided to meet with the landlord who believed in my idea and wanted to help. It all lined up. I thought of the concept for The Packaged Good in January. By February, I was incorporated. The storefront was opened for business by June. I didn’t wait. I moved fast!

What was the adjustment like moving from a place where profit rules to a non-profit start-up? How do you measure impact today?

Instead of valuing money, the focus has shifted to valuing people and measuring how people’s lives are transformed by their volunteer experience. In the first year, we have made and delivered 16,000 care packages. I often get letters and messages of gratitude from people who receive our packages. There is an impact on our entire community.

Research shows that the more kids volunteer, the less they are susceptible to making bad choices. Volunteerism cultivates empathy and a sense of responsibility. For me, personally, volunteering has been a path toward healing and I am able to share that with others. When I talk about my pain, others feel more open about sharing their pain. It’s all about connection, despite differences in background and culture.

What does being Jewish have to do with your non-profit venture?

Of course, there is the underlying value of tzedakah that runs through what I do.   Interestingly, I became more connected with the Jewish community as the result of starting The Packaged Good. It was a path toward integration. Being Jewish is all about supporting each other. The more I was healed, the more I could connect with others and give more.

Is there anything you wish you knew before you started The Packaged Good?

Yes. Don’t focus so much on what can go wrong. Have a start-up mindset and do not be afraid of creating new models. When I first started, people would scare me with worst-case scenarios or say things to me that would deter me from going forward.   I wish I had pulled them aside and said that I was not going to worry about that right now.

What have you learned through the experience of launching a non-profit, while working and single-parenting?

First of all, I learned that you need space and time to be creative. It wasn’t until I shifted my schedule to working part-time that I had the mind-space to actually come up with the plan for The Packaged Good. You have to have time to work on your inspirations.

Secondly, I have had to shift my strategic planning away from 5-10 year goals toward more manageable plans. I have had to let go of having answers for everything and become more comfortable with not knowing. Now, I am more open to the unfolding of the experience. When I first launched, I did all of the administrative and staff work. I had five people on an executive board. Over the last year, I have hired an executive director and my board is a diverse thinking group of 20 people with varied talents. I could not have predicted this development at the beginning.

I am constantly networking and I throw a wide net without a purpose in mind. It amazes me how many unexpected connections I make with surprising outcomes. For example, I was introduced to someone who is a day-trader by profession, but his personal passion is video streaming and online video sharing.   He is now creating much of our video content and helping us with Facebook Live.

How do you take care of yourself?

I grew up in a “do-it-yourself” household and asking for help was viewed as weakness.   It took me a long time to get comfortable with asking for help. I have had to get really good at formulating requests and allowing people to support me.

Running a non-profit is a lot of hard work. To get people involved and passionate takes tremendous effort. Volunteer burn-out is a real thing. I have learned to raise my hand and lean on my board. We recently hired an executive director to run the day-to-day operation, so that I can focus on marketing and brand-development, which is ultimately what I am good at.

Do you have any advice for social entrepreneurs?

It’s all about collaboration. There is not need to replicate what someone else is already doing. Partnerships are key.   For example, we have partnered with Pebble Tossers, a teen volunteer program that has become our source for teen participants. We also partnered with Creating Connected Communities, which helps Bar and Bat Mitzvah kids in Atlanta organize meaningful mitzvah projects.   It’s easier for us to plug into their programming, than have to create it from scratch.

What do you think Grover would say about The Packaged Good?

As a surviving spouse, my biggest challenge has been to keep Grover’s story and values alive for my kids. My kids are getting to know what was important to their father. The Packaged Good is a model of volunteering that is sustainable for families with kids. It shifts the experience from showing up to volunteer once per year, to having an engaging space where they can make a difference on a regular basis.   I don’t know if that is what Grover had in mind, but that is what is sustainable for our family.

Marita Anderson is a chaplain, freelance writer, educator, and parent.
She currently lives in Atlanta.

