Program gives a Jewish boost to rising entrepreneurs

Trying to raise venture capital for a Silicon Valley startup? Able to hum a few bars of “Oseh Shalom”? Then the 4-year-old Jews for Entrepreneurship program might be for you.

JFE was founded by Jenny Belotserkovsky and Michal Tavrovsky, two Bay Area residents who describe themselves as “social entrepreneurs.” (They were also the co-founders of an organization called Jews for Fun.)

The JFE program has brought together dozens of young Jewish techies and businesspeople — to find points of connection in the startup community and to learn pointers from the region’s best and brightest.

Jews for Entrepreneurship founders Jenny Belotserkovsky (left) and Michal Tavrovsky

The Russian-born Belotserkovsky, who lived in Israel before coming to the United States at age 11, said JFE was formed to take advantage of this area’s penchant for innovation, notably among Jews.

“There’s a lot of value to Jewish entrepreneurship,” she said. “[It] helps the community, brings innovation and can create a new platform.”

JFE works by recruiting a cohort of serious Jewish entrepreneurs at various stages of their companies’ development. The cohort meets regularly over the course of a year, attending workshops, mixers and lectures by Silicon Valley superstars.

JFE alumni have had success, Belotserkovsky noted, with 12 receiving funding for their companies, two having sold their companies and another two joining the Y Combinator, the legendary Silicon Valley seed funder responsible for Dropbox and Reddit.

“We brought in experts in entrepreneurship, investment and tax who know what it takes to build a successful company,” Belotserkovsky said. “In addition, [JFE] was based on a foundation that all of us were Jewish. That opened up another level of trust.”

David Weisburd, 27, belonged to the most recent cohort.  He is co-founder of, an online company that helps apartment seekers find a place to live. The Indiana native who moved to the Bay Area in 2009 said JFE was a big help as he developed his company.

“The most fascinating and unique aspects were getting the speakers and having access to them on an intimate level,” he said. “They open up without sugar coating, and talk about their experiences.”

Weisburd called sessions with executives from businesses such as GoodData, Accel Partners and BitTorrent “pragmatic” and “inspirational,” but said he enjoyed the social aspect, as well. Though most of the focus was on business, the one-time Jewish day school student relished the Jewish atmosphere at the gatherings and said all 12 participants became friends and allies.

Belotserkovsky (whose resume includes working in investor relations with a medical device startup) and Tavrovsky (who has experience in marketing and in the art world) do not run JFE and by themselves. They get help from a team of advisers and board members.

Jeremy Glassenberg, 28, is one of those lending a hand. He’s the head of product platform at Edmodo, a San Mateo–based online social network for schools. He said he especially enjoys helping young entrepreneurs master the art of the pitch: appealing to potential investors to go all in.

“I’ve worked with enough companies at the partner level to know how to pitch things,” he said. “I know what investors are looking for and I can tell when a pitch isn’t targeting the right demographic.”

Though Judaism takes a backseat to business at a typical JFE event, Belotserkovsky thinks Jewish values permeate the program and have helped participants get ahead.

“Right now they not only gain more traction, they gain an infinite amount of confidence,” she said.  “They gain a network, which is one of the most valuable things you can have in Silicon Valley.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.