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30 Movers and Shakers of Jerusalem

The Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem, as seen from the Israeli Air Force's annual fly-by on Independence Day, May 12, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
The Temple Mount and Western Wall in Jerusalem, as seen from the Israeli Air Force's annual fly-by on Independence Day, May 12, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

30 Movers and Shakers Collage

Jerusalem is a city encapsulating and emanating great passion. Both Israelis and global travelers tend to be especially compelled towards Jerusalem for a multitude of reasons, and there is no question that everyone living in Jerusalem (and even outside Jerusalem) cares deeply about the city. Jerusalem’s unique mixture of history, culture, and peoplehood breeds a sense of responsibility among its citizens, not only to the city, but also to the world at large. This is perhaps why we find so many people in Jerusalem who are finding some innovative ways to further invigorate the city with culture, entrepreneurship, learning, and meaning. Listed are just some of Jerusalem’s Movers and Shakers, who strive to make Jerusalem a paragon of our greatest dreams:

david stark

David Stark

David Stark is an Investment Partner with OurCrowd, which is a company based in Jerusalem that matches venture capital funding for Israeli venture capital start-ups with accredited investors. This means more successful start-ups coming from Israel, and particularly Jerusalem. Stark is just one of the people involved in transforming Jerusalem into an innovation hub.

Fun Fact: Stark is a self-proclaimed “supporter of underdogs”, yet Washington Post calls OurCrowd’s Founder, Jon Medved, one of Israel’s “leading high tech venture capitalists”. Surely, Stark and Medved are no underdogs when it comes to being agents for change in Jerusalem.

Avi Mayer © Yeshiva University

Avi Mayer

Avi is the Jewish Agency’s Spokesman to International Media. His goal is to help advance the Jewish people and repair the world. “No big whoop”, he says on his website. He is known as a “social media guru” because of his efforts on the web to promote Israel. His twenty-first century approach, coming from a governmental office, makes him one of the best movers and shakers in Jerusalem today. Avi was recently named the third most influential person on ‘Jewish Twitter’ right behind Benjamin Netanyahu! “No big whoop”, we say.

Fun Fact: You can often see Avi at events around Jerusalem, and he is not afraid to break out his dance moves if there’s music at the event!

gabriel nadaf
Father Nadaff © משה מילנר/Wikicommons

Father Gabriel Naddaf

Father Gabriel Naddaf of the Greek Orthodox Church is a top recruiter of Aramean Christians into the Israel Defense Forces. He is also a judge in the Christian religious courts and a spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, regarded as the “mother church of all Christendom”. Father Gabriel Naddaf is thus at the center of Christian life in Jerusalem.

Fun Fact: Father Gabriel Naddaf addressed the UN Human Rights council in September 2014, calling on the world to unite against Islamic extremism, and calling Israel “the only place in the Middle East where Christians are safe”.

lisa barkan
Lisa Barkan

Lisa Barkan

Lisa is the founder and director of Jerusalem Village, an organization whose mission is to create a sense of belonging to the city of Jerusalem among young adults from around the world. In order to connect newcomers to the city’s unique culture, people, and lifestyle, Jerusalem Village organizes some of the most innovative community programs for young Yerushalmim, such as Shalom al Lechem Shabbat dinners, Alter.Native, and Wine Wednesdays. Their new partnership with OneTable and Onward Internships/MASA is bringing the Jerusalem experience to a new level for those arriving to the city.

Fun Fact: Although Lisa is religious herself, she sees Jerusalem as the home for all different types of Jews: secular, religious, children of Intermarried families, atheist, gay, straight, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Mizrachi, and so on!

Yemima Mizrachi ©

Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi

Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi is well known in Jerusalem for her humorous shiurim. She was voted one of the most “influential women in Israel” and is one of the most in-demand speakers in Israel, let alone Jerusalem. According to her website, her goal is to “bring Torah close to the heart and mind, show its relevance to all aspects of our lives, and to prove to women how wonderful we really are”. The way in which Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi does this provides deep insights and wisdom, all while keeping her hilarious sense of humor.

