The Big Pivot


“The Big Pivot: The Secret Sauce of Founders”

Six exceptional entrepreneurs talk about the mindset that led them to success
6:00 PM Wine Reception, wine generously provided by Covenant Winery
7:00 PM Program in the JCHS Performing Arts Theater

At the Jewish Community High School of the Bay, 1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Parking available in the JCHS garage at 1227 Pierce Street.

Tickets: $20. Please visit EventBrite.


The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) announces the i2i: Integration & Innovation Forum on August 30 in the JCHS Performing Arts Theater. The event is the first in an ongoing series of thought-provoking conversations at JCHS designed to bring together machers and shakers of any age who are interested in engaging with innovative, inspiring and creative ideas.  

"The Big Pivot: The Secret Sauce of Founders," highlights six exceptional entrepreneurs whose inventive and flexible approach to founding their own businesses is marked by a willingness to be risk-takers who can fail forward, people who are on-the-fly problem-solvers guided by the desire to do what is right, not just what is easy.  Rabbi Sydney Mintz of Congregation Emanu-El brings her energy, wit and candor to moderating the conversation, which features JCHS Founder Noah Alper (Noah's Bagels), Maurice Kanbar (SKYY Vodka), Shmulik Fishman JCHS '06 (STRATIM Systems), Ezra Malmuth JCHS '06 & Jeremy Weiss JCHS '08 (Atlas Edibles), and Renée Torchio MacDonald JCHS '13 (Method & Madness Theatre Company). East Bay’s Covenant Winery will be featured in a wine and cheese reception at 6 pm, prior to the program at 7 pm.

Successful business ventures rarely spring forth fully realized from the start. The dialogue at the August 30 forum will engage with the question of how adaptability and responsiveness coupled with long term vision are crucial to success in an ever-faster paced world. From software to theatre, modern inventions to traditional businesses, the ability to push limits and go beyond surface values, take risks, and trust that you have the skill and agility to keep moving forward in any complex situation are qualities that educators strive to encourage in young entrepreneurs--qualities that innovators of an earlier generation already know. Deeper learning, fearless questioning, and empowering individuals to do good in the world are embedded in the nature of Jewish education and the personal stories of these four JCHS alumni and two long-time supporters of the school highlight the value of envisioning business ventures with a distinctly Jewish lens.

“At JCHS I learned to just try things and not be afraid of failure. I learned that my viewpoint was important,” says Renée Torchio MacDonald, co-founder of Method & Madness Theatre Company.

For Torchio, a graduate of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, the idea of trying to launch a classical theater company in the media-saturated environment of Los Angeles wasn’t crazy. It was instead a reminder that the voices of great playwrights of the past can continue to bring relevance and urgency to conversations about the important political and social questions of our time.

Of their years at JCHS, Atlas Edibles founders Ezra Malmuth and Jeremy Weiss note, “we were encouraged to challenge everything, to question everything. That’s an important value in Judaism. I learned that I should be proud of not being complacent and thinking differently about something, that I should try to stand out and do what is right.”

Thinking differently about quality kosher cannabis --not as a recreational vehicle, but as products that had the power to do good in the world--was the impetus for the creation of Atlas Edibles says Malmuth, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University and Weiss, who has worked in the Bay Area restaurant business for over a decade.

Having the flexibility to move quickly and get ahead of trends was key for Shmulik Fishman, founder and COO of STRATIM Systems (formerly Zirx). Launched as an initial idea for a consumer valet parking service, the $36.4 million startup quickly pivoted to vehicle fleet management when, like many consumer on-demand services, Zirx discovered that there was greater power in B2B.

“We found we really liked dealing with enterprise customers, and we realized that in the future the number of people who own a car themselves will go way down. We wanted to be on a wave of where the trend is going,” said Fishman in a 2016 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.

Not just leading the trend, but inventing marks the illustrious careers of entrepreneurs and philanthropists Maurice Kanbar and Noah Alper.  Alper, the founder of Noah’s Bagels started his Berkeley-based kosher bagel company in 1989 and saw it grow to 38 West Coast outlets before selling the company, the largest kosher retailer at the time, for $100 million in 1995. A co-founder of the Jewish Community High School, Alper’s approach to business is outlined in his 2009 book, Business Mensch.

“Mensch in Yiddish means a decent, upstanding individual. The fundamental message of my book is that doing good is good for business. These things are not mutually exclusive,” he said in 2011.

Doing it right and doing good are second nature for Maurice Kanbar, the inventor of everything from SKYY Vodka, to the D Fuzz comb, to the game Tangoes. Earlier this year, the San Francisco native announced that all profits for his premium vodka Blue Angel will be donated to charity, starting with LGBTQ causes.

Kanbar’s lifelong curiosity and drive to improve the world have spanned industries, and by his own account included many failures alongside inspiring successes.

“You learn more from a failure than a success — you learn to say, Don't do this again,” he said in a 2001 interview with the SF Weekly. “Let me say this. It doesn't affect my lifestyle to have some failures. It's a very important part of your education. As a matter of fact, to all young inventors I'd say, ‘Don't be discouraged.' The worst thing you could be is discouraged. Certainly not everything I've done has been a big success, but more of them have been than the failures, so I have been lucky.”
 i2i: Integration & Innovation Forum
“The Big Pivot: The Secret Sauce of Founders”

August 30, 2018
6:00 PM Wine Reception, wine generously provided by Covenant Winery
7:00 PM Program in the JCHS Performing Arts Theater

At the Jewish Community High School of the Bay, 1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Parking available in the JCHS garage at 1227 Pierce Street.

Jewish Community High School of the Bay
1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: 415.345.9777
The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.