613 Seeds of Social Entrepreneurship in Chicago: Bringing Advertising to Nonprofits & Other Ideas

613 is not only the number of mitzvot that we find in the Torah or the number of seeds that we find in the pomegranate, a symbol of fruitfulness, knowledge and wisdom, but it is also the name of the JCC Chicago’s social entrepreneurship incubator, Seed613. Seed613 promotes social entrepreneurial initiatives designed to meet the needs of the Chicago Jewish community but also the community at large, moving forward.

This year’s cohort of 17 passionate social entrepreneurs presented their ideas during the Launch Night (May 17) to a packed house at 1871 Chicago, home to nationally recognized accelerators, industry-specific incubators, and tech talent schools. The ideas for social enterprises ranged from throwing parties with a purpose, sophisticated dining for networking, wearable technology in healthcare to ventures in real estate and Jewish programming.

Having spent the past 10 years working and volunteering in non-profit sectors, I have had the opportunity to participate in numerous projects and leadership seminars, but none of them was quite like Seed613. With its hands-on approach and focus on the development of an actual business plan for a venture with a social dimension, this highly selective 12-week bootcamp provides fellows with the real-world skills leading to putting their business and financial plans into action and bringing their ventures to the market.

When I applied to become a Seed613 fellow, I was working on a few non-profit projects for which entrepreneurial skills would be very handy. However, at the same time, I had long wanted to develop a project of my own and Seed613 seemed like a perfect opportunity to learn the business ways. I didn’t come with a precise idea and the fact that I was expected to bring that non-existent idea to life in 12 short weeks came as a surprise to me at first, but then quickly turned into a great challenge.

What I had, though, when I joined the bootcamp was a great passion for arts, advertising and causes, so I merged them all together. I decided to focus on helping non-profits promote their causes by connecting them to millennial artists – and this is how creative: for good came to life. Advertising is an expensive enterprise, even for businesses, but non-profits, which often have very limited marketing budgets, struggle with producing visually appealing imagery that would help them raise awareness about their causes and generate broader support. I am glad I was able to participate in Seed613 and help me bring creative: for good to life.

Katia Kobylinski
Katia Kobylinski is an avid brand strategist & social entrepreneur. To merge her passions for causes, stories and arts, she founded ‘creative: for good’ – a virtual ad agency that connects millennial artists and nonprofits for advertising for the good – at JCC Chicago’s start-up incubator Seed613. Katia loves city life, hummus & company.

5 Eli Talks Every Jewish Entrepreneur Should Watch

Navigating the world of innovation and entrepreneurship is quite the challenging landscape. What makes you unique is that you are navigating this world within a world–the Jewish world. There are many great resources out there to learn from. So today we bring you five great Eli Talks for all you innovators and change-makers of our community.

1. Lisa Lepson—Dreams, Risks, Patience: A Recipe for Jewish Philanthropy 

“The waiting is the hardest part. But, argues Lisa Lepson, that’s often exactly what world-changing ventures need to make their impact. Blending Jewish history and text with personal stories and insights from the field, this talk encourages philanthropists to rethink the constant drive for metrics and deliverables and have a little…patience.”


2. Daniel Libenson—The Jewish Innovator’s Dilemma

“Dr. Daniel Libenson discusses how patterns of disruptive change affect Judaism, and how we can harness those patterns to improve areas of the Jewish community.”


3. Lisa Colton—Innovation, Revolution and Tradition

“Lisa Colton shows how Judaism works as an ecosystem, and discusses the importance of when and where we align ourselves, considering the extreme rate of change in today’s world.”


4. Rabbi Josh Joseph—Failure, To Launch: The Upside of Falling Down

“Our fear of failure is holding us back, argues Rabbi Josh Joseph. We need to look at failure as the price of pushing for growth and development, he says. Linking ancient Jewish sources with Michael Jordan, Rabbi Joseph asks us to think about what we would do if we weren’t afraid to fail.”


5. Felicia Herman—Empowered Philanthropy

“Give strategically, and you’ll have more impact. Give together, and that impact is amplified. Felicia Herman of Natan Fund shares the model for better giving.”