Fun Fact: Her shiurim are distributed to thousands of Hebrew speakers, and are now translated every week into English and distributed for free.

rabbi tamar
Tamar Elad Appelbaum ©

Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum

Masorti Judaism is not only a North American movement—Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum is the founder of Zion Eretz Israeli Congregation in Jerusalem. She is part of a new generation of Israeli-born Conservative rabbis who are bringing the movement to Israel. Her congregation gathers in Baka and prides itself as a “come as you are” community. She is a mover and shaker not only for the Israeli Masorti movement, but also for interfaith dialogue—many of her events involve creating a Jerusalem that “could and should be”.

Fun Fact: If you ever have to run to a bomb shelter, make sure Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum is with you.

Elisheva Mazya © New Spirit

Elisheva Mazya

Elisheva is the CEO of New Spirit, a movement whose mission is to keep Jerusalem alive with young people. Elisheva founded New Spirit in 2003, with four of her friends, as a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In order to ensure that there is a “next year in Jerusalem”, Elisheva breathes new life into the city by involving young people with arts and culture events as well as social activism. It is her belief that those who are involved in such programs will become more invested in their community. Some of New Spirit’s central programs include arts and academic events in the city, meet-ups, conferences, and workshops that foster meaningful connections to Jerusalem and Israeli society.

Fun Fact: Elisheva has recently brought New Spirit into a cool location right in the middle of the Shuk!

Dyonna Ginsburg © OLAM

Dyonna Ginsburg

Dyonna Ginsburg is the Executive Director of OLAM, an initiative that provides a shared platform to promote global Jewish service through networking, study trips, training, and learning. Ginsburg, who was named “one of Israel’s 50 most inspiring women” by Nashim magazine in 2015, believes that it is important to tell the inspiring stories that organizations and individuals are doing around the world. To her, this is a large part of what it means to be a Jew and to be Israeli. Previously the Director of Education and Service learning at The Jewish Agency for Israel, Ginsburg says that “No one foundation or organization can tackle all of the world’s issues and problems alone”. Thus, “collaboration and coordination among foundations, organizations, and individuals can increase the Jewish community’s impact on the world’s most pressing issues”.

Fun Fact: Dyonna rarely roots for the favorite in sports and always prefers the underdog.

Abed Khalaileh
Dr. Abed Khalaileh © South African Group speaks with Dr. Khalaileh at Hadassah Hospital

Dr. Abed Khalaileh

Dr. Abed Khalaileh is a Jerusalem-born senior vascular and transplant surgeon at Hadassah Ein Karem hospital. He operates on people of all religions, faith, and background, holding that “the atmosphere isn’t good these days, but at least at the hospital there is a different atmosphere. We work together, we provide treatment to all patients, no matter their religion or race, whether they’re rich or poor, Israeli or not”. He does his job with devotion, making sure that neither himself nor his colleagues are affected by the conflict to the point where it interferes with their professionalism. Thanks in large to people like Dr. Khalaileh, one does not have to look farther than Jerusalem’s hospitals to find persistent sanctuaries of Arab-Jewish coexistence.

Fun Fact: Dr. Khalaileh speaks five languages fluently: English, Hebrew, Arabic, French, and Russian.

Hanan Brand

Hanan Brand

Hanan Brand is a co-founder and the chairman of MadeinJLM, a community-based nonprofit organization that connects, grows, and empowers Jerusalem’s startup and tech community. Brand ensures that the more than 500 startups in Jerusalem “have the opportunity to contribute, connect, participate in events, find jobs, partners and mentors, and become an integral part of one of the most connected and most supportive tech communities in the world.”

Fun Fact: Brand began his movers and shakers career in Jerusalem at Jerusalem Venture Partners, one of the main companies involved in Jerusalem’s tech transformation.

