Shalom Machana Yavneh!
Sarah Pomeranz here from K’13 and excited to be sharing a bit about what I’ve been up to since my last kayitz at the machane. After the honor of a lifetime being Rosh Leviim 2017, I decided it couldn’t get better than that and perhaps I should leave while I’m ahead. I spent the next summer focusing on my startup, Sulis, where we are on a mission to make clean water scarcity a thing of the past. My cofounders and I developed and patented a technology that enables anyone to clean contaminated water using the power of sunlight. Our team really wanted to address the need in India since far too many folks there are impacted by neglected tropical diseases so we flew out there summer of 2018 to pilot the technology. I even had the opportunity to give a Ted Talk, “How Not To Ruin The World With Your Good Intentions,” that touches on my experience there and shares some of my lessons learned in the social impact space, click here to watch! After the pilot in India, we flew to London to live in a castle for 6 weeks with social entrepreneurs from all over the world. We were all there to compete for the $1 million dollar Hult Prize and the chance to pitch at the United Nations. Imagine if camp was set at Hogwarts and had a Shark Tank spin, that was Hult Prize. Ultimately we didn’t win, but the experience taught me a lot about my own interests and what the business would need to be successful.
One of those interests was my immense love of travel! When I turned 18 I set my sights on visiting 30 countries by the time I turn 30. After the summer in London wrapped, I hopped over to Florence, Italy to study abroad for the semester. I spent my weeks taking classes in art, cuisine, and international business and my weekends exploring the continent. By the time I headed home from that, I had reached 30 countries by 21, nine years early!
Prior to graduating, my co-founders and I all decided we would pursue our separate interests during the day and work on Sulis on the side until the venture became self-sustaining. Early on in my senior year, I accepted a job as a social impact strategy consultant. But like many of my peers who were seniors when COVID hit, our world was turned upside down. I mourned the loss of the end of college with my friends, lack of graduation, canceled post-grad travel plans and starting careers remotely.
It was summer 2020, height of the pandemic and I was supposed to begin work in the fall. I didn’t want to live at home with my folks indefinitely and I also didn’t want to move to DC yet ,where my job was based, because it seemed nonsensical to pay that much for rent to be stuck in a small apartment. Then I had an idea… what if I could safely satisfy my desire for a social life and travel addiction by living and working with friends from airbnbs in remote, beautiful parts of the country? That’s exactly what we did! Over the course of the year our group, the self-proclaimed Corporate Commune, stayed in 9 month long airbnbs in 8 states across the US visiting as many national parks as we could along the way. Several of my life-long yavneh friends joined the commune including Molly Feldmann and Melanie Grad-Freilich. We worked remotely during the days and then explored our towns and the surrounding nature on evenings and weeknights. I’m very proud to share we were very safe and none of the 18 people who joined us for various months got COVID during commune!
Our last month of corporate commune was July of this past summer at which point we all decided that cities were safe and re-opened enough to move to. Which brings me to where I am now, living in D.C., getting to know the vibrant Jewish community here and taking improv classes for fun. These days I spend a lot of time thinking about Effective Altruism which is a social movement and philosophy centering on using evidence-based reasoning to do the most good- think Tikkun Olam supercharged!
As we just passed the 6 year anniversary of the death of our beloved Ezra Schwartz, I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact he had on so many of our lives. Ezra taught me to live life to the fullest, prioritize my relationships and try not to take myself too seriously. Candidly, Im pretty good at honoring the first two and still working on the last part (improv helps). With that in mind, I would love to collaborate with and of you great minds and passionate souls, so if anything I shared resonated please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org