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Jerusalem of Gold, Not Gold-Plated: Visions of Jewish Entrepreneurship on the 9th of Av

The journal stood on the shelf as plain as day: “Eff-ing Brilliant,” it read, emblazoned across the front.

I let out a loud gasp. When was the last time any idea – let along the bulk of my ideas – was brilliant?

Smack dab in the middle of an article re-write, all I could think of was that I don’t really have ideas…but that somewhere here, I have glimmers. Infinitesimal specks of light floating in the darkness. Elusive, captivating. But, all the while, that darkness still. I remember reading earlier this week that someone on LinkedIn was so glad for all the negative people in his life for showing him exactly who he did not want to be. And then a million other encircling posts liking and congratulating people from this place of “Eff-ing Brilliant,” people so quick to grab hold of the glimmers, that beauty and shine forsakes us about what’s real as we create our projects and define our creative worlds.

I mean, when’s the last time you commented on your teammate’s divorce post?

Or, on a whim, you decided to call or meet up with someone just to listen because you knew (s)he was having a hard time?

And what about, openly talking about that idea hole, the one you’ve been in, since your last few pitches, and you too, seriously flopped…onto a mattress with toilet-paper-masquerading-as-kleenex and take-out?

Luckily for sites like Jewcer, folks are transcending what Eli Pariser deems the “filter bubble” or the technologically circumscribed web of information we receive as tailored by our search engines. Entrepreneurs from every conceivable walk of life are sharing their triumphs and failures and inviting all segments of the Jewish community to leap forward and join them in the process of crowdfunding co-creation.

It’s sites like these that make sense of the darkness and the glimmers. That merge the personal and the professional so we can celebrate our gladness and our grit. And that place exists. Maybe not in the contents of our strategic plans or make-believe entrepreneurial fancies. But perhaps the obscure details. The moment of not knowing. Realizing and walking a co-worker through parts unknown during a crisis. And though I’m loath to admit it: Even the act of crying can lead us more deeply into others, our work and, if we let it, the Jewish People.

Just last week, Amir Give’on, Jewcer’s CEO and co-founder, posted on a dark day in Israel’s present, imploring all people who engage with Israel to direct their dollars toward projects that reflect the country they envision. His words brought tears to my eyes. If this day’s darkness could inspire such life, and be shared on feeds from seemingly worlds over, how the ways we frame Jewish entrepreneurship could do the same!

Today, world Jewry gathers to mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temple. Of this and the other various catastrophes this day marks, Psalm 137 recalls: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we thought of Zion.” Such is one historical glimpse of a time where there was no silver lining. Only the lingering dark. And memory.

Over 2000 years later, Jews can open their mouths in prayer at the Western Wall.  And the real projects, partnerships and pain so electric it illuminated the way forward? All came from that one dark moment.

Maybe avoiding the dark isn’t so “Eff-ing Brilliant” after all.

If we fumble around long enough, we may find something worth believing in and working toward. That’s what Jewcer and all the Jewish entrepreneurs who write here mean to me.

A Jerusalem of Gold, not one that is gold-plated.

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.