Clara Feldman

Clara Feldman

Clara Feldman is CEO of SHEKEL, a non profit that provides community services for people with special needs. SHEKEL recently launched a café called Harutzim, which employs and trains people with disabilities to work in Israel’s restaurant industry. Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, recognized Harutzim café, saying at its opening that he has a “sense of gratification and pride that this café is opening in Jerusalem”. Harutzim is located on Yad Harutzim Street and is open Sunday-Friday, for sit-down meals, take-away, and events.

Fun Fact: In 2007, Feldman won the Jerusalem Foundation Prize for Leadership and Public Excellence. She donated all of her prize money, 65,000 NIS, to Shekel.

Ofer Berkovitch © Sharon Gabay

Ofer Berkovitch

Ofer Berkovitch is a Yerushalmi activist in every sense of the word. Born in Jerusalem, he has led since he was a young boy. He produced cultural and nightlife events in Jerusalem, passionate about making Jerusalem livable for young and secular people. Now, as the co-founder and chairman of the Wake Up Jerusalem (Hitorerut) movement, he led social protests of housing costs. He is a Jerusalem city councilman with his party Hitorerut, whose goal is to provide incentives for Jerusalem start-ups, help get small businesses off the ground, and bring back 3,000 governmental jobs that are lawfully allocated to Jerusalem. His latest expansion project, which involves building 400 low-priced student dormitories and a café in Independence Park, is also geared towards strengthening Jerusalem’s small business sector. “We have a whole vision to make downtown Jerusalem as creative and vibrant as possible – from the arts to small business, there is a lot we hope to accomplish,” he said to the Jerusalem Post. “This is just the beginning.”

Fun Fact: Haaretz called Berkovitch “baby faced but bold”, as he founded Hitorerut at just 26 years old.

Eyal Levit

Eyal Levit

Eyal is a serial cultural activist, and we are not talking about corn flakes. He is the current Director of Muslala, a community organization that “offers a platform for artists from various fields to work and create in Jerusalem”. Born and raised in downtown Jerusalem, he opened an alternative club for music, culture, and art at just 21 years. He managed the First Station’s events and outdoor space in its first year and is highly involved in the music and festival scene, where he has produced and brought hundreds of singers and bands to Jerusalem’s stage. As Muslala’s Director, his team is currently transforming the roof of the Clal building (on Jaffa Road, Jerusalem’s very center), making a community garden, bee sanctuary, sitting areas, library, wood workshop, and a social art gallery.

Fun Fact: Eyal opened the first gay club in Jerusalem, Mikveh Bar.

Josh Gottesman

Josh Gottesman, Mass Challenge

Josh Gottesman is currently a partnerships manager with MassChallenge, a “start-up friendly” accelerator based in Jerusalem. MassChallenge offers Jerusalem’s start-ups with tech mentoring, office space, education, and connections to help them achieve success and a positive impact on Jerusalem and the rest of the world—all without taking any equity. Previously, Gottesman was the founder of Tikkun Olam Makers, which “organizes gatherings around the world utilizing modern digital manufacturing to rapidly prototype working devices to assist people living with disabilities.”

Fun Fact: John Hawthorne, CEO and founder of MassChallenge, said about Jerusalem: “We are super-proud to be supporters of Israel. We love entrepreneurs, no matter who they are and where they come from. I realize that the region has its problems, but I am a big believer in the power of tech to help promote peace and a better life for everyone. If there is any place to bring that idea to life, it’s in Jerusalem.”

Deena Levenstein © Yitz Woolf

Deena Levenstein

Deena’s online calendar and Facebook page, “Things To Do in Jerusalem” has revolutionized the cultural scene in Jerusalem by offering a resource that, just as the name implies, lists things to do in Jerusalem on a given day. She writes on the Times of Israel, “Even on nights when you think there’s nothing to do in Jerusalem, there is!” She organizes “Jerusalem Encounters” and says that the Jerusalem culture is “funky, creative, fun, interesting and meaningful”, and there is no doubt that Deena is one of the many people making it that way.

