Tel Aviv Should Innovate Rosh Hashana Responsibility For All

After my last blog post, I received a bunch of emails and a few calls questioning my view that “Innovation Cities” such as Tel Aviv would take brotherly social responsibility for others. At the core of my suggestion was the following pitch for responsibility:

It is critical that innovation economies begin thinking about how they will provide many of the services that governments will be increasingly unable to provide. How will innovation economies upscale the skills of others around them and bring them into the innovation economy? In tribal, religious and global brotherhood, we have responsibility for each other. That is a basic tenet of humanity and every religion. If existing government institutions and structures are unable to keep up, nor provide and enable our fellow brothers to be successful, it is the responsibility of innovators and entrepreneurs to do that.

It is now the eve of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year and I think the innovation economy (represented in Israel by Tel Aviv) has a unique opportunity to take responsibility for others who are less fortunate and to prove the naysayers wrong. It is a responsibility incumbent on all of us. We cannot, and should not wait around for the government or look to social services to do the job. The responsibility to help and empower our brethren is ours. With economic leadership comes responsibility for bringing others onboard. So, here are a couple of ideas for how innovators can socially innovate to make this Rosh Hashana sweeter for everyone in Israel. Please feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section below.

1. For years, Israeli companies have been giving presents (מתנה לחג) or coupons (תלושים) to employees on the eve of Rosh Hashana. Let’s face it: High tech employees earn decent livings and do not need the extra few hundred shekels those coupons provide. How about turning around and giving your coupons/tlushim to someone less fortunate in the neighborhood around your company? or a family near your home? Or to a family in Yerucham or Sderot? Or you can do what Crossrider did: The company contributed the coupons to those less fortunate. My dear friends and Crossrider founders Koby Menachemi and Shmueli Achdut gave the Rosh Hashana presents to an Amuta (Organization) that provides Rosh Hashana meals to those in need. They notified the employees in a beautiful email and then gave the money in the name of each employee, involving everyone in the Mitzva of mutual responsibility.

2. The Rambam (רמב”ם) says that the best form of charity is to support someone in business. Earlier this summer I found out that a couple I know the ecological Yishuv Rotem (near Bet Shean) was having trouble with their Olive Oil business. The economically struggling Southern Europeans have flooded the local Israeli market with Olive Oil and Yedidya and Shira Amosi were having trouble selling their amazing organic olive oil to the supermarkets. Using Facebook and the telephone, we rallied the Benchmark portfolio, family and friends to support Michal and Yedidya and enjoy amazing Olive Oil at the same time. Conduit, Seeking Alpha, Clarizen, Crossrider,Wix, Gigya and others all bought Olive Oil from Tene farm and saved Shira and Yedidya from bankruptcy. Shira and Yedidya now have a stable customer base and business thanks to the wonderful entrepreneurs of Israel who helped spread the word on Facebook. Please go out and see how you can support a local Israeli business, producer or farmer before Rosh Hashana and use Israel’s innovation to help others.

3. Instead of coupons (תלושים), how about directly hiring your cleaning people and giving them stock options in your start up company? Two years ago, I posted about how Conduit had decided to directly hire its cleaning crew and was no longer relying on agencies to supply cleaning help. This was a great internet company deciding to create a better society. If enough high tech companies follow Conduit’s lead, we can set an example for the Israeli government and the rest of the status-quo economy and push them away from contract hiring agencies. Imagine the delight and pride that your cleaning person will have if he can go to his Rosh Hashana table and proudly tell his family that he/she has joined the innovation economy and he has stock options to prove it.

Rosh Hashana is a time for renewal. Importantly, it is a time to renew our mutual responsibility to each other. TheTalmud states that a person’s income and annual sustenance is set between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Since on Rosh Hashana we commit to be better people for the coming year, the decisions we make right now can directly impact our neighbors economic opportunity for the next year. By committing ourselves to be responsible for ensuring that our brothers enter the Rosh Hashana holiday with food on the table and economic opportunity for the coming new year, we will all together have a Shana Tova.

I wish you all a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year. לשנה טובה תיכתבו ותחתמו

[Originally published on 3rd September 2012 by MIchael Eisenberg]