As a Jewish entrepreneur you have an additional layer of meaning and purpose to understand in your endeavors. The content of these talks will aid in your progression towards your goals. Whether it’s learning patience, transforming with change, conquering your fear of failure, or embracing collaboration in giving, you will gain a better understanding of how to succeed as an entrepreneur in your Jewish community.


Shani is a photographer and content creator from Los Angeles. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a Communication degree, which she puts to good use by connecting with all the incredible Jewish organizations and the people who support them. With a deep pride in her Jewish roots and an Israeli background, Shani hopes to share the power and potential of Jewish innovation and connection with the world.

Technology Works Best as a Blank Communal Canvas

We are Jewish leaders caught in a paradox. The instruments and modalities we are using to reach people to whom we want to connect are becoming so ensnaring and so encompassing that leaders are becoming fixated on the tools, themselves. In all of our attempts to find outreach strategies that work, we are so hungry for “likes” that we are forgetting what feeds the human soul, including those who do not sit at our tables (the fact that we measure outreach by length of “our” tables as opposed to who is not seated at them bears just as much reconsideration).

Technology works best as a blank communal canvas

Technology, for all its attempts to include and speak the language of others, has become deeply rooted in mono-communication, our own communication, that we are trying to keep up an image of “looking” engaging versus keeping our eye on where the community is and isn’t. We try to successfully bring people to us through our Facebook and Instagram feeds, but we so often come up empty.

And yet there is meaningful work being done in many online communities to unhook us from the notion that we should merely be hooking people in. Take a moment and browse the online shelf of and access the multitudes of people’s prayers, intentions and holy reconstitutions of Jewish liturgy and life cycle. As a blog post was titled at My Jewish Learning recently, it is not only about the Jewish holidays, but celebrating “the Jewish intervals.” This provokes the question: what is the method behind our media or, perhaps, more Jewishly, what is the meaning?

I am pleased to not only be part of the RitualWell community, but to also belong to an online Jewish young professionals group, Kitchener Waterloo JUnite, that has gone from being curated by a group of dedicated (and, frankly, amazing) volunteers to being entirely open to all members posting and sharing their needs, as per these members’ requests. Recently, mothers have also reached out, sharing their photos and scheduling meet-ups while other young professionals, including singles, have sought out and found new roommates.

Right here, community is unfolding because we have let go of the tools and let people have a stake in – or, perhaps, merely self-define – a blank communal canvas, from which to create their Jewish life and the life of their community. Those amazing volunteers I mentioned will always be resources and welcome supports for our growing Jewish community, though we have fundamentally changed our response to people, by inviting their participation and input directly. This doesn’t mean we don’t have standards or roles or even ethical responsibilities, rather, we all share the journey of making our Jewish community blossom.

For those of us desperately seeking the right way to engage Jewish community members, the ultimate tool of Jewish communal survival, I’m afraid I can’t provide a solution. But I can share an anecdote from our tradition:

As it happens, the architect of the Tabernacle was neither prophet nor priest. Rather, he was descended from the House of Judah,  a house traditionally associated with Jewish leadership and, later, the monarchy. But this man was no monarch. He was a 13-year-old artisan named Bezalel.  And when Moses tried to construct the Tabernacle in a way that was inconsistent with G-d’s instructions, he kindly pointed this out. For this, Moses called him the “Shadow of G-d.” A 13-year-old showing the way forward to the greatest prophet who ever lived.

If this isn’t a model for meaningful social media use, than I don’t know what is.

Devon Spier
Devon Spier is a rabbinical student and spiritual entrepreneur. Over the last decade, she has made her home in the small suburban shtetl of Kitchener-Waterloo, where she supports the leadership of Jewish young professionals, children, new mums and donors so that they may lead in innovative ways that raise up the institutions to which they belong.