Fun Fact: Deena worked as a journalist and proofreader at the Jewish Independent, Vancouver’s Jewish newspaper, and continues her writing on her Times of Israel blog.

Yonatan Strier © Different View Photography

Yonatan Strier

Yonatan Strier is a manager of the media department in the Youth Adult Authority of the Jerusalem Municipality. He is the head producer of Shaon Horef 2016, a winter street festival that takes place every Monday in February. Strier was born in Jerusalem and created the JLM nightlife app. His goal is to “establish that Jerusalem is the home to artistic innovation”. He organized the Made in The City festival, which hoped to make Jerusalem more young people-friendly. Another one of his programs, “Creating at Night”, engaged Jerusalem nightlife with artists, musicians, and local businesses.

Fun Fact: Strier says about Shaon Horef: “Shaon Horef is Jerusalem. It is in its veins. This festival resembles the city in so many ways. It is complex. It is diverse. It’s edgy. Ever-changing. It has a bit of it all. In Shaon Horef you can see a mixture of cultural items ranging from deep saloon talks with the heads of the social revolution to a crazy all-out wedding themed party with fake relatives and actors for the bride and groom.”

david rozenson
David Rozenson © Nikolai Busygin/Russian Associated Press

David Rozenson

David Rozenson is passionate about education. As the director of Beit Avi Chai, a cultural center in the heart of Jerusalem on King George Street, David’s goal is to offer diverse programs, concerts, plays, lectures, workshops, and events related to Jewish and Israeli culture. As such, Beit Avi Chai “targets a variety of audiences in an effort to create a productive, challenging encounter of cultures and worldviews.” In the context of our modern dialogue regarding Israel, Jerusalem, Jewish identity, and Israeli society, David hopes to explore those topics through his work.

Fun Fact: David is an avid reader and wine connoisseur, so it comes as no surprise that Beit Avi Chai has a reading room.

Eilat Mazar © WGBH Educational Foundation

Eilat Mazar

Eilat Mazar is like an apple- she doesn’t fall far from the tree. As an Israeli archeologist specializing in Jerusalem archeology, she is the third generation in her family to make contributions to important excavations. Among her finds include walls made of stone that she believes to be remains of King David’s palace. Just like Jerusalem itself, Eilat represents a mix of old and new. She is a believer in the Bible’s historical reliability, saying, “I work with the Bible in one hand and the tools of excavation in the other. That’s what biblical archaeologists do. The Bible is the most important historical source and therefore deserves special attention”.

Fun Fact: If her claims are confirmed about King David’s palace, the future of the Israeli Palestinian conflict could transform, as the palace would “counteract recent claims by the Palestinians, who dismiss King David’s reign as useful political fiction”.

Danna Hochstein Mann © Onlife

Danna Hochstein Mann

Danna Hochstein Mann is a Partner and COO at PICO Venture Partners. Born and raised in Jerusalem, she continues to live here, now with her husband and three children. She is an entrepreneurship junkie dedicated to the city. She believes in Jerusalem’s ability to attract tourism of influential caliber and advocates for bringing more large venues and state of the art conference facilities to Jerusalem. PICO, like Danna, intends to “enhance Jerusalem’s international esteem by building a strong initiative based community in Jerusalem who value quality entrepreneurship as a fundamental pillar of social development”.

Fun Fact: Danna has been involved with nearly everything related to Jerusalem and entrepreneurship from her previous work at OurCrowd, PresenTense, and JVP, to her Bachelors of Arts at The Hebrew University in the Business Administration department.

Karen Brunwasser

Karen Brunwasser

Karen is a proud native of Philadelphia, but “is madly in love with her adopted hometown of Jerusalem”. Karen is the deputy director and one of the founders of the Jerusalem Season of Culture, a summer music festival that showcases Jerusalem as a vibrant, musical, and creative city. According to their website, “Jerusalem is the greatest font of creativity in the world. For us, Jerusalem plays the starring role, forming a backdrop for the performances and acting as our primary source of inspiration. Jerusalem is both the reason and the instigator. We are permanently attuned to the voices emerging from within this city, the harmonious and discordant alike, and, despite all the background noise, we try to extract from them an open and clear sound of creativity.” Karen cares deeply about the city’s civil society and hosts her own radio show, Cosmopolitan Jerusalem that profiles activists, artists, and entrepreneurs from Jerusalem.

