Be proud of the little successes. Being proud of the little success is HUGE. For me, one the first day of launching Jewish Geography Worldwide I was expecting maybe 50 people to follow my Instagram and see what I am doing. But by the end of the day I had over 300 followers and over 1,000 views on my introduction video. Being able to be proud of those accomplishments are so important and allows you to get excited for what’s to come.
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ari Rosenblatt.
Ari Rosenblatt is the founder of Jewish Geography Worldwide (JGW), an online platform created to connect young Jewish adults from all over the world. Her goal for JGW is to be a place to start new conversations, meet new people, and provide opportunities to become better leaders, all while living through one’s values and beliefs. Ari is a junior in high school from the San Francisco Bay Area and loves spending time with her family, as well as trying to make the world a better place.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
Ever since I was about 13 years old, when someone would ask me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would always answer by saying that I wanted to do something pertaining to “Jewish-based leadership.” It wasn’t until last year when I really honed in on what Jewish-based leadership meant and what I wanted to do in the world. Now, I am a 17-year-old girl from Danville, California who is taking my dream and making it a reality. I would consider myself blessed to have had the opportunities that I have had in my 17 years of life; I have grown up in a household of love and the ability to be myself without judgment, only acceptance. Without the push and resilience I have obtained, I wouldn’t have had the privilege to launch Jewish Geography Worldwide this year.
You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
Jewish Geography Worldwide was created as a platform to connect young Jewish adults with one another from all of the world. As someone who has had a hard time connecting with others, especially in secular settings such as my high school, I know how special connections with other Jews are, as there is an underlying respect, understanding, and point of connection. I took this value and created JGW so this same level of connection can happen globally online with others. Through Instagram (@jewish.geography.worldwide) and the website (jewishgeographyworldwide.com) there are numerous ways for young Jewish adults to get connected and involved. I post numerous mixer questions weekly on Instagram, there are GroupMe groups designated to different topics that people can join, and ways to become a leader in our online community. Though Jewish Geography Worldwide isn’t necessarily creating political change, it is offering social change by allowing Jewish young adults to connect with others they’d otherwise never have a chance to meet and through these worldwide connections creating a broader perspective on Judaism and growing up in different par1.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
Though Jewish Geography Worldwide launched at the end of 2020, I would say that the idea originally started the summer of 2019 when my family and I were traveling in Europe and Israel. Along with seeing all the amazing history and culture in these countries, it wasn’t until the last night of my trip when everything started to fall into place. My mom, sister, grandma, and I were eating dinner in a cute boutique restaurant in Amsterdam and we started talking to the people next to us. After introductions and some chit chat, we realized that the family was also Jewish, and had a 20-year-old son who was very involved in creating Jewish experiences for Dutch teens. As someone who has grown up in the Reformed Movement, a sect of Judaism, ignorantly, I never realized that there were other Reformed Jews outside of the United States or Israel. This sparked my imagination and this is the moment that Jewish Geography Worldwide formed in my mind. I wondered why nothing already existed that would allow me to have already been in contact with this family and other Jews around the world. Though I was very connected with my Jewish community, it was only through summer camp or regional youth groups; there was no broader, or international platform outside of the established organizations to meet other young Jews.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
That night in Amsterdam was when my initial idea started, though it wasn’t until this year when I started to do something. Like others, my 2020 was not what I thought it would be. Thankfully my family has been healthy and safe, but my personal health and social life was slowly decreasing. I was feeling isolated at my high school so transitioning into remote school and lock down, due to COVID-19, was a good shift for me. But then my youth group programs, summer camp session, and my semester abroad program to Israel got cancelled. I felt lost and saddened by the fact that my year of adventure and opportunity got taken away from me. Ironically all of these things got cancelled within the same week, so I was a wreck and cried for days. I sat in my room and thought about how I can turn my sadness into action. That night I came up with an outline and plan, and finally realized that I needed to start Jewish Geography Worldwide, not just for myself but for others as well. I knew I wasn’t the only one devastated at my lost opportunities, and yet I still was craving the Jewish connections that sustained me during the school year. Since it was launched, Jewish Geography Worldwide has become a place for hundreds of young Jewish adults to interact with one another from the comfort of one’s home.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
I know it’s hard to go out and create something that doesn’t exist, but I believed in myself and knew that in the long run I was going to help create lasting positive change during an otherwise bleak time in our world. If I had to put the process into steps I would say…
- Find an issue or topic you care about
- Think big and don’t get stuck on the “how”
- Imagine how an organization can to help rectify the issue occurring
- Find people who can help further your idea
- Create a game plan about how you put your plan into action
- Go out and start doing it
- Never give up and know that the work is never done, and that “done” is better than “perfect”
For me, I am still on step #6. I did a soft launch of Jewish Geography Worldwide in September and a bigger launch of my website in November. Now I am continuing to work hard to expand and create more ways for other young Jews to meet each other, have fun conversations, learn more about our Judaism and become leaders in meaningful ways.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
I wouldn’t necessarily say this is interesting as much as it was surprising. Within the first day of launching Jewish Geography Worldwide I had over 10 people DM me thanking me for what I was doing and reaching out to introduce themselves. It reassured me and showed that what I was doing was not only creating a positive impact, but that it was a missing piece in our collective Jewish lives. Even the other day, on my Instagram, I created a poll to ask some questions about JGW. 70% of the people who responded said that Jewish Geography Worldwide has allowed them to connect with other Jews they wouldn’t have had the ability to do before, while, 95% said that they are excited for what’s to come in the future. If you had asked me a year ago what I would have been doing right now, I would’ve responded that I was unpacking from 18 weeks away in Israel; I still can’t believe that instead I have manifested my dream into a reality. I am beyond thrilled that I have gotten this much participation and people believe in what I am doing.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
Considering that Jewish Geography Worldwide is still very new I have not made many funny mistakes, yet. Though one lesson that I have learned so far is to be thankful and to appreciate the small successes that occur. It’s smart to keep into perspective that you don’t need “X” number of followers to be successful, but rather be grateful to the people you get to impact more personally. But knowing me, there will be many funny mistakes in the future that will turn into lessons. Honestly, I can’t wait!
