Yaara Cohen is a Rothschild Ambassador who graduated the second course held in Jerusalem and is perhaps THE exemplar of social activism in a professional career. Yaara, 29, born in Jerusalem and now living in Givatayim, holds her BA in Bible Studies and Education.
We’ll let her describe what concerns her these days.
Yaara, where do you work?
I work at PresenTense, an organization that promotes enterprises having social impact, with emphasis on the socio-geographic peripheries. In fact, we aim to create social impact through entrepreneurs or enterprises. For example, the enterprises we promote are of a social nature with local benefit. In Hura in the Negev, we have an enterprise accelerator where we support the entrepreneurs themselves. In any event, emphasis is on social impact, whether by supporting the initiative, or the population, that is, the initiators.
What’s the link between your sphere of studies and your professional track?
I graduated in Bible Studies and Education at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, the leading department for Bible Studies. It was important for me to study something with which I have emotional affinity, and which also interests me. A professional application was not the raison d’etre when choosing my study track.
Did the RCP impact your life choices?
Of course, and I think the way was paved for me because I came to the program with a social background. The constellation of organizational activities is very significant, especially the tools I gained in the program. In my time there was no practical work (social activism on the part of Rothschild Ambassadors) but instead, we established initiatives. That directly impacted my social activism.
The demands of the program, in the positive sense, prepared me for the professional world, such as gaining soft skills (how to pitch, writing a work program for an initiative). In other words, I learned tools I wouldn’t have otherwise. Being constantly in touch with things happening in the field, as opposed to academia which focuses on the theoretical, taught me a great deal. The practical activities of identifying need and finding real time solutions is an experience that helped me understand the arena of social initiative much better. Every entrepreneur experiences the same difficulties, and working in the program’s framework taught me that. It helps me understand the entrepreneurs I facilitate now. I feel as though I myself am being an entrepreneur, otherwise there’s no way to understand those I’m facilitating.
What’s your current area of social activism?
Beyond collecting bottles for recycling… I view my professional work as a meaningful contribution to the social sphere. Because I’m in a professional position, my contribution to the social entrepreneur is far more impactful.
If you weren’t in Rothschild Ambassadors, where might we have currently found you?
If I wouldn’t have been part of the Ambassadors program, I don’t know what I’d be doing! Admittedly I had been involved in social doing before that, but the program makes you face realities in life: to show outcomes and not just theoretical achievements. The program demands results, and if you don’t develop, you don’t advance. I guess I would have found myself in hi-tech.
In your work, you support social enterprises initiated by private individuals. What prevents them from succeeding on their own?
At the Society and Economy Conference held by “The Marker,” a survey run by Ben Gurion University was presented which showed how Israelis believe that if they want to get something done here, they need to do it themselves. In fact that shows our stance towards the effect of government activities as an institution, and where Israelis position themselves relative to this stance. Racialism in Israel is a phenomenon that has to be erased. We need authentic meaningful diversity, manifesting in media, politics, academia and every sphere.
A word of friendly advice for ambassadors?
Ambassadors and graduates-to-be, maximize the very marrow of the program’s bones, take advantage of every single thing the program offers. It’s an incredible resource which contains diverse populations and therefore a diversity of options. The human capital and opportunities offered by the program are worth more than their weight in gold.