Snow, Stories and Sundance Shabbat

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Jackie Hyland is a REALITY Adelante alumna and Director on Silicon Valley Bank’s global growth team. She is also launching a fund to invest in female tech founders in Latin America. 

How a heavy snowstorm gave Jackie and her team an unexpected opportunity to put the Shabbat in Sundance Shabbat. Artists, celebrities, chefs, entrepreneurs, filmmakers and musicians gathered to tell stories, inspire social change and pause from their daily lives.

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It was the snowstorm that Park City was waiting for this winter.

We arrived the opening weekend of Sundance to an uncharacteristic lack of snow in Utah — mountains bare, streets clean and sideways clear. Up until our Shabbat, we thought how easy it would be for guests to arrive to our beautiful venue at the St. Regis Deer Valley this year.

But, on Friday January 19th, that all changed.

The night of our Sundance Shabbat, incredible amounts of snow began to fall, lighting up the sky and covering the roads, creating both beautiful and chaotic moments for us and guests. My team and I decided that the situation was out of our hands and paused the start of the Shabbat given some of the transportation delays.

Turns out, the pause was just what we needed.

While we waited for all seventy guests to show up, the extra time allowed for individuals to get to know each other in a smaller setting. We discussed how even the best plans can turn on their head in an instant, but the magic shows up when the room is filled when inspiring people get together with big and open hearts.

Then, about an hour after originally planned, everyone arrived with questions and stories that let us all find a calm and peace with the snow forcefully blowing right outside our gathering. Our Shabbat theme was storytelling and social impact — we had entrepreneurs, filmmakers, artists, musicians, chefs and even a few celebrities (it was Sundance, after all). The organizers sought to recreate what we found on our REALITY trips and previous Shabbats: meet amazing people, find inspiration and rejuvenation away from the day to day hecticness of life and learn while celebrating Jewish culture and rituals.

The following guest speakers shared their stories with us. Amanda Pouchot, a serial entrepreneur, opened up about her career and life, including the lessons of being fearless in the midst of internal and external pressures and expectations. Hallie Applebaum (REALITY Women 17) and founder of Future of Women, told of her bold journey to create and amplify narratives of women from all around the world creating change. And John Trefry, a filmmaker who showcased one of the most powerful stories that we hadn’t heard about with his upcoming documentary Drain, asking about the historic low levels of the Great Lakes.

Conversation lingered on for a couple hours after the inspiring fireside chats and even though Sundance Shabbat ended, many of those there became weekend friends we ran into throughout the festival’s activities. The connections made and the stories shared continue beyond the event. Talks of storytelling around ventures and support and funding for projects and businesses all came from the event.

We continue to be inspired by the ritual of Shabbat, even more so in the midst of a time of heavy snowfall and change. It brought strangers together through prayer, blessing, good food and great conversation to become a family for the weekend and beyond. 


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.