Healthy Jewish Collaboration & Reciprocity

Jewish collaboration requires a courtship to understand synergies and opportunities, overcome pitfalls, and create mutually beneficial collaboration.  It’s about creating something new and great neither organization could do themselves. We reach new people, build different and better programming, or simply help nurture and support each other’s existence.  This kind of authentic collaboration is the Holy Grail of greater engagement of the Jewish people.  It’s what makes the difference in good to great, in rote vs. inspiring and it’s what feeds our Jewish soul and invigorates us.

Jewish partners take risks, sharing their resources, but also planning reciprocal programs and marketing the benefits for both or all of the organizations involved. They are committed, courageous, and have an enthusiastic desire to see an improved landscape of Jewish experiences. Foundations in making grants often encourage collaboration, but there is no road map that suggests best practices on how to do it.

Without the training or best practices to guide us, many Jewish organizations – in fact, many Jewish entrepreneurs – don’t know how to pave the path.  There are local and national collaborations, even secular, Jewish and Israeli to consider.  Each can bring unique resources, opportunities and open important doors, not only to recruiting and outreach, but also to programmatic improvements and continuity.

Collaborative Pitfalls – Don’t Let Them Get You Down!

Each of the following represents pitfalls that are surmountable.  Like love and marriage, it takes work to make collaborations successful.  It also takes two willing and interested parties.

Better My Way:  We do things our way, if you do it this way, we can partner.
Answer: Don’t assume a partner or collaboration can only be one way and then take the highway. And don’t let a partner do so, either.  Collaboration begins with a conversation that considers community needs and partner needs. Listen, give and take feedback, share advice, consider community historical data (i.e. learning from what’s been tried), and craft an artful creation well-tailored to your community needs.

FUD:  Fear, uncertainty and dread. We might lose participants or members; we can’t afford that. Maybe they’ll like the other program better, their staff or rabbi more.
Answer: We need courageous, risk-taking Jewish leadership, especially in communities with ridiculously low Jewish engagement and significant Jewish populations.

Scarcity of Resources:  We’re too busy to work on that, to give them attention.  They have to pay big money to be a Partner. We have costs to cover.
Answer:  Use your staff or volunteers better; let them impact more people. Use your building better; Jewish buildings were meant to be full of Jews. Develop a reasonable rental plan or, better yet, in kind use with a plan for collaborative or joint programs.

Programmatic Differences:  We’re different because of the languages we speak together, levels of observance, culture or age.
Answer: Encourage mingling, to meet and learn from each other.  It’s interesting and healthy to build bridges; to be with people speaking Spanish, Hebrew, Russian; hearing and experiencing their Jewish cultural traditions. Most Jewish community members want to make new Jewish connections. Work together and help them.

Marketing Limitations:  “Just send out our event flyer/fundraiser but, oh, by the way, we can’t reciprocate and share yours”, “Our Board won’t let us”, “My boss won’t let me”, and/or “We don’t think our people will be interested in yours.” (Translation: “We just want to use you, not collaborate with you.”)
Answer:  Healthy Jewish collaboration requires reciprocity. Be aware there are labor and tangible costs for quality marketing and know that someone needs to cover those costs. Recognizing one partner or another may bear the brunt of this should be considered and made up for in other ways to make it work.

Courtship & Collaboration – This is the Fun Part!

With the enormous number of less or not engaged, and the expense of running programs, buildings, and staffing, it goes without saying we should be leveraging our resources better.  Let’s face it: some programs have a great staffer or rabbi, some have a great building, and some recruit and produce great programs. Just like in dating, this is the fun part. This is where you get to see what’s great about each other.  Plan how to share resources and expenses, respecting each other’s limitations, appreciating the strength in each others’ staffing or experiences and getting creative about offering better programs together.  Then, establish a respectful and reciprocal marketing plan for the joint program, creating exciting pieces that share the joint event, proudly sharing the relationship, your enthusiasm for the other and cherishing the benefit you bring together to the community.  You don’t have to agree to spam your respective databases with every event the other does. Work hard on a few joint events and promote those like crazy.

