THE JCONNECT STORY 2002 – 2013
JConnect was founded by Cheston Mizel in 2002 to redefine 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. JConnect quickly grew into LA’s largest independent, grassroots organization for young adults offering 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, run by Rabbi Yonah and Rachel Bookstein, broadening the scope, demographics, and geography of its unique outreach.
Over the course of 10 years, JConnect dramatically expanded young adult participation in Jewish life in Los Angeles and regionally through creative programming, experiential learning, festival weekends, social media and entrepreneurship. JConnect offered opportunities for young adults to creatively engage and explore their Jewish identity and in the process shapes a dynamic and inclusive Jewish future. In addition, the combined organization serves 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, Jewish County Fair community harvest celebration, iFest positive campus Israel activism, Purimpalooza city-wide celebration, Days of Awesome High Holiday experience, and Night of Unity Annual Awards Gala.
By the close of 2012, JConnect engaged 3,500 annually Jewish young adults in significant programs, reached an additional 5,000 with occasional programming, and thousands more weekly via email and social media.
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 young Jews.
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 choices and to foster positive relationships. This includes immersion programming, singles and wellness programs and retreats, and expanding Shabbat Tent.