Ask most people what comes to mind when they think of Silicon Valley and they’ll probably say it’s the tech industry.
Since the 1980s, the Jewish High Tech Community (JHTC) has offered a way for Silicon Valley Jews working in and around technology to connect with each other for education, professional development, and networking. You don’t need to work in tech to participate though — anyone who’s interested is welcome to attend JHTC meetings. The nonprofit organization’s motto is “Educate. Inform. Connect.”
JHTC’s monthly events offer a fascinating window into a cross-section of valley life, with speakers including company founders, entrepreneurs, executives, inventors, prominent Israelis in tech, and the occasional prominent Bay Area resident from outside tech. Notable speakers have included high-tech executive and investor Bill Davidow, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Noah’s Bagels founder Noah Alper, and many more.
JHTC also hosts speed networking events and runs a mentorship program that matches young Jewish professionals with mentors. Its Jewish Young Adults (JYA) subgroup hosts a variety of programs and outings for young Jewish professionals from all fields.
“Recently all our events have been virtual because of COVID, and attendance has never been higher,” JHTC board member Peter Hoffman said. “We miss networking in person, but our events are drawing even larger numbers than they were before…and people from around the world have been able to attend.”
JHTC’s newest endeavor is the JYA Leadership Academy, for young Jewish professionals who want to level up personally and professionally. The 9-month program began in September 2020 with a start-up grant from Jewish Silicon Valley. Participants attended virtual workshops and fireside chats with more than 25 presenters, and participated in a capstone project of their own design.
“The [JYA Leadership] Academy organizers have thoughtfully put together a line up of speakers and activities that will enrich the next generation of leaders,” said participant Abigail Gavens. “Being a part of the JYA Leadership Academy has given me the opportunity to learn from the best of the best. It has also connected me with an amazing cohort of peers. I have no doubt that these friendships will follow me for years to come.”
Feedback from participants in this year’s JYA Leadership Academy prototype has been so positive that a team led by Peter Hoffman will be expanding the program nationwide. They’ve formed a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called J Leaders, which plans to launch its website in the early summer. J Leaders will start accepting applications in July for the 2021-22 Academy , which will meet virtually every other week from September to May, in addition to two in-person weekend retreats. They expect to accept 20-30 participants into the 2021-22 cohort.
The idea behind J Leaders is to give millennials a way to connect to Judaism and to the Jewish community in a way that is personally meaningful for them.Through values-driven leadership development, J Leaders inspires Jewish young professionals to grow their leadership skills, connect with like-minded peers, and create a stronger more vibrant Jewish community The program takes a learn-by-doing approach. Participants will meet community and business leaders, find their passion, and decide how they want to make a contribution.
“Jewish young adults are craving meaningful connections to the Jewish community….Many of them feel that their Judaism is vitally important to them, but they haven’t necessarily found a way to connect their Judaism to the community around them,” said Hoffman. “Millenials are looking for a life of meaning. J Leaders is a way for them to discover their own passion and decide how they want to connect….The way we’re thinking about leadership and community development is unique.”
Jewish Silicon Valley, JHTC, Hillel of Silicon Valley, and Moishe House Silicon Valley are co-sponsoring organizations for the upcoming J Leaders Leadership Academy cohort.