Interfaith Community Engagement

Xavier university's Interfaith Community Engagement Blog

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"Fostering Innovation"

Blog Post #3 May 23, 2013

After a long day exploring the city of Old Jerusalem we found ourselves in an organization called PreseTense. The presentation was given by Guy Spigelman. Mr. Spigelman explained the mission and purpose of PresenTense in Jewish Communities with their lean sustainable models that provide entrepreneurs a successful way of maintaining their company. There are important values that make up the organization, the environment, social action, philosophy and science, and the arts. These core values are not only the reason behind helping a start-up for the financial benefits but for the benefits of the community as well. For example, PresenTense helped to start-up a company named EcoTech in which old computers are refurbished and are used for IT education. Another example was that of a man named David Kramer, his organization is called Shabbat TLV and the main reason behind it is to reestablish the traditions with networking at a  biweekly cultural experience. I was really inspired by this organization that is there to aid small companies and organizations. Their main purpose diverts from only making money to enrich the community with knowledge and drive. 

The following is their official website:

Rocio J. 

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Taking pictures while saving lives

Blog post #2 May 19 2013

On my previous blog post on May 16 Assaf Luxemburg lectured our group about Israel’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. One of the biggest weaknesses was the ability to develop start up companies into bigger companies. Today Given Imaging has proven that a start-up company is able to become an important Israeli born company. The most important development is the famous Pillcam. This camera is ingested by the patient and after it had been completed it travels through the esophagus, the small bowel or the colon to record data that is later analyzed by the physician. This company has over 5,000 centers worldwide that are using the technology. It’s nice to see that there are companies that are reaching to their fullest potential, expanding in to the world markets, and all with a great humanitarian vision. This proves that taking an even bigger risk is sometimes a good thing to do in order to demonstrate the potential of an innovative company like Given Imaging.

Rocio J.

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Assaf Luxemburg: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

Blogpost #1 Day 4 May 16, 2013

In the morning our group had the pleasure to meet Assaf Lxemburg. He gave us a lecture on the Start Up Nation and interestingly enough a SWOT analysis of Israel  As a marketing major I found this analysis to be quite helpful and insightful. It was also interesting that there’s been a very important correlation between yesterdays’ visit to the Ayalon Institute and the way of thinking in terms of business in Israel. At Ayalon we learned about the efforts to become an independent country, while the British were in control of the area. Groups of young women and men like those at the Kibbutz risked their lives by fabricating ammunition underground. How does this correlate to the business mindset? Mr. Luxemburg talked to us about how important innovation is to Israel, being the start-up nation that has adapted to a complicated environment, geopolitically speaking.  With only 8 million people, Israel has economically risen to the top. Unfortunately this group effort is divided in other sections making Israel vulnerable. Mr. Luxemburg presented us with an important weakness, low participation in workforce. Arab woman and Jewish Orthodox men are those who rarely participate in the economic effort of the country. Another weakness is the inequality in wealth distribution. Start-ups can also be a weakness and a strength at the same time as many owners sell their company and don’t see them develop into bigger companies. Israel is hopeful and innovation is key to solving the problems of the young Israeli nation. 

 Rocio J.

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Business with a spiritual spin at PresenTense - Tom Echelmeyer

While in Jerusalem, we visited what it known as a business accelerator called PresenTense. What a business accelerator does, just like the one we heard about at Technion, called BizTec, is provide training to potential Israeli entrpreneurs so that by the end of the training, they may be able to actually bring their ideas to fruition.  What struck me as most interesting with PresenTense though, was that it was a social entrepreneurship accelerator. Every idea that came out of that company was designed and built to help other people. That is a powerful message in and of itself. While there, we had the opportunity to engage our own creative ideas and eventually after some intense brainstorming, came up with two ideas. One being to open up a clothing resale shop that hires disadvantaged youth to help break the cycle of helplessness, and another to create urban gardens in surrounding areas to help create a more sustainable community, so that those who live on government handouts can provide themselves with their own food as well as other things. What really got me though, was everyone’s general level of interest into the activity. It really seemed to me that everyone was ready to get back to Cincinnati and get started on that project. It really showed to me that even 7000 miles away, Xavier’s Jesuit tradition of servitude comes alive and culminates with its excellent business curriculum to create something to help better the neighboring community. I myself was able to grow in terms of how I view social entrepreneurship because of this experience with PresenTense.

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Spiritual Growth at the Western Wall - Tom Echelmeyer

I think one of the most powerful moments for me on the trip was to be able to see the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Not being a spiritual person in any way, shape, or form, I really wasn’t expecting much spiritually from the visit, let alone the entire trip. When we got to the Western Wall plaza and I saw all these people, praying, talking, celebrating bar-mitzvahs, and the like, something spoke to me. Here is something that people have been coming to pray to for over 2000 years. Here is something that stands as THE foundation to one of the coolest faiths I’ve been exposed to, and I got to touch it. One of the holiest places in the world, and I placed my fingertips and then my forehead, and then my lips with a gentle kiss and a prayer to whatever it is I might have been praying to. It was such a powerful moment for me, and I was blown away by what I felt. I felt the same at the Church of the Annunciation, at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and even in our small group reflections every night during the trip. Something I could have never imagined would happen to me, happened to me. The Western Wall was absolutely breathtaking. Jerusalem was breathtaking.

