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Slingshot 2017 Opening Remarks

February 12, 2018

Welcome to Slingshot Day 2017 – West Coast! 

My name is Sarah Rueven and I’m the board chair of Slingshot. We hope that this beautiful setting at Urban Adamah will spur some real creativity and imagination today. I want to take a moment to recognize Slingshot’s fearless leader, Stefanie Rhodes. I am so proud of what we, alongside Slingshot’s incredible Board of Directors, have created in the past two years. A special thank you goes to Rachel Hodes, Slingshot’s director of community experience, as well our Board Secretary Bethany Shiner for spearheading efforts to make this year’s Slingshot day a reality.

The Bay Area is no stranger to its share of innovations and innovators, and I see many of them sitting around the room today. This rich history of nonprofit innovation is a tapestry that I, too, feel proud to be a part of. 

Both of my grandparents grew up in the Bay Area – in fact, they both lived within a 5-block radius almost their entire lives. They loved the outdoors and they cared deeply about their community. They saw the devastation of the environment both at home and around the world and felt a desperate need to act. In 1989, when I was two years old, my grandparents founded the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Environmental Prize. The Goldman Environmental prize honors grassroots environmental heroes from the world’s six inhabited continental regions, recognizing their sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk.

By creating this prize, my grandparents hypothesized that they could make more of an impact by directly funding grassroots activists. They hoped that the Prize itself would give increased attention to the causes that each environmentalist championed. These activists, many of whom were indigenous peoples, felt a deep connection to their ancestral land and wanted to ensure that this land was safe, protected and healthy for future generations. My grandparents had a big idea, took a big risk, and boy, did it pay off. In almost 30 years, the prize has been awarded to 181 environmental heroes from 86 countries. For many of these activists, the Prize was a crucial stepping point towards important victories in the causes they championed. 

So why am I telling you all of this? What does this have to do with Jewish innovation? The point is, that innovation starts right here, at home, in our own communities. It starts with big ideas. It starts with taking risks. And it starts with real passion. In my seven years on the board of Slingshot, I am constantly awed and inspired by the amazing work you all are doing. Our goal at Slingshot is to support you at critical junctures in the lifecycle of your organizations and to bring wider attention and acknowledgement to this important work. 

I hope today will be a continued opportunity to inspire, to learn, and to re-energize ourselves for the year ahead. In the past year, we’ve all had to continue to “make a case” for why Jewish innovation is important in our current political climate. It is often in these challenging times, that the best ideas are born. Let’s nurture and support our community to continue to plant and sow these bright ideas that sustain and promote Judaism for the next generation.

I’ll leave you with this, in the words of my grandfather, “We are all ordinary people. But we are capable of doing extraordinary things.” Thank you for being extraordinary people and doing extraordinary things.