Emily Freed, an organic farmer in Santa Cruz, will be traveling halfway around the globe this weekend seeking the community she feels is missing at home.
That community is the 150 entrepreneurs, techies, artists, filmmakers and cultural leaders from 29 countries who will be gathering June 26-30 in Jerusalem at the ROI Global Summit, a networking and professional development conference.
Freed, 40, is one of seven Bay Area participants in this year’s conference, which is sponsored by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.
Freed is owner/founder of the culinary salt blend company Farmer Freed. For her Sababa Salt blend of oregano, thyme and marjoram, she uses organic ingredients from California’s Central Coast. Freed donates 36 cents from every Sababa Salt purchase to her You Grow Girl program, which helps young Jewish female farmers attend conferences at food-focused organizations such as Urban Adamah and Hazon.
Freed has been in the ROI Community since 2007. She joined a 2014 contingent that traveled to Italy for the Terra Madre Salone del Gusto food program, where participants also built community by observing Shabbat in a local synagogue. This year, she’s been invited to present at the Jerusalem event, where she’s looking forward to teaching others how to grow herbs.
“I haven’t found a Jewish community that I connect with here in Santa Cruz,” Freed said, “so what’s really exciting to me about ROI is … I’m a member of this global Jewish community of social innovators and entrepreneurs. It’s rejuvenating.”
Other Bay Area summit participants include Karin Levi, who recently relocated to San Francisco from Israel, where she worked for Google on digital and social media projects. One of them, “Project Grandma Goes Online,” had 10,000 children teach older adults how to navigate the internet; San Francisco-based Justin Hefter, co-founder and CEO of Bandura Games, where Palestinian and Israeli partners create mobile video games to break down social barriers by having players from conflicting regions play as teammates; and Jennifer Goldman, a sixth-generation San Franciscan and daughter of philanthropists Doug and Lisa Goldman, who as founder and CEO of Springr is leveraging her family’s lessons in tikkun olam to create an app that shows users the effects of their transportation choices on the environment.
The ROI Community has more than 1,000 members in 58 countries, and has hosted nine summits since its inception in 2006. The group hosts skill-development classes, crowdfunding opportunities and community-building programs.
ROI also has distributed more than 1,700 microgrants to members including Freed, who used hers to pay for a design consultant who helped on a collaboration with the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
“I’m really grateful to be a member of ROI,” she said. “I couldn’t have done that on my own. Sierra is a big company.”
Freed said the ROI Community invests in people “whether they’re doing a current project or not,” and creates the energy that can lead to breakthroughs.
“(The conference brings) together a network of Jewish leaders from around the world to collaborate, mingle and get to know each other,” she said, “whether creative ideas come out of our time in Jerusalem next week, or if they happen five years down the road.”