Ariel Constantinof was born in Israel and moved to Romania at the age of seven. He is a fulltime blogger and writer, loves riding his bicycle and taking photos. In 2013 he crowdfunded his first book in 24 hours.
Ariel recently participated in Schusterman Connection Point: OpportUNITY in Barcelona, Spain. As part of the Yesod collaboration among JDC, the Rothschild Foundation and Schusterman, the three-day gathering brought together young European Jews to network and learn together and discuss ways they could be catalysts for change in their home communities.
I will never forget my first Jewish camp. I was eleven years old and I was super scared of the big kids. They were so loud and so enthusiastic, singing all day long, running around, cheering in different languages.
I loved everything about it: the friends I made, the evening programs, the competitions...I actually can't really remember anything negative about it. The big kids proved to be cool and always took care of me and kids my age.
The only thing I hated about Jewish camp was the fact that I had to wait for a whole year before I could go back again. Every year, it would go by so fast and I would have such a long wait before I could go back.
Years passed and my Jewish identity grew more and more. Local non-Jewish friends knew that being Jewish was a big deal for me. Every summer vacation my friends would see me disappear for two weeks at camp—and I always came back smarter and happier. I would always show off the things I learned and they would be fascinated.
More years passed and before I knew it I was 17 years old. And that's when I realized that if I ever wanted to attend Jewish summer camp again, I had to come as a madrich (counselor).
I'm 24 now and for the past five summers I've attended the same summer camp as a madrich and all my local friends see me disappear and then appear again smarter and happier. I go there and I teach kids everything from Jewish history to facts about real life.
Friends always make fun of me and my entrepreneurial ways. They have even told me that they think I am a successful entrepreneur because I am Jewish. But I never saw it that way.
Until this past October when attended OpportUNITY in Barcelona, I didn't undestand just how connected my Jewish identity was to who I am as an entrepreneur and a community builder.
I realized that it is no coincidence that so many young Jews want to start a business. Like me, they have been inspired and supported by their Jewish community—maybe at summer camp or maybe elsewhere—and now they are ready to give back and create something of their own. In Barcelona, I realized how important Jewish community is to me now, and how important it's always been to my own development.
I was so excited to be a part of OpportUNITY because I have never had any formal business education. Everything I have tried as an entrepreneur has been self-taught, so I was eager to mix and mingle with other business-minded peers.
And what I've seen is that I'm not that special after all. All of us have natural skills for sparking change and creating business.
But what I loved most is the fact that we talked less about our resumes and more about happiness. We talked more about personal branding and less about "big brands." And most importantly, I got the chance to form a new community. I am now connected with at least four friends with whom I can connect, rely on and help as we continue to grow in our fields. That's, in short, my idea of a community.
I will never forget my first OpportUNITY. I feel like I've just discovered the new Jewish summer camp...for people my age. Now starts the waiting part once again.
The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.