From Good to Great!  Collaboration Stories

Market another program that has synergies with your own. Share resources funded by programs with your same mission. If you work with young children, for example, teaching Hebrew or Jewish values, share information about the Israeli-American Council’s Keshet Sfarim or the PJ Library. Helping these organizations register families is a great opportunity, too, for Jewish outreach.  Using the books in your supplementary school programs and offering free Hebrew story times in public libraries and on Jewish day school campuses can only mean more learning opportunities and a win-win for both organizations.   Partner with summer overnight and local camps who can share madrichim in partnered programs through the year. Leveraging the resources of both organizations for community-wide events is a tremendous marketing opportunity for all.  Jointly marketed events can be shared prominently by all the organizations in their newsletters, Facebook pages and web sites, showing deep and authentic appreciation for each other’s identities, efforts and the relationship.

Synagogues and traditional organizations like a JCC or Jewish Family Services can make great partners, too. They may generously offer low or no cost meeting space and, together, you can create beautiful Jewish experiences, memorable Sukkot dinners, Shabbat evenings and more. Programs successful in recruiting less engaged families can make introductions this way to more Jewish friends in synagogues, and traditional bar/bat mitzvah programs, perhaps even synagogue membership or additional programs offered by the local JCC or Jewish Family Services organizations.  In fact, many Jewish startups might begin this way, with these close collaborations, only to find that, as they mature, there may be good reasons to wrap the programs into the organization’s portfolio rather than go it alone for a long-term win-win for the community.

Looking Ahead

Working together, exploring ways to engage more Jews, I hope each Jewish organization that might read this near, or far, and Jewish startup entrepreneurs will be encouraged to make the time to work with potential Jewish partners, to be courageous, generous, creative, and patient and to engage more Jews every day.   It’s exciting to be a part of a creative, collaborative process.  Together, collaboratively, we’ll enrich our Jewish communities and ensure our Jewish future and connection to Israel.

This article is the first in a series about Jewish Entrepreneurship; the nuts and bolts, and lessons learned, from experiences transforming Jewish life in San Diego, CA.

Jennie Starr
Jennie Starr practiced Law and was a Director of Product Management for several high-tech startups, before founding Tarbuton and Startup18 Jewish Engagement Lab. She has a BA from Northwestern, MA from the University of Illinois, and a JD from Washington University in St. Louis. Jennie believes Jewish entrepreneurs can transform Jewish San Diego, and Jewish life at large and established Startup18 to offer a welcome address for program founders. Jennie’s a Chicagoan, and Israeli-American, living in San Diego, CA with her husband and two children.

Are You Gritty?

Do you have perseverance? If someone tells you “You can’t do that,” how do you respond? Do you get puffed up enough to make them eat their words? Or do you go back to bed and lay down for a week? How do you deal with adversity when it comes to pursuing your goals? Are you Gritty?

Life is hard for everyone. We all own our various aches and pains, yet entrepreneurship takes an extra bit of pluck that many of us often need to grow into, unless we were born with a natural go-getter spirit. There will be times when one wants to throw in the towel, bash the notebook computer with a sledgehammer, disconnect the phone and go live in a cave. That’s when it’s time to rejuice, recharge, and refuel and start over again the next day. How do you keep your enthusiasm going when it seems you’ve set an impossible goal? I hope my story will give you some inspiration.

I started my third venture, Piknik, about a year and a half ago, when I was homeless. I was living in my friends’ living room with two small children, with my older son coming for the weekends. We literally had about 3 square meters of personal space to ourselves, plus a loft bed.  I had just managed to force a poser investor out into the light. If you’re an entrepreneur, you probably know what that is – it’s the guy who strings you along for months asking for more and more work, but he never actually writes the contract or the check.  I had to scrap what I was doing and start over again. Then I became paralyzed with fear. Then I decided to do it anyway.

I launched Piknik as a very simple app for checking into and posting food photos in restaurant profiles. Right now we are only on Android, as Piknik AD. As I persevered, I picked up some team members along the way.  Now we’re on our way to making Piknik 2.0, which is set to change the online review world.

