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    Fellows Luncheon 2015

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    Photos: Awards 2015

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    When You Give David Lynch A Hammer…

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    Press Release: 6th Annual Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards

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    VIDEO: TDIA Profiled on HLN

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    Featured Photo: Sputnik at TDIA

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    Rick Rubin, Kanye West and Mark Romanek Team Up for 808 Acceptance Speech Video That Rocks Tribeca

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    Jack Dorsey Debuts Square at the First Annual Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards, 2010


Congratulations to our Fearless Moderator Perri Peltz on her New Film

By Craig Hatkoff

Here’s a piece I’d like everyone to read. And watch the video. It’s a piece Irwin did about Perri Peltz’s latest film. 

Below article “Getting Real About the Black Experience” originally published by Irwin Kula on The Wisdom Daily, May 21, 2015


I was in Baltimore this past weekend for the bar mitzvah of my close friend’s grandson. The site of our last racial hot zone, Baltimore is still reeling from the recent unrest over Freddie Gray’s death (tourism is reportedly down; some students are turning down Baltimore universities where they’ve been accepted for 2015-’16), while at the same time, people I spoke with repeatedly told me things are returning “back to normal.”

But as I drove out of Baltimore, it struck me that I went an entire weekend without having a conversation with anyone Black. This isn’t actually surprising: Despite all the talk about our supposedly post-racial society, recent research demonstrates that only 1% of White Americans’ closest friends are Black – and 75% of Whites in this country don’t have a single good friend who is not White.

Race clearly still matters. We don’t have the luxury of feeling tired of the subject, after yet another voyeuristic, sensationalist 24/7 media streak covering yet another Black man unjustly killed (and the subsequent outrage). It’s our public discourse, which often devolves into the same old invectives about race and politics, that may be keeping White America from the first key thing we need to do, if we’re going to address this painful rip in the social fabric: We need to listen to young Black men.

In this five-minute video by Dr. Joe Brewster and Perri Peltz for the New York Times, “A Conversation about Growing Up Black,” African-American boys and men candidly talk about what it means to be a young Black man in a racially charged world. They explain how they feel when their parents try to shelter and prepare them for a world that’s often so unfair and biased. These boys and young men are NOT claiming to be victims. They’re just dealing with reality. But it behooves us to ask, What have we collectively done to a 10-year-old boy that he sees the need to promise he would never hurt anyone?

With studies indicating that unconscious racial bias can already be present in four-month-olds, it’s a good exercise for White listeners to ask: If we did not hear these “articulate,” “thoughtful,” “intelligent” men speaking from their hearts, would we stereotype them in just the ways they explain?

As we debate the headlines about young Black men dying and police brutality, from Baltimore to Ferguson to Staten Island to Cleveland, we need a conversation about race. One that takes us beyond the conservative call for personal responsibility (“pull yourselves up by the bootstraps”) and the deflective pivot of talking about Black-on-Black violence, on the one side, and beyond the liberal call to address structural, economic, political and legal inequities on the other. We need to dare to open up and listen to those most affected.

Curing the disease of racism is not about changing hardcore racists. It’s about the vast majority – the silent majority (most of us in this country) – understanding the lived experiences of our fellow human beings and citizens. Our minds are not changed because of intellectual arguments; as important as such arguments are, they come later. We change once we identify and empathize with the pain and the humanity of the other.

We need thousands of versions of this film. We need thousands of Americans not yelling and arguing about race, but (as modeled in this film) “witnessing”- sharing their stories in schools, houses of worship, community centers and on social media. New solutions will not emerge from ideological debates, but from stories that open minds.

Our moral horizon on race has expanded over the past decades. The next level – addressing our unconscious bias and finding new solutions to insure equality in all its implications – will not result from predictable ideological debates. Rather, it will require transforming hearts. Stories transform hearts.

Innovating Race in America by Rabbi Irwin Kula

Part of the #TENRABBIS blog by the rabbis at TDIA 2015. Originally posted on The Wisdom Daily

By Rabbi Irwin Kula

Do you know who Dixon White is? The proud, self-proclaimed “redneck” is a former racist – and a YouTube phenomenon. His viscerally honest, rough, intense, cuss-filled (NSFW), incredibly discomforting video “I’m a Redneck and I Love America” has already gone viral with millions of views.

