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Investors fuel new Web company to help Jewish organizations’ online presence

first_imgWhile a lethargic economy takes a toll on the membership rolls and financial stability of Jewish organizations, a group of investors is providing $1.5 million to a website development and hosting startup committed to helping these groups survive and thrive by strategically embracing web technology.Jvillage Network, a mission-driven, for-profit company in Burlington, VT, engages and grows the membership communities of synagogues and Jewish community organizations by designing, building and hosting customized websites with content and features enabling member outreach and encouraging member interactivity. The company creates long-term relationships with clients to build community through a robust, sustainable web presence. It employs a dozen in Burlington.‘We see a critical need in this arena and have been able to quickly convert our vision for a solution into an important asset for the Jewish community,’ said Yoram Samets, Jvillage Network founder, who, along with his wife Linda Kelliher Samets, is one of the company’s principal investors. ‘There is a need for grassroots Jewish organizations ‘ synagogues, JCCs, day schools, camps and others most often the first entry point for Jewish involvement ‘ to be more fully equipped to reach and engage existing and potential members through 21st century means. Their survival, and that of the broader community, demands this.’Samets, managing director of a prominent marketing and branding firm (Kelliher Samets Volk) based in New York, Boston and Burlington, VT, a blogger on Jewish community building through technology, and an activist in Jewish and Israeli causes locally and nationally, created Jvillage Network last year to enhance Jewish organizations’ websites and strengthen capacity to leverage technology.Four additional prominent Jewish investors share Samets’ passion for the vibrancy and continuity of grassroots Jewish organizations. They have joined him to fund Jvillage Network, its new state-of-the-art website platform and a team of technology experts working to meet the needs of synagogues, day schools, camps, and other local Jewish organizations.Additional investors: Behrman House Publishers, the Jewish educational publishing firm based in Springfield, NJ, whose president, David Behrman, has joined the Jvillage Network board; Paul Growald, executive producer at Netsaco, LLC in Burlington, VT; Evan Hackel, president of Ingage Consulting in Woburn, MA; and Mitch Knisbacher, founder of 800response in Burlington, VT.‘For too long, congregations have relied on old, early-stage digital technology,’ said Behrman. ‘Now they can use the latest technology to strengthen the bonds of community and to attract and build membership.‘Congregations can avoid the expensive trap of having to bolt on new technology to old, legacy systems and instead move to a fully digital platform that is laser-focused on congregational and Jewish life. I am thrilled to be able to participate in bringing 21st century technology to the task of building and enhancing Jewish community.’To measure the technological expertise of one of their primary targets ‘ synagogues – Jvillage Network commissioned an independent online survey of 2,500 synagogue website administrators to learn about their online goals, communications, digital transactional needs and level of online performance.The survey, conducted this past summer by Flint Springs Associates, revealed that while most synagogues are actively using the Internet through websites and social media, more than half believe their synagogues are not making full strategic use of the web to engage members.As of Oct. 1, Jvillage Network has grown its membership, or client, base to include 58 Jewish organizations and is on track to meet its year-end goal of 90.‘Our website design is about a decade old, exists on an outdated platform, is difficult to maintain, and is generally just not helping us to meet the information-rich challenges and demands of the present,’ said David Bernstein, a member of the marketing committee at Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, CA, which has engaged Jvillage Network for a new website that will go live this month. ‘Our community is excited about the fresh, relevant content that will be present on our new site, and a much-enhanced functionality that will allow for active engagement. I expect this will be of great benefit to the cohesiveness and growth of our community.’In addition to providing current, compelling and personalized Jewish content, Jvillage Network offers member organizations features to help them engage and inform their online communities. These include easy content management, search engine optimization capabilities, interactive calendars, personalized member profiles, internal social networking, blog platforms and the ability to RSVP and make payments and donations online.