One of my sources of inspiration, my 7-year old

One of my sources of inspiration, my 7-year old

There were many times during my 7-month long stint as a homeless person when I could have decided to lay down and die and give in. However, my kids deserve better, so I kept going.

Whatever it is you are doing, you need to find that one reason to keep hustling, and keep it close to you in thought and deed, and work away at it. The stories of determined actors and business people are published weekly in our media, because everyone needs inspiration. The best sources I’ve found are Inc. online magazine, Matthew Hussey’s YouTube vlogs on business and relationships, and Evan Carmichael’s YouTube Channel, and there are many, many more.

Want to know more about Grit? You can watch Angela Duckworth’s Ted Talk here. To assess yourself on the Grit Scale, you can download Angela Duckworth’s evaluation here.

What or who inspires you and keeps you going when everything else sucks, literally? What makes you gritty? Please comment below and tell us about it!

Nofyah is the founder of Piknik M – Mobile & Media. We make apps for people who eat.
Nofyah graduated from the University of Houston in 2005 with a degree in English Lit, Chemistry Minor with Pre-Med. She is the mother of five happy humans. You can find Nofyah mostly on Twitter.
Filmmaker Arnon Shorr in front of The Brig Pilgrim at The Ocean Institute

How to Fund a Jewish Pirate Movie? Crowdfund it!

Filmmaker Arnon Shorr in front of The Brig Pilgrim at The Ocean Institute

Filmmaker Arnon Shorr in front of The Brig Pilgrim at The Ocean Institute

“Ahoy matey!” or “Oy matey!”? A new short film featuring Jewish pirates just made its world premiere this month. The 10-minute short film, “The Pirate Captain Toledano”, made its world premiere at the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival on May 2nd. The latest film from OxRock Productions, “The Pirate Captain Toledano”, is the world’s first cinematic depiction of Inquisition-era Jewish pirates in the Caribbean. The film features dialogue and music in Ladino, historically-accurate replica props, and even an antique kiddush cup from Jamaica.

Inspired by having read the 2008 book Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, filmmaker Arnon Shorr was fascinated by Jewish piracy in the wake of the Inquisition. “The way the book presents it, Jewish pirates were motivated not just by the usual pirate motivations. They sailed the seas when Spain was the maritime superpower, so Spanish ships, with the Spanish gold fleet in particular, were their primary target,” said Shorr. “These Jews had fled Spain – they were victims of the Inquisition – so there’s a sense of justice that seeps into their narrative in a way that simply doesn’t exist in typical pirate stories.”

The Pirate Captain Toledano is the world’s first cinematic depiction of Inquisition-era Jewish pirates in the Caribbean

The Pirate Captain Toledano is the world’s first cinematic depiction of Inquisition-era Jewish pirates in the Caribbean

However, time went by before Shorr seriously considered actually making a Jewish pirate film. Shorr then heard a presentation this past fall at a JENLA event by Amir Giveon, the founder of, and was inspired to give the crowdfunding platform a try. The idea for “The Pirate Captain Toledano” hit Arnon all at once and he began working on his Jewcer campaign to fund it.

His Jewcer campaign wound up being successful, as Shorr was able to raise the necessary funding. “It just seems so impossible without a platform, so having a platform was very, very helpful,” says Shorr of Jewcer. “There were some things that were particular to Jewcer”, he pointed out, especially having the “non-profit status extended to our project made a difference.” Also, he noted, “Being on a Jewish crowdfunded site gave it a certain type of legitimacy”, as opposed to seeming quirky or campy on other crowdfunding websites. “Overall, it was a very good experience,” said Shorr. “I felt like I had put the project in a good place, a reliable place.”

Once Shorr had the funding, he began shooting.

Shooting the film in early December on two tall ships at The Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California, Shorr was also able to find actors and a crew who had personal connections to the history behind the film, such as the film’s star, Stephen DeCordova, who is a descendant of Caribbean Jews.