In the clip, he picks apart “a White supremacist culture that caters to White people,” calls for Americans who aren’t people of color to “reject White privilege” and “to take some responsibility for undoing racism.” And he rails against hollow claims that we live in a post-racial society.

In his words: “I woke up in the morning and I just thought, you know what? I don’t care how I look. I don’t care how fat I am. I’m gonna put my big, country, fat face on this smartphone, I’m gonna get in my truck where the acoustics are good, and I’m going to talk from my heart how I feel about race.”

I had the privilege of introducing Dixon White at the “Anti-Summit” of the Tribeca Disruption Innovation Awards, sponsored by the Disruptor Foundation (of which I’m a co-founder with Harvard Business School’s Clay Christensen, originator of Disruptive Innovation theory, and entrepreneur Craig Hatkoff, who co-founded the Tribeca Film Festival). Our Anti-Summit was a wild, unscripted gathering of some 40+ “Do Tanks” – unscripted, unrehearsed dialogues, joining leaders at all levels, innovators and inventors, designers and developers, makers and marketers, inventors and disruptors, all focused on designing a better world.

Dixon White, whose real name is Jorge Moran, grew up in a small Tennessee town dropping the N-word and espousing racist beliefs. (“It’s how I was raised. I was taught that.”) But at college in Savannah, Ga., the experience of witnessed his African-American roommate be repeatedly harassed and arrested by local police infuriated him. “What I saw him go through was heartbreaking,” he says. “I made an oath with myself and with God that I was not gonna be a product of my environment, and that I was gonna strive to reprogram myself with the truth.”

In a moment in which we understand race matters and tensions about racial inequality have intensified, we do need our experts on the topic – our political scientists, sociologists, politicians, legal experts and human rights activists. But we also need to disrupt the existing marketplace of top-down authorities, and engage in a bottom-up conversation about race. We need innovation applied to race in America.

Dixon White is a disruptive racial innovator.

In response to his videos going viral, White launched a social media challenge – Dixon’s racial healing challenge – so people can post their own videos describing their racialized experiences, and how they’re fighting to overcome the systemic racism that permeates American culture.

The response has been overwhelming. Everyday, with unusual candor and humanity, new people are posting their own videos about their awakening to the realities of racism, and publicly declaring they will stand against discrimination.

Racism is deeply embedded in every layer of our society. It will require major effort, well beyond the political and legal, to transform things. Innovating race relations will require that we crawl into how people tick – beginning with our own embedded racial biases. Like this honest online celebrity, we need to listen, learn, and we need to believe what people of color tell us about their lives in America.

Can we crowdsource authentic dialogue about race – the sort of conversations we don’t often have, but need? Dixon White has modeled the conversation, not by blaming and accusing others, but with trenchant and truthful self-critique.

A “redneck” star has been born!


Our TDIA 2015 Opening Video

Wheelz onstage at TDIA. Photo: Andrew Federman

Wheelz onstage at TDIA. Photo: Andrew Federman

Proud to present the Opening Video shown at the live 2015 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards, April 24th.

Our opener features clips of extreme athlete Aaron “Wheelz” Fotheringham, one of this year’s Honorees and also a Disruptor Foundation Fellow, from an original video by Devin Supertramp — truly capturing both Aaron’s spirit and the spirit of the Awards.



Sacred Community and Disruptive Innovation: guest post by Rabbi Joshua Stanton

By Rabbi Joshua Stanton

There was an unlikely group present for the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards: ten rabbis. This cohort, of which I was fortunate to be a part, was present through the Rabbis Without Borders program of CLAL. There was an unspoken but invaluable question for me as one of the few clergy among the attendees: can religious communities survive disruptive innovation?

Perhaps ironically, our very presence as standard-bearers of a religion that predates the Bronze Age was itself disruptive to the 800 participants, largely from across high tech, financial, governmental, and entrepreneurial sectors. In my mind, being a disruptive presence led to some of the most energizing dialogues and discussions that I’ve had as a rabbi – and hopefully for our interlocutors, as well.