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
My number one cheerleader is my mom. Not only is she my best friend, she is also my biggest supporter and someone who also encourages me to be my best self. My mom works so hard to support my sister and I while running her own business and still finds time to help me in whatever endeavor I am doing at the time. Without her help, Jewish Geography Worldwide wouldn’t have been possible because she continued to push me to get to the position I am in today.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Honestly, someone who has been impacted by my organization is myself. I have been in difficult situations where I have felt alone and that I was being judged. Being able to create Jewish Geography Worldwide has given me a new form of confidence in myself and my beliefs. I can only imagine how my organization has affected other people, by giving them space to be themselves and show how Judaism affects them and their values on a day-to-day basis. I look forward to hearing more stories from people who received positive benefits from JGW.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
The problem that Jewish Geography Worldwide solves is the ability to access other young Jews you’d otherwise never be able to connect with. Normally, you only really get to know those in your community, synagogue, summer camp or youth group region. Outside of that, there’s not really an easy place to meet other Jewish young adults, aside from maybe college Jewish organizations or the Birthright Israel trip. There is also the challenge that many of the Jewish organizations cost a lot of money to participate in, so it can cut off those from less privileged families. JGW has no barriers of any kind; no matter where you are from, what sect you’ve been raised in (Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed or Reconstructionist), your financial abilities, your desire to go away for the summer, or even a long weekend event, JGW is a place for you. JGW does a lot to encourage others to get involved in what they believe in and create the change they wish to see in the world. There is a Jewish value/commandment of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, and it’s very apparent throughout my organization. Tikkun Olam can be anything from educating yourself, lobbying for bills that you care about, voting, organizing rallies, creating clubs pertaining to issues, trying to fight anti-semitism, etc. All of this work can be done throughout one’s community or society, or by talking with politicians. JGW is accepting of everyone’s beliefs and values so we, and serves as a community to engage in without fear of being judged or harmed.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each. Considering my organization is still so new, I am still in the “starting” stages. But the 5 things that I wish people told me would be to…
- Believe in yourself. You just need to have the self confidence that what you are doing is good and going to help the world.
- Think big picture. I am naturally really good at thinking big, so this was easy for me, but knowing when to think big, not small, is very helpful in the launch of an organization as every detail needs to be thought out so you don’t run into issues later on.
- Don’t give up. Giving up and thinking negatively is common, but being able to overcome challenges and not giving up will ultimately pay off in the long run.
- Know that it’s all a process. Knowing it’s all a process helps keep things into perspective, and keeps you grounded in what you are doing.
- Be proud of the little successes. Being proud of the little success is HUGE. For me, one the first day of launching Jewish Geography Worldwide I was expecting maybe 50 people to follow my Instagram and see what I am doing. But by the end of the day I had over 300 followers and over 1,000 views on my introduction video. Being able to be proud of those accomplishments are so important and allows you to get excited for what’s to come.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
I would tell other young people to be the change they wish to see in the world. Gen Z is the generation that is going to make lasting and impactful change in our world. So if you have an idea, speak up, use your voice, and be the person to inspire others. Don’t think your age defines you when it comes to rectifying an issue occurring in the world. You can do anything you put your mind to. You got this!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
This is a really hard question, considering there are so many people I would love to meet and talk with. Though one person that stands out to me is the actor, Broadway star, and singer Ben Platt. He is my favorite NJB (Nice Jewish Boy) and I would freak out if I had the opportunity to meet him. My number one question I would ask him is “How has growing up in the Jewish community: going to camp, having a Bar Mitzvah, and playing Jewish characters, etc… impacted how you connect to your Jewish values and beliefs about Judaism as a whole?” Also a fun fact, I named my car Benji after Ben Platt’s character Benjamin Applebaum from Pitch Perfect.
How can our readers follow you online?
The best way to reach out, or get involved is to follow Jewish Geography Worldwide on Instagram @jewish.geography.worldwide or visit my website www.jewishgeographyworldwide.com. I am also excited to share that I am releasing a podcast in the beginning of 2021, called Jewish Geography Worldwide, and is going to be another way to connect with one another through listening to interviews, stories, and personal experience about being Jewish in the modern secular world.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!