Stephen DeCordova's Jamaican Kiddush Cup

Stephen DeCordova’s Jamaican Kiddush Cup

The personal connection that DeCordova had was a special prop. “When I brought in our actor, Stephen DeCordova, to read for the role of The Captain, he brought a small kiddush cup with him. I figured he simply brought the prop from home so he’d have something to work with during the reading of the scene,” says Shorr. As it turns out, the cup had some history. DeCordova was born in the US, but comes from a Jamaican Jewish family. His mother was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and descends from Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition and came to the new world in the 16th century. The cup belonged to Stephen’s grandfather in Jamaica, and has been in the family for more generations than anyone can remember. “It was as if Stephen had reached into my script and pulled the prop right out of the pages” said Shorr. “I was honored that Stephen even offered to let us use the cup in the film!”

“The very fact that the phrase ‘Jewish pirate’ catches people by surprise is an indicator that this is a type of character that we need to see,” said Shorr. “It’s a reminder that Jews can share a cultural heritage with more than just Eastern Europe. It’s a reminder that a stereotype, whether it’s positive or negative, is still a stereotype.”

For updates on “The Pirate Captain Toledano” as well as future festival showings, you can check out the film’s Facebook page.


(An earlier version of this article appears at Jewlicious.)

Drew Kaplan
No stranger to information-sharing on the Internet, Drew Kaplan has been blogging for over a decade. With many interests, including Jewish life, beer, and Star Wars, Drew continues to share news, knowledge, and more.

Crowdfunding is the New Blue Tzedakah Box

Jewish communities around the world have many things in common, but one thing stands out: that iconic blue Jewish National Fund (JNF) tzedakah box. In our childhoods, those metal boxes were everywhere. Fast forward a few decades though, and you don’t see that tzedakah box in every Jewish home or Hebrew school classroom. You may miss that little blue box, but there are still opportunities for Jewish people around the world to get the same feeling of participation in building something valuable for the community.

Participating in initiatives and causes that directly benefit the community is easier than ever. Your spare coins can be used to participate in dozens of social causes that are using crowdfunding to raise money and build community.

Crowdfunding is typically defined as collecting money from a large number of people by using the Internet to reach out to a variety of people and networks. Many people recognize crowdfunding from Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the two platforms that popularized this tool. Crowdfunding doesn’t only happen online, though — it happens at your fundraising gala, your 5k walk to support a cause, and of course your JNF tzedakah box. In fact, it’s easy to argue that it is a practice that has been going on for years to help individuals and organizations gain support for initiatives they want to bring to life.

By tapping into the resources of the larger community, crowdfunding helps initiatives to both collect financial contributions, grow a natural audience, and gain public exposure. In modern incarnations, this support is collected through an online hub where people can contribute financially or by sharing the initiative with their friends and networks. It has grown in popularity over the past few years because it is a 21st century model for a centuries-old practice of fundraising and community building. Throughout the centuries, institutions have gone from person to person to collect funds for support. In the era of globalization, people can belong to a community anywhere as long as they can connect and participate online.

This is also a great vehicle for reaching beyond your own network and demonstrating your value to a wider audience. It allows an initiative to garner support and feedback without having to host a community town hall meeting or go door to door. Most importantly, it encourages people to participate in the initiative at the early stages, from concept to implementation. As a result, they can feel they belong to the initiative and they have stake in its success. Crowdfunding is a bottom-up, democratic way for initiatives to reach and empower the younger demographic and should be a part of the fundraising lexicon. It’s the newest way to participate in a project, program, idea, or cause that you feel a connection with and know you are an integral in making it happen.

If you have questions about crowdfunding, email us at and we’ll be there to answer you!

Amir Give'on
Amir is Jewcer’s professional geek. By training, he is a mechanical and aerospace engineer and constantly creating new ideas. But he is constantly thinking of ways to recruit projects and create components to build the most successful Jewish crowdfunding platform designed to benefit the Jewish people and Israel. His drive stems from his passion for Israel advocacy and connecting Israelis with Jewish Americans. Amir has never-ending energy and personal determination to be in a state of constant creation.