Fun Fact: Karen met her husband, a seventh generation Jerusalemite, in the Machane Yehuda Shuk. He also happens to be included in this list (#30).

Ben Wiener © Guy Gordon

Ben Wiener

Ben Wiener is a startup investor and venture enthusiast. He has a self-proclaimed love for (and vast experience with) launching exciting companies and business ventures as well as developing businesses to their full potential. He is currently the Managing Partner at Jumpspeed Ventures, a micro-fund and venture accelerator. Although Ben grew up in the U.S., his heart is in Jerusalem where he has lived for almost 20 years with his wife, and seven children. Wiener is “convinced that Jerusalem’s burgeoning startup ecosystem will soon give Tel Aviv a run for its money”. Not only does he believe this, he is one of the movers and shakers actualizing this theory.

Fun Fact: Ben seems to enjoy running long distances.

Shaindy Babad
Shaindy Babad © Temech

Shaindy Babad

Shaindy Babad is the Director of Temech, a Jerusalem organization that offers support to Orthodox women who are entrepreneurs and job seekers. Their services include employment training, professional conferences, workshops, mentors, individualized support, professional forums, job fairs and a professional working hub. Babad’s mission is to empower and enable Orthodox women in Israel who might otherwise be lacking in employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. This is an especially important job in Jerusalem, where a large percentage of Haredim, especially the women, seek work opportunities. The hub, a professional workspace, accommodates religious women with a women-only space with flexible hours (important for those with large families), a kosher kitchen, and business opportunities. Babad believes that there are multiple barriers to employment for Orthodox women, which keeps them from the workplace. One can be sure that Shaindy is true a mover and shaker addressing the problem and in turn, making the workplace more accessible to Orthodox women in business.

Fun Fact: Tens of thousands of women have benefitted from Babad’s work at Temech and employers have begun asking Temech to send more ultra-Orthodox women to work with them.

Joseph Bornstein © Yossi Finkel

Joseph Bornstein

Joseph is the CEO and Founder of the Jerusalem-based crowd-funding site, “Cause Match”. He believes that there are copious non-profits, lay leaders, and do-gooders out there. His goal is thus to empower and inspire the Israeli and Jerusalem community by taking their fundraising to a new level. Joseph has helped hundreds of nonprofits raise money for the causes about which they are most passionate and hopes to lead the upward growth of Jerusalem’s giving experiences. His upcoming umbrella campaign will bring dozens of Israel-based organizations together to strengthen Israel.

Fun Fact: Joseph met his wife on Birthright and they now live together in Jerusalem. And no, they did not receive a free wedding on behalf of Birthright, as rumor has it.

Sarah Kass

Sarah Kass

Before Sarah moved to Jerusalem in 1996, she founded one of the first charter public high schools in the United States at the ripe age of 27 years old. She was recognized as one of America’s 10 most promising leaders under 30, but moved to Jerusalem and became one of Israel’s most promising leaders. Kass served as the Director of Strategy and Evaluation for The AVI CHAI Foundation, was a founding board member of Presentense, the Vice President of Yad Hanadiv, and is the Founder of the new– an investment platform designed to bring investments to Jerusalem-founded companies. Kass “remains determined to never underestimate the power of a small group of people committed to changing the world”.

Fun Fact: Sarah is working on a graphic novel that tells of Israel’s ancient values that drive its future purpose.

Ehud Banai © חיים אבן אודי /Wikicommons

Ehud Banai

Ehud Banai is a singer and songwriter born in Jerusalem to a Persian family of famous artists, actors, and musicians. Although his family moved to Givatayim when Ehud was just four years old, his early childhood in Jerusalem largely influenced his music, which has become one of, if not the, most influential and appreciated names in Israeli music.

