Talking at Savannah GA Jewish Educational Alliance

I had the great pleasure of speaking at one of the oldest Jewish communities in the country, at the JCC in Savannah Georgia

Here is the thank you letter I sent out to the members after the talk

Dear Savannah JEA members,

I feel like it was only appropriate for me to give my final talk for 2017, in one of the oldest (and warmest) Jewish communities in the country.

As we prepare to welcome 2018, with all the beautiful stories and experiences it has waiting for us, I ask that you keep Israel in your thoughts this year as well!

Learn more on what Israel is doing (in technology and in general).
Discuss it with your family and loved ones.
Check how you can use it to help your neighbor or friend.
Spread the word and share the good in the world.

As I am traveling from city to city, state to state, I’m always reminding people that I’m only the messenger. But YOU, You are the true face of Israel and the Jewish people. Help make us feel proud!

To follow Lior’s journey to promote Israel in all 50 States, visit – http://vakninlior.com/

To make donation and contribute to his success you can visit his GoFundMe campaign – https://www.gofundme.com/3t6z3s8

Special thanks to Adam Solender for making this event possible and Elise and Victor Shernoff for their lovely hospitality.

With warm regards,

Lior Vaknin

Small Impacts Mean A lot!

When I started my journey to promote Israel in all 50 States, in my mind, I figured it meant having a speaking engagement in each State I visit.

As time passed and things weren’t going exactly as I planned, I started accepting the fact that the universe had different plans for me, and that maybe the short encounters and one on one conversations with individuals I had along the way, are much more impactful than speaking to a room full of people.

In Charleston South Carolina, I couchsurfed at Amy Yvonne Hassinger. A beautiful soul that devotes her life to helping others. From voluntary work with her church, to tutoring troubled kids in school, and even teaching kids from the projects how to swim for free (she owns a swimming school).

I was fascinated with Amy’s life and when she invited me to go with her to service on Sunday, i happily accept the invitation.

It was the first time I visited a service in a church and it was a spiritual experience no doubt… As a Jew, I was happy to see the pastor reading parts from the old testament and seeing the star of David on the screens (and on people’s necklaces) time and time again.

After a wonderful few days with Amy, I continued my journey.

We haven’t spoke since, but today, I see a notification saying Amy mentioned me in a post. This post below.

I have no idea whether my encounter with Amy had anything to do with this post or not. But for me, this feels like a closure, this feels like I did what I had to do in South Carolina

Jews, Want To Support Israel? Let’s End The Hunger in America! (wait, what?!)

During a recent stop on my 50 States Journey, in the magical city of Asheville North Carolina, I got to visit one of the most important initiatives I’ve ever seen!

From afar, it looked just like any other restaurant on Haywood road in West Asheville, but as I got closer, I saw a welcoming sign that says “Free Lunch! All Welcome”.

12 basketsThe name of the place is “12 Baskets Cafe”, and it’s non profit organization that set itself a goal to provide free food for all! Monday-Friday, 11:30am to 1pm.

How Does It Work

12 Baskets Cafe receive donations of already prepared food from local organizations currently being thrown away. Food pulled from nightly hot bars, buffets, displays in grocery stores, etc. This is being picked up by their team, and delivered to the Cafe to be re-purposed and shared.

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What’s also unique about this place, is that you find yourself surrounded by people from all walks of life; from the homeless man to the working woman, everyone has a place in the table, and the conversations and community that is built their, is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

But there’s more, for those who are familiar with soup kitchens and local “feed the hungry” initiatives, you probably thinking this is a buffet style where each person carry his plate, stands in line, and gets a calculated portion of food and then moves on.

At 12 Baskets Cafe, all you gotta do, is find yourself a seat. Within seconds, one of the young volunteers greets you and asks for your order. On the wall, there’s a daily menu which includes (in most days of the week); Indian food, coffee and various desserts.

If you wish to take home some food, they encourage people to do so and provide them with takeout bags.

Where’s Our Responsibility Not Just For Our Fellow Jews, But For Everyone?

We can sit and talk all day about the next Israeli blockchain startup that’s changing the world, or an AI venture that’s disrupting the financial institutions, but I am asking, is there anything more noble than feeding an hungry person? And not just that, but also treating him with dignity and having him feel like he’s part of the society we all live in? I say there isn’t!

When I started this journey, I set to myself a mission to fix the broken Israeli Hasbara, which is usually based on one of these two arguments:

  1. “They are lying, and we’re telling the truth”.
    This is the endless battle of which side is right and which is wrong, in the never ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All those years since the conflict started, and we have yet to realize that there is no winners in an argument. If the other person thinks differently than you, it doesn’t matter how much time, money and energy you’d waste, you still won’t be able to bring him closer to your stand.
  2. “Look at all the good things we do for the world”.
    Again, it doesn’t matter if you sent hurricane relief aids to Porto Rico, a
    rescue delegation to Mexico City, or even saved humanity for that matter, if the other person believes Israel is killing innocent women and children in Gaza (which it doesn’t, if that wasn’t clear), you lost!