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Letting It All Sink In Part 3 - Christian Perspective - Andrew Matsushita

The last part of this reflection is based on what I learned from Christianity.  This was probably the faith I learned the least about.  Having grown up Roman Catholic and gone to Catholic school my entire life, I knew a lot about the faith before going on this trip. 

I did learn more about the holy sites that Christians hold in high standards. It is interesting to see the sites that I grew up learning about.  All of the sites were extremely crowded.  I guess my reflection regarding Christianity can and should be compared between the two trips I did.  The last trip I went on was to Italy and Vatican City.  Both of the trips I went on are very special places for Christians.  But the Christian sites we visited were very different.  The ones in Italy were very empty and only had a few tourists.  Even Saint Peter’s Basilica was not extremely packed considering the size and capacity.  In contrast, every holy site we went to in Israel was packed to the limit.  It maybe because Jesus lived his life in current day Israel and not in Italy. 

But the reflection is on the tourists and their behaviors.  The Christians I saw seemed much more devout and seemed to have a higher form of reverence for the sites than in Italy.

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Letting It All SInk In Part 2 - Muslim Perspective - Andrew Matsushita

Continuing along with my previous post, I learned a lot about Islam.  However, I learned much more about Judaism. Regardless, I learned a lot about the Muslim faith.  There was one instance on the trip that really opened my eyes to the Muslim faith in Israel.  When we met with a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Kababir.

I found the speaker at this location to be very interesting.  He not only was a devote Muslim but did not necessarily follow the strict conservative practices of other Muslims.  He also presented the real side of the faith and not the faith that the media portrays in the news.  He really represented an interfaith community in his talk with us.  He talked about how Islam is often noted to be a violent religion because of its roots, when in reality Christianity and Judaism also have roots in violence.

I also found the way he raised his children to be remarkable. He said he did and was going to send his children to three different schools.  He said he would send them to a Christian, Jewish, and a Muslim school.  It was not only the fact that his children would be educated in all three religions but the fact that he would allow his children to decide which faith they wanted to be.

His overall message was seemed to be learn about the other faiths.  By learning about the other faiths, people are more likely to recognize the similarities in the faiths and not only notice the differences.  I learned that the three faiths are more alike than they are different

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Small Business is small business – Andrew Matsushita

While in Israel our group met with several speaker who help small business grow.  Having never taken a business course but owning my own Limited Liability Company (LLC), I learned a lot out what the next steps are for people who want to expand their companies and make them into large corporations and such.

My initial feelings before going to Israel was that small businesses in the United States would operate differently from the businesses in Israel.  My reasoning behind this thought was that since they are based in a completely different part of the world, they are constantly alert to war and invasion, the age of the country, etc.

But I was surprised to learn that they operate in the same way.  It would appear that business is business.  This really resonated when we met with a group that informed the group on how small businesses develop.  They noted that there were six steps toward becoming a company: routine, trigger, ideas, opportunities, planning, and startup.  Reflecting on my own company, I found it remarkable how my company aligned with these steps.


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Business + Military = Economic Success? - Andrew Matsushita

During our trip and some of our pre=trip sessions, we learned that every Israeli citizens at the age of 18 has to service in the military.  Women must serve at least two years and men must serve at least three years but can volunteer for more. But after their required years of service, they must remain in the reserve forces until they are in their early forties.  After their service, most Israelis will go on a few month vacation.  Upon returning from their vacation, many Israelis will go to university.


This required military service, based upon Start-Up Nation, is very crucial to the economic success. One thing that comes from their military service is the infrastructure of the business.  There is no hierarchal system in businesses, meaning that lower level employees can speak freely in to their superiors without fear of repercussions.  


Another thing that Israel benefits by having required military service is a universal understanding of the military.  This is beneficial when it comes to job interviews.  As stated in the Start-Up Nation and by numerous speakers in Israel, when you talk about what unit you served in the army the business is better able to place you in a situation where you are able to be successful.  This is very contrary from the United State military, very few people in business interviews understand what each unit in the military does.  And as stated in the Start-Up Nation, even after a military person explains what they did, the interviewer often asks if the person has any real experience. Which contributes to more problems.


Lastly, business gain a lot from previous military experience because in the military the soldiers have to make serious decisions and in a very short amount of time.  The best example of this was when the soldiers are in battle and have to make decisions about what to do, all while the bullets are flying.

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May 24 2013

May 24 2013

May 23rd was a physically exhausting day in the city of Jerusalem and today it was an emotional journey as our group visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial. Yad Vashem is a reminder of the historic atrocities that were committed against innocent people, the recognition of the heroes that saved lives by risking their own, and a great reminder of the strength that keeps a nation going. The feeling as I walked through the museum was electric as it was full of life, busy with visitors from all over the world and Israel itself. All the movement was sometimes distracting in the museum but there was one moment when everything just slowed down and that is when we walked toward the cattle car. It seemed as if everything just froze in time. At that moment our group paid respect to 6 Million humans that were murdered in front of the whole world. At the end of the visit one thought stuck on my mind and that was life. Yad Vashem is a memorial to life, and for the hopeful future of humankind..