Northwest Yeshiva graduate Yishai Mizrachi-Varon (2005) has been in Israel this summer as a fellowship recipient of the PresenTense Global Institute.
A Baruch College student in New York, Yishai has been working in an unpaid internship at Shemspeed, a Jewish world-music recording label and promotion agency in Brooklyn (www.shemspeed.com). He applied for and received one of only 16 fellowships worldwide after his mom, Rina, found an announcement about the program in her daily scan of the JTA Jewish wire service’s newsfeed. He proposed to work on the Israeli keffiyeh, a product of Dveykus, a “trendy Jewish apparel company” (www.thekef.com).
“The keffiyeh is a Middle Eastern scarf that has emerged as the ultra-hip fashion accessory, especially among college students,” Yishai explained.
The Israeli version comes in blue and white or camouflage, printed with Jewish messages. Erez Safar, Shemspeed’s founder and director, and Baruch Chertok of Dveykus had already formed a business relationship and wanted to develop an “innovative and creative outreach program for Jewish college students,” which Yishai has been working on.
“It is hip, cool, edgy, and fresh — perhaps even a little provocative,” Yishai wrote via e-mail, and he believes that gave them an edge in the grant selection process.
Attending the Global Institute is a six-week “business incubator boot camp for Jewish social entrepreneurs,” Yishai has been developing workshops on Jewish identity, on new and original Jewish music, and identifying role models for “creativity, passion and Jewish commitment” around the keffiyeh theme.
The “extremely intense, hands-on program” allowed him to clarify “the vision of our venture,” he writes, while doing market research, developing the brand and “setting achievable and measurable goals.” The Keffiyeh Project is on track for a fall launch.
Yishai hooked up with Shemspeed at a summer festival called Jewzapalooza, where he saw “more Jews in one place than in all the synagogues of Seattle put together,” he writes. “Artists, performers, and entrepreneurs of every description…a world of Jewish creativity and innovation that I didn’t even know existed.”
Buying a t-shirt, he connected with the vendor over their mutual love of hip hop music. That vendor was Safar, Shemspeed’s founder. Yishai began attending their parties and events.
“That slender thread lead me to an internship with Shemspeed, which culminated in my receiving this very fellowship,” he says.
Yishai will graduate with a degree in advertising communications and marketing management next year. He hopes his current work will lead to non-profit work with a focus on youth outreach and programming.
“I see tremendous opportunities for growth in the area of Jewish social entrepreneurship,” he writes.
And despite the fact that he misses walking the loop at Seward Park and little Seattle clubs that play jazz, and even “the Seattle drizzle,” the Big Apple seems to have wormed its way into his heart for the time being.
You can read about all the interesting PresenTense fellows at presentense.org.
Former Seattle-area residents Marvin Paularena and Michele Brooks Paularena were nominated by Hawaii’s governer as Outstanding Older Americans in Maui, where they now live. But only Marvin got the award in the end. It wasn’t because Michele did anything wrong or wasn’t deserving.
“The nominees had to be 65 in Maui County,” Marv explained. Michele, a little shy of that benchmark, was too young.
On May 20 the couple traveled to the governor’s mansion in Honolulu to receive the award.
“I have told this to the governor…I’ve told this to everyone else in the state office on aging…I’m in a wheelchair, and without Michele I couldn’t have done any of it,” Marv points out. “As the song goes, she’s the wind beneath my wings.”
And then, with characteristic timing, he adds “I can actually say that my wife pushes me around all the time.” (A bit of trivia: Hawaii’s Republican governor, Linda Lingle, is Jewish!)
The Paularenas were nominated for their work with Senior Medicare Patrol, a federal program that helps seniors detect medical errors or fraud. They spend over 100 hours a month on a wide range of projects too numerous to list here, but highlights include being certified marine naturalists working at the Maui Ocean Center and for NOAA, and being foster grandparents and tutors at a local elementary school. (More trivia: Maui Ocean Center is owned by the Israeli company Coral World.)
The Paularenas came to Hawaii because of “something called a granddaughter” after living in the Seattle area for about 22 years. Michele misses the Northwest more than Marv, who found snowy winters challenging for getting around in his wheelchair.
When Marv signed off with the traditional “aloha,” I replied, “aloha and shalom.”
Marv jumped right in. “Oh, we don’t say that here. We say shaloha!”