Jewish Young Professional Community Building 2002 – 2013 – the JConnect LA Story
JConnect was founded by Cheston Mizel in 2002 to connect Jewish young professionals with their heritage and each other. The organization set out to redefine Jewish young professional’s expectations about Jewish programming and address a need for young adults to connect Jewishly. The organized community was just realizing that 20’s and 30’s are the critical demographic for Jewish continuity. The organization quickly grew into LA’s largest independent, grassroots organization for young adults. JConnect created large-scale events and year-round original programming, all with no “strings” attached. Jconnect became an on-ramp to Jewish life. In 2009 JConnect merged with Jewlicious North America, run by Rabbi Yonah and Rachel Bookstein, broadening the scope, demographics, and geography of its unique outreach.
Transforming community for Jewish young professionals
Over the course of 10 years, JConnect dramatically expanded young adult participation in Jewish life in Los Angeles. JConnect also impacted Jewish life regionally through creative programming, experiential learning, festival weekends, social media and entrepreneurship. JConnect programming offered a way to creatively engage and explore Jewish identity, and in the process shapes a dynamic and inclusive Jewish future. In addition, the combined organization served as a the launch pad and ideas lab for new ventures including:
- Shabbat Tent hospitality oasis at national music festivals
- SummerFest young adult summer camp
- New Moon Century bike ride
- TikkunFest urban renewal festival
- Jewish County Fair community harvest celebration
- iFest positive campus Israel activism
- Purimpalooza city-wide celebration
- Days of Awesome High Holiday experience
- Night of Unity Annual Awards Gala
By the close of 2012, JConnect engaged 3,500 annually Jewish young professionals in significant programs, reached an additional 5,000 with occasional programming, and thousands more weekly via email and social media.
National recognition for innovation and impact
JConnect’s success and viability were recognized nationally by the Forward, Jewish Federations of North America, National Jewish Outreach Program, Jewish Journal and others as community game-changers and leader in how the American Jewish community chooses to engage Jewish young professionals.
In 2013, Cheston Mizel passed on leadership of JConnect to Joshua Kaplan and Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, and made a strategic decision to focus providing opportunities for meaningful, inspiring and inclusive community experiences to encourage healthy lifestyle on choices and to foster positive relationships. This includes immersion programming, singles and wellness programs and retreats, and expanding Shabbat Tent.