Five Principles of Startup Community Building You Can Learn From Jerusalem Village’s Lisa Barkan

I love it when my old days of trade shows, doing public relations for the Israeli high tech industry and personal connections with Facebook come together.


Lisa Barkan and I met twenty years ago when she showed up in Las Vegas managing a large booth for an Israeli high tech company. In those days it was a common sight but what was different about Lisa is that she arrived with an 8-month-old nursing baby in tow. It was a show neither of us would forget and today (with the baby being a 20 year old soldier in the Israeli army) we have reconnected spending time together here in Israel.

Lisa Barka Rocks BIg Time.
Lisa Barkan Rocks BIg Time. Lots the startup world can learn from her… Go Lisa!

Since her days marketing Israeli technologies Lisa has moved into community work and social action in a city she loves dearly. Gleaning from lessons of being a working mother with a career in both the Jewish world and marketing management, Lisa has some interesting insights into creating a startup and building community. People would be well served to follow some words of wisdom and nuggets of practical advise from a seasoned and creative activist like Lisa.

Lisa, along with her team at Jerusalem Village focuses on young newcomers — immigrants and visitors in their 20’s and 30’s — who want to feel at home in Jerusalem.

They run a wonderful Shabbat community dinners and cultural workshops using local content. All of Jerusalem Villages events are warm and pluralistic – two values which Lisa personally brings to the organization’s mission.  According to Lisa, integration requires an “in” and that’s what Jerusalem Village is all about.

She and her team seek to help young new comers connect to the Jerusalem community, build roots in the city, and develop a sense of belonging by providing access to resources and networks that already exist in the young Israeli community.

I asked Lisa to share her experience and insights in the nuggets below. See how they do great content, programming and engagement.

Lots you can learn here from Lisa Barkan…

  1. Get your own evidence. In our field of engagement of young Jewish adults and their Israel experiences there were many research papers available from a variety of sources.  They were great for helping us understand our target population and the field but nothing we read came close to the information we gleaned from our focus groups (held in both Jerusalem AND Tel Aviv) and surveys.  We had to hear it for ourselves, internalize, ask our questions and engage a discussion.  From there we created our five-year plan and Theory of Change.


  1. The right people will make the right things happen.  This proved itself to me when working in marketing for high tech companies and doing large international trade shows and it once again proved itself in creating Jerusalem Village.  And it is not just that I am older than our target audience.  It is more that I have a limited talent set and therefore looked for people who had what I didn’t but could ‘get’ it and appreciate what we each brought to the table. Oh and there is nothing more rewarding than being with people who together bring out the best in each other.


  1. Ditto on partners.  When we first started out we took our mission statement and highlighted the key elements.  Then from those elements we mapped the market.  For us it was young Jewish adults, Jerusalem, Olim, newcomers to a city (backpacking tourists included), and the global Jewish community.  This is who is on our advisory board and it drives how we pursue and develop our partnerships and content. And while community Federations have sister cities in Israel EVERYONE comes through Jerusalem and is a potential partner for us.


  1. Really listen to your constituents.  We could easily just do a mailing to those finishing Ulpan Etzion (the largest Ulpan for young adults in Israel) but instead we sit and speak with people at events.  We listen to their experiences, take notes, involve them and try to glean how we can better serve our target audience.  Our new blog will hopefully help us better reach people and engage them and our soon to be released Passion Program will take their inputs to the next step. Stay tuned.


  1. Have fun!  I cannot express how important this is.  Life is short.  We don’t know what is waiting around the corner.  Enjoy the ride.  Appreciate the opportunities.  During our four years of trying ideas and running pilots there were times when things did not go the way we planned.  No one sat with his or her head hanging low!   We enjoyed those who DID come to events.  Had fun with what we did have.  Always leaving with a smile.

So if you are ever in Jerusalem and are looking for a fun and warm welcome to the city contact Lisa.

She knows lots of cool places for beer, good wine, pizza and burgers and is an avid exerciser if you want to do the healthy thing.

And check out Jerusalem Village for yourself, your kids, and any young adults going to the capital of the Jewish people.





About the Author
Alan Weinkrantz is a Tech PR / Startup Communications advisor to Israeli and U.S. companies, and is the Brand Ambassador and Senior Advisor for James Brehm & Associates, one of the leading IoT (Internet of Things) strategy and consulting firms.