Fun Fact: The Banai family used to live directly above the Jerusalem shuk on HaAgas 1, and Ehud named one of his most famous songs after the address.

Erel Margalit © JD Lasica /Flickr

Erel Margalit

Erel Margalit is an Israeli Member of Knesset (Labor) and a high tech social entrepreneur. He founded Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) and earned Forbes recognition as the top non-American venture capitalist on the Midas List. He is also considered one of the top Israeli entrepreneurs, having worked with the Jerusalem Development Authority and bringing “70 large technology companies, including Digital and IBM” to Israel. Within Jerusalem’s community, he founded the institution that runs educational programs in lower socioeconomic areas of Jerusalem, as well as Hama’abada, which aims to keep young artists in Jerusalem.

Fun Fact: Erel was asked to join the Israeli Youth Basketball Team, but he declined in favor of serving in the IDF Golani Brigade.

Oded Barel © Siftech

Oded Barel

Oded Barel is the Managing Director of Siftech. Jerusalem born and bred, he is an entrepreneur who is passionate about start-ups and new ideas. His goal is to do as much as he can to help passionate people bring their ideas to life, all while developing and promoting the Jerusalem start-up scene. He is currently studying Design Management at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design and co-owns HaSchena (Neighbors) Bar near the Shuk.

Fun Fact: One of Oded’s startups was successful and one failed. Oded claims that he learned more from the latter.

Yonatan Razel

Yonatan Razel

Yonatan Razel is a singer and songwriter based in Jerusalem. After his family made aliyah when we was young, Yonatan became inspired by synagogue and classical music, as well as The Beatles’ songs. He began taking piano, cello, and conducting lessons from his father and continued at a music academy. After a successful start in the Israeli music industry, he turned down an acceptance from Cambridge University’s composition program to study in Yeshiva. When he returned to music, Razel began performing for Jewish communities in Israel and around the world. He continues to study Torah in the Jerusalem Kollel as he performs in concerts around the world.

Fun Fact: Yonatan grew up in Nachlaot, where he continues to live today with his wife and four children.

Eyal Haimovsky (courtesy)
Eyal Haimovsky (courtesy)

Eyal Haimovsky

Eyal Haimovsky is the CEO of the Jerusalem Development Authority, the body that generates, encourages, and promotes the development of Jerusalem in order to increase its beauty and strengthen its economy. Previous to the JDA, Haimovsky was the Prime Minister’s Office Bureau Chief for three years as well as an advisor to the Mayor of Jerusalem. Haimovsky believes that Jerusalem is growing and nearing Tel Aviv as one of the top start-up cities in the world. As the CEO of the leading body that plans and develops Jerusalem, Haimovsky is largely attributed to the development of Jerusalem’s parks, renewal of the city center, as well as the progress of tourism, design, cinema, and television.

Fun Fact: Eyal is the outside Director of the El Al Group, Israel’s flag carrier airline.

Lior Shabo

Lior Shabo

Shabo, as he likes to be called, is a self-proclaimed “entrepreneur, social activist, and proud Jerusalemite”. Most recently, he is responsible for economic development at the Bloomberg JLM i-team, the innovation delivery team founded and funded by Michael Bloomberg. Previously, Shabo was the co-founder and director of of Jerusalem’s Yellow Submarine production company as well as the founder of The Jerusalem Parliament, which engages leaders in business, social entrepreneurship, public policy, grassroots activism, journalism, and politics for monthly networking events.

Fun Fact: Shabo founded the Israeli Salsa Movement, although he does not even know how to dance (says his wife).


About the Author
Eliana Rudee is Jerusalem-based journalist, originally from Seattle. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, The Washington Times, among many other news outlets worldwide. She volunteers for the Hitorerut party as their English Spokesperson and works in journalism and marketing for Breaking Israel News and Israel365.
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