Tuesday, 23 Apr 2019
News Tech

Putting a Soul in Technology: Leading a Company with Jewish Values | Sophie Friedman

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With temperatures rising and Passover fast approaching, Yossi Tsuria reflects on Carmel 6000’s Jewish Values. Under his leadership, Carmel 6000—both through its mission and its internal model—embodies a rejuvenation and application of ancient Jewish values in a modern world. Much of Yossi’s thinking centers around the question: “What does it mean to be a Jew in the 21st Century?” And many of his professional and leadership choices revolve around his answer to this question.

Central to Carmel 6000’s mission is the notion of bringing together the new and the old.  In considering what it means to be Jewish in the 21st Century, Yossi asked: “Is it just a tradition? Is it just the holocaust? Or is there also some future?” He sees Carmel 6000 as a wedding of ancient Jewish traditions with the spirit of Israeli innovation and Start up nation. He has long been interested in Tikkun Olam with, by, and through technology; he aims to “put a soul in technology”.

Looking forward at the challenges of the twenty-first century, Yossi Tsuria thinks that returning to Jewish values offers a means of building a sustainable future: “I think we must find, in our roots, all the answers of dealing with the current.” He believes that by turning to Torah, not just the ancient Torah, but also a Torah with new layers of interpretation, will offer lead problem solvers a means of grappling with modern problems ethically. Old solutions—or at least ancient values and thinking—can indeed answer modern problems.

As Toby Galili, the Director of Internships at Hebrew University, pointed out, even just building Carmel in Jerusalem expresses that mission: “To put a center here means that everything that develops in the years to come, throughout the world, that the messages will call come from Jerusalem.” This soon-to-be-global force of Social tech will come from city that bridges the old & ancient with the new & developed .

Both Toby and Yossi cite Jewish values as integral to Start up culture. Yossi describes the Start up scene as a lot of doing, not just talking as part of the spirit of Start up culture. Tobi says that it’s partially need—needs of a young country, needs of a country in the middle east—that led to all of the developments of Start up culture, but she, too, cites this Start up culture spirit as a distinctly Jewish one.

Toby, who is developing a partnership between Rothberg International School and Carmel, talked about the importance of thinking about how the notion of Tikkun Olam changes with the times. She talked about her parents’ generation who protested and pushed for change through social organizing. The actual vehicles of change are shifting—now social media is central to spreading ideas and advocating for change. And, of course, coding and technology are incredible mechanisms for change in this modern world; that’s why she’s so excited to be partnering with Carmel.

The Carmel 6000’s mission is clearly emblematic of the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, but it’s internal model & the model of Yossi’s previous company, both emphasized Jewish values. Though Synamedia—a company Yossi co-founded—did not have an expressly ethical or Jewish mission, he made an effort to run it with Jewish values. Each year, he put together a Chidushei Torah, collecting articles written by his various co-workers and forming a book that brings together technology and Judaism. “Chidushei Torah” translates literally to Innovations of Torah, and clearly shows Yossi’s mission of applying old values to new problems.

Yossi wrote an article about applying the biblical idea of “Shmita” or Sabbatical to the corporate world, as he tried figure out how to offer members of his company respite in fast-paced corporate life.

He’s not alone in this idea; Benji Levy, CEO of Mosaic United and recent dean of Moriah College, instituted a similar rule. Levy described Moriah College as a “real linchpin of the community” that brought together Ashkenazi and Sephardic and religious and secular communities. His teaching staff was comprised of both Jewish and non-Jewish teachers, but he instituted a rule that no one was allowed to send work-related emails on Shabbat. He says it’s easy to theoretically or logically say “we should rest”, but Judaism offers a practical means of designating time for rest. He found these religious guidelines easily transferable in his leadership of Mosaic.

Benji thinks it’s crucial that “these Jewish ideals need to be able to translate into Jewish ideas. They can’t just stay theoretical, they need to be part of the practical.” In his work through Mosaic to connect various members of the Jewish Community, he has been involved in Mosaic’s partnership with Carmel through the Shalom Corps—a Jewish Peace Corps. The companies are united by a shared mission and shared values.

Carmel 6000 and its partners each have their own answers to the question of what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century. Specifically in light of Passover and in the spirit of celebrating freedom, Carmel really emphasizes freedom as empowerment. Yossi spoke about Carmel’s mission as enabling individuals to “maximize [her] capabilities.” Key tenets of this empowerment are freedom—to allow people to serve their country in their own way—and education—to give people the skills necessary for modern Tikkun Olam.

Sophie Friedman grew up in New York City with her three siblings. She’s a Junior at Bowdoin College in Maine where she studies English & Education, writes a food column for her school newspaper, and leads camping trips. She’s spending the semester at the Rothberg International School at Hebrew University, working at Carmel 6000, and writing about what’s going on there.



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