What seemed evident to many of my fellow rabbis was just how much technological and related social change means for our communities and how much it is already forcing a re-articulation of religion and the institutions that undergird it. We need new terms, new ideas, and as Rabbi Irwin Kula aptly put it, better religious research and development (R&D) to guide calculated risk-taking. Otherwise, we risk stagnation, which is an existential threat in an era of rapid social change.

A key challenge facing many religions is the notion of community itself. When individuals can personalize, customize, and adapt just about everything in their lives, how are we to uphold communal standards or live out communal values?

A vivid session with top-flight marketing professionals from international brands, entitled “Brand Experience: Big Wisdom or Big Data?” provided the corporate corollary to this question. It highlighted the extent to which a shift towards individualism and free thinking is forcing changes in the marketplace. As Manoj Fenelon of Pepsi expressed, there has been a profound shift from “marketing” to “advocacy.” The former involves relaying messages to a willing cohort. The latter involves interacting with and convincing individuals to do something and to join a larger cohort of consumers. The former presumes a shared identity, while the latter presumes a high degree of personal latitude and the need to be persuaded as an individual.

Many religious leaders crow that renewed individualism is tantamount to renewed narcissism. This critique might not be entirely misplaced. But these private sector marketing experts who graced us with their insights were not suggesting the inability to connect with anyone but the individual or the obsolescence of communal identity. Instead, they were underscoring the need to emphasize individualism and view a group as a composite of individuals who come together or emerge for a shared purpose. To be sure, our religious traditions see significant benefits to enduring communities that live out ideals and reinforce shared values as a collective. But so too have we long embraced individualism, even within a communal setting.

These marketing experts were not indicating an end to group connection, but underscoring an end to the kind of ‘broadband’ approach that acts under the assumption that people will join or remain parts of communities simply because they are told to or because their fellow community members receive the same messaging. Shared messaging does not translate into shared identity. Compelling ideas and precepts are the central draw for individuals to join and remain part of communities. The barriers to communal entry (and exit) have been reduced through new technology and the society being significantly reshaped by it.

Ten Rabbis at TDIA 2015. Photo by Hannah Hunter, Tribeca Film Festival

Ten Rabbis at TDIA 2015. Photo by Hannah Hunter, Tribeca Film Festival

To be sure, the parallels between the private sector and the life of religious communities are imperfect. But the individuals who drive change within both are undergoing similar changes in mindset, in response to similar changes in the way we live. If anything, the disruptions in our life and our world are forcing us to clarify our missions and the values that draw us together. People are drawn together more than ever before by ideas. But what is religion itself, other than a vehicle through which to lead a good life, reinforced by community, and based on central ideas about humanity, our world, and eternal questions that guide our search? Religion, too, is driven by ideas.

What stood out to me most as an unlikely participant in the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards was not merely the vulnerability of religion in this time of social change, but the strength of religion if it remains attuned to the change and disruption taking place all around it. So long as religious ideas are compelling, so too will be our religious community. So long as religious ideas are out of touch, or unresponsive to social change, so too will be our religious communities.

We are entering a time of R&D driven community. We are entering a time of R&D driven religion.

About Rabbi Joshua Stanton:

Rabbi Joshua Stanton feels blessed to serve as an Assistant Rabbi at Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, New Jersey. He likewise is a co-founder of Tribe, a group for young Jewish professionals in New York, and serves as one of the representatives from the Central Conference of American Rabbis to the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, which liaises with the Vatican and other international religious bodies.

Previously, Josh served as Associate Director of the Center for Global Judaism at Hebrew College and Director of Communications for the Coexist Foundation. He was a Founding co-Editor of the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, as well as O.N. Scripture — The Torah, a weekly online Torah commentary featured on the Huffington Post and the Ethical Jamcolumn in the Times of Israel. 

Josh was one of just six finalists worldwide for the 2012 Coexist Prize and was additionally highlighted by the Coexist Forum as “one of the foremost Jewish and interreligious bloggers in the world.” In 2011, the Huffington Post named him one of the “best Jewish voices on Twitter.” The Huffington Post also selected two organizations he helped found as exemplary of those which effectively “have taken their positive interfaith message online.” Recently, Odyssey Networks noted him as “one of America’s most dynamic Jewish authors.” 

Photos: Awards 2015

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Photography credit: Andrew Federman


By