So instead of focusing on ourselves (or on Israel in this case), and how poor we are and how we are being mistreated by the media, the UN and all the rest of the alt-left organizations, let’s focus on other people, see how we can help people with their personal lives, with their personal struggles.

I lived and breathed the Israeli tech scene for so long that it was natural for me to facilitate the wonderful work of the Israeli tech and use it to kill two birds with one stone;

  1. Helping people with their lives
  2. Improving Israel’s image in the general public’s view.

But you don’t have to leave your job and home and go on a 50 States journey if you feel like you want to help your people and do a good and productive Hasbara that’s aligned with the Jewish values and Israeli mentality.

There’s numerous ways to go about it, but here are 2 initiatives you can start today, based on the “12 Baskets Cafe” case –

1. For The Israeli Entrepreneur in New York –

There are currently over 250 active Israeli startups in New York City, hiring thousands of employees and spending millions of dollars on HR efforts, among which is free lunch and other perks.

Each day, a different Israeli startup can host a free lunch (if all companies will participate, it’s about once a year), with remaining of food from the day before from other Israeli Startups, and have everyone volunteer for couple of hours and support their local neighborhood.

2. For The Jewish Student On Campus –

Jewish organizations on campus such as Hillel, Tamid and others, pride themselves with ingraining the entrepreneurial traits in their students. Here they can have students build local non profits that copy the 12 Baskets Cafe model and will give them actual experience of what’s it like to build a company and run a startup.

“But We Can Get Sued For Food Poisoning”

Yes, I already heard this excuse from one of my friends on Facebook who saw my post.

Listen, let’s be honest here. With all due respect, if a non profit in a small city in North Carolina was able to pass the bureaucracy and make this thing happen, I’m sure the brilliant minds making the Israeli tech scene in New York and the Jewish community as a whole, can figure it out.

All that’s left is your will…

And What About The ROI?

Well, even if you’re a cold hearted bastard (which I’m sure you’re not) who don’t care at all about anything but your startup, here’s something you might want to know –  The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that for 59% of millennials, protecting the environment is something that they feel accountable for, and 53% feel that social equality is their responsibility as well! 

Conclusion

The easiest thing to do, is look at the rise of Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitism that’s going around the country and around the world, write an offended Facebook post about it and wait for the world to fix itself.

If we really want to make a change, we must change tactic, stop focusing on ourselves, and see how we can do as much good as we can to the other!

I’ll finish with one of my favorite quotes by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook –

““The purely righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.”

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I hope to see you turn this into action, and please let me know how that goes!

P.S –
I’ve recently started a Patreon page, where people can contribute (as little as $1 per month) to my 50 States Journey. This will help me cover the different costs of living on the road-  Click To Support!

Thank you!

Lio

Reflections On The Self – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Krishnamurti Book Cover Krishnamurti
Jiddu Krishnamurti
Philosophy
Open Court Publishing
1997
214

Watching one of the greatest minds of our time in work has been a fascinating journey. My key take from it, is that our set of beliefs (whatever they'll be) are the root of all fighting and conflict in the world, has been the most profound one. There's much more, but I'll need to go back for a 2nd and 3rd listen to this one.
5 Stars

The Journey From Vermont to Pittsburgh Goes Through Upstate NY and Niagara Falls

The road to Pittsburgh from Vermont was quite a thrill as I had the opportunity to share it with the beautiful singer songwriter Arantha Farrow. Hope you enjoy!
To support my mission visit – https://www.gofundme.com/3t6z3s8
or https://www.patreon.com/vakninlior

 

Liberating Vermont

Vermont is definitely a state I won’t forget…

The most liberal state in the Union sure has some magic; From meeting some local entrepreneurs such as the talented David Melech Hat Company who creates amazing Fedora hats (and actually started his business thanks to Wix), to learning about a new farm-centered Jewish community being established in Vermont called Living Tree Alliance, to participating in a hippie, earth-centered retreat in Garden Of Earthly Delights! A magickal weekend at Shady Lady, and even the ability to drive completely naked (yes, it’s all on film) makes this state in the eyes of many Americans “The best State in the Country”.

But with all the good and beauty The Green Mountain State offers, there’s some things that really disturbed me. Like the fact that Jewish people in Montpelier (the State capital) were very afraid of coming to an Israel supporting event, because they thought they might be bullied or bashed for taking part in such event. Or the fact that various synagogues must have a committee approval before presenting anything that is related to Israel, from a fear of a potential backlash, is a serious warning sign that we can’t ignore!

Less than a century ago these same voices were heard and same concerns of Jews living in Europe was being felt. We all know how that ended up…

We must push for more positive education and branding on the one hand, and as hard and far fetched as it sounds, a solution with our Palestinian neighbors on the other. Otherwise, the voices we hear in Vermont and the separation between the American Jews and those in Israel will only get bigger. And that, we just can’t afford happening.   

Lior Vaknin

P.S
Make sure you don’t miss Arantha’s song at the end of this vlog. Trust me, you won’t regret it!