Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Into the Shark Tank

Barbara Bensoussan

It looked like the script of a game show, but this time the stakes were higher. As young Jewish activists were grilled as they competed for funds from heavyweight donors, the cheering audience realized that when it comes to tzedakah, everyone wins.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

It’s Motzaei Shabbos, and the 500 people crowded into the International Ballroom of the Stamford Plaza Hotel are keyed up. They’ve been regaled in body and soul this Shabbos at the Aish HaTorah conference in New York, filled up with lavish food and inspiring speeches. And now, it’s time for a little fun, an opportunity for would-be entrepreneurs to make their pitches in front of seasoned investors. In other words, welcome to “The Jewish Shark Tank.” A brainchild of Aish mainstays Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith and Mrs. Lori Palatnik, Aish based its event on Shark Tank, a reality program in which would-be entrepreneurs present their business ideas to a panel of hardened investors, or “sharks.” The sharks hear out each person’s pitch and then pose challenging questions. If they’re unimpressed by an idea, they withdraw; if they like it, they’ll offer to exchange a hefty investment for a percentage of the business. If an idea is compelling enough, they’ll even fight among themselves for a share. The original Shark Tank became wildly popular, feeding into the everyman’s fantasy of coming up with a great invention or idea and finding a rich angel to fund it. The show provides a mini-education in business as well, as the astute, well-seasoned sharks ask pointed questions like “Did you secure the patents and licensing?” and “What are your current and projected expenses and income?” in addition to the obvious ones like “Who will want to buy this product?” and “Who is your competition?” Shark Tank’s panelists are paid to keep things exciting. They may increase the tension artificially, bidding against each other or dressing down presenters and making them squirm. The ambition of everyone involved, from the sharks to the presenters to the producers to the advertisers, is to make scads of money. But Aish HaTorah’s Rabbi Coopersmith and Mrs. Palatnik don’t seem particularly interested in becoming billionaires. They are, however, well aware of the need to fund great Jewish outreach initiatives. Hence, the novel idea for a Jewish version of Shark Tank: Bring in contestants with ideas for new Jewish organizations, and let them compete for tzedakah dollars from Jewish philanthropists. “Our motivation for doing this wasn’t just to raise money, but to inspire young Jewish leaders to take initiative and responsibility,” explains Rabbi Coopersmith. “We wanted to inspire not only the people presenting, but other young people in the audience as well.” There’s one more caveat: The Aish sharks can’t embarrass or snap at contestants. Humiliation and nasty exchanges are definitely assur in this setting. Perhaps we should call the philanthropists “dolphins” instead of “sharks”?

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


 
Letters That Speak
Shoshana Friedman They tell us what it is that our readers want
Peddlers of Hope and Faith
Rabbi Moshe Grylak A personal tribute to two warriors of the spirit
Coddled on Campus
Yonoson Rosenblum Animosity against Jewish students going strong
Take Yes for an Answer
Eytan Kobre We’re not rage monkeys with skullcaps
Sefirah? What's Sefirah?
Rabbi Henoch Plotnik A tragedy swept under the rug?
Top 5 Jewish Reminders
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Have we lost our ability to remember?
Work/Life Solutions with Mordy Golding
Moe Mernick "It’s okay to change the plan as you go"
A Modern Eternal Flame
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman The classic rabbinic dictum still stands
I Don't Work on Shabbos
Baruch S. Fertel, MD, MPA, FACEP with Zivia Reischer You don't cut corners with Yiddishkeit
Mood Mix with Sheya Mendlowitz
Riki Goldstein "It’s a truly heilige niggun"
Truth Will Tell
Faigy Peritzman To constantly be in a state of upward motion
Mad at Dad
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Why many fathers get a bad rap
Eternal Victory
Mrs. Shani Mendlowitz To be personable, you need to develop your personality
The Baker: Part IV
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "She’s just a pareve version of her potential self”