‘It is energizing when a new Jvillage Network synagogue site goes live and can offer online visitors a calendar of current events and programs, information about how to celebrate the Jewish new year and other holidays, how to interact with synagogue officials, Jewish-focused content and the latest news from Israel,’ Samets said.‘That is community, and today it has to happen online and virtually, as well as in the synagogue. If our websites are engaging, timely and heavy with information and resources and interactivity, members and potential members will see the value of not only the site, but the institution and the community.’Jvillage Network’s professional staff understands and has a passion for both the Jewish communal and technology worlds and works with Jvillage members to create customized websites.‘We all live in a digital world that provides a breakthrough opening for synagogues and other Jewish organizations to expand beyond bricks and mortar to create community and belonging,’ said Mike Kanarick, Jvillage Network president, who is a former synagogue executive director and lay leader. ‘We must meet the members of our Jewish organizations where they are spending time ‘ in the online space ‘ by expanding to a much larger footprint for engaging our members and growing our communities.’Jvillage Network is helping community-based Jewish institutions attain an online sophistication and effect on par with the largest national and international organizations ‘ a necessity for their survival and Jewish continuity, and a solid, passion-driven business model, officials and investors said.‘In a period where investment dollars are scarce, we are discovering that investors will step forward when a compelling community need meets up with visionary leaders, smart and passionate professionals and a desire to make community building the viable mission of a business,’ Samets said. ‘Jewish community is that important.’Source: Jvillage Network. 10.04.2010 ‘ Burlington, VTlast_img read more

‘How I ride’

first_imgFile PhotoGulley hits his stride against West Virginia in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Gulley earned the game’s MVP award for his dominant showing, in which the Orange triumphed 38-14.And to prove that Gulley was not just growing on the field, he made changes off of it.If anything felt wrong, Smith said, Gulley was in the trainers’ room getting it checked out. Gulley says he still needs to have a social life, but his teammates say he’s cut it back since the stabbing.I think what helped him was that he was becoming older and it was younger guys he saw starting to go down the wrong path, and he wanted to be a mentor and help those guys out.Jerome SmithThe leadership role Gulley’s taken on — which SU’s coaches and players credit for helping him get on the right track — has been evident with the running back groups leading up to the season.In the film room, junior George Morris II has learned from Gulley’s experiences with different offenses. At Fort Drum, freshman Ervin Philips roomed with the fifth-year senior and Gulley instructed the newcomer to learn from his mistakes.Senior Adonis Ameen-Moore has seen past SU tailbacks grow into role models and said Gulley’s not only embraced that tradition, but has added to it. Junior Devante McFarlane called Gulley the group’s “big brother.”“It’s great, because his work ethic has matched his words,” running backs coach DeAndre Smith said. “He’s the first one who’s always starting out series, so he’s doing that and they follow that lead.” This is placeholder text Advertisement File PhotoGulley carries the ball during Syracuse’s 21-17 win over Minnesota in the Texas Bowl last December.Gulley, a two-star prospect out of Akron, Ohio, was one of six running backs in SU’s recruiting Class of 2010.Only he and fellow freshman Jerome Smith cracked the Orange’s roster as tailbacks, but Gulley came in with an abundance of ambition — maybe too much.Man, he was loud. He was kind of a loose cannon, man. He was young and he already wanted to be the starter. He had immaturity and things like everyone else, but it was just all him wanting to make it happen and be one of the big programs.Jerome Smith, who left SU for the NFL after leading SU in rushing in 2012 and 2013But there was some growing up to do, and it took a near-death experience before his sophomore year to get that process rolling.At a South Campus party on July 29, 2011, Gulley was stabbed several times. The wounds missed his kidney and spine by an inch each. A 19-year-old Syracuse man was later arrested and charged with the stabbing.Gulley spent the night at Upstate University Hospital and, with no internal bleeding, was released the next day having narrowly eluded a disaster.Once the season started, Gulley was Antwon Bailey’s primary backup. Through the Orange’s first four games, Gulley rushed for 89 yards on 18 carries before Smith, a fellow sophomore, had even seen the backfield.But those were the only four games Gulley would play all year. He was hesitant to see the SU trainers about the sharp pain in his left shoulder, hoping it would feel better on its own.But the ache became unbearable, and it turned out to be a season-ending broken collarbone he had suffered against Toledo in Week 4.“For a guy like Tyson, football is his life. I knew it really hurt him,” Smith said of the missed time. “I knew when he got back he would come back with a full head of steam and ready to roll.”He did, racking up 830 yards on the ground and nine touchdowns while taking 69 fewer carries than Smith, who reached the end zone just three times while surpassing 1,000 yards on the season in 2012.Smith and Gulley’s rushing prowess reached its peak in the snowy 2012 Pinstripe Bowl against favored West Virginia. Smith chipped in 152 yards on the ground, but it was Gulley who stole the show and the MVP award with 213 rushing yards and two touchdowns, plus 56 receiving yards and another score through the air as SU rolled past the Mountaineers, 38-14. Margaret Lin | Photo EditorAs the Orange cranks up its offensive tempo and looks to discover which of its 13 receivers and seven tight ends will best fit the scheme, Gulley is the steadiest option in the run game.With lightning speed and the ability to seamlessly reverse direction, he’s one of the fastest weapons on an offense that hopes to move at such a pace.With the spread attack also opening the middle of the field for the run game, his four-year wait to become Syracuse’s feature back may have yielded the best possible scenario for him.Patience is very key. I waited my turn. I feel like this is the perfect timing and actually, this is the best offense that I’ve played in since my junior season.Prince-Tyson GulleyThe short haircut Gulley tried last year is long gone. His long hair is back, because that’s who he is.“This is me. That’s just how I ride,” he said.He had a down year in 2013, missing two games with an ankle sprain and not scoring in any of SU’s last seven games. That was the latest drop in Gulley’s roller-coaster college career.Shafer informing him of his captaincy was the next change in direction.Now it’s Gulley’s job to keep running down that path.“He just told me that the work starts now,” Gulleysaid. “‘You’ve already been working hard but now that you’re a captain, we’re looking for more from you. So you’ve got to lead by example.’“So that’s what I’m doing.”Read next: Never ending story: With Syracuse’s all-around attack quickening, the Orange is insisting its tight ends evolve and keep up Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Three years ago, Prince-Tyson Gulley lay in a hospital bed for an entire July night.The young running back had just survived a stabbing and a transformation was underway. A season-ending injury would end the upcoming season just four games in, but he had started down the road to maturation.“It was life-changing. But I honestly felt like that built me into the person that I am today. I wish it didn’t happen,” Gulley said of the stabbing. “But when it happened, I started seeing stuff a little bit more clearly. Now I understand what I really have to do and I get away from the foolishness now.“I definitely had to mature from there. You can’t take life for granted.”With a refined outlook on life, Gulley’s tumultuous Syracuse career is on another upswing. It’s been a journey that includes being stabbed at a South Campus party and winning a Pinstripe Bowl MVP,  suffering a broken collarbone that sidelined him for most of the 2011 season and rushing for 830 yards in 2012 as the Orange’s No. 2 back.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textNow, the tailback hopes to spearhead the rushing attack of Syracuse’s new-look, up-tempo offense after waiting four years to be the feature back. Gulley enters his fifth year as not only the vocal leader of the running backs, but as a captain, selected by his teammates toward the end of training camp.“He had some ups and downs in figuring out the way when he was a young man here,” SU head coach Scott Shafer said. “And then the last two years he’s really grown. Last year, he actually had a lot of votes and it didn’t surprise me that he was elected captain (this year).” Gulley overcomes difficult start to SU career to emerge as team captain, feature back in senior season Published on August 27, 2014 at 11:56 pm Contact Phil: [email protected] | @PhilDAbb Cancel replyYou must be logged in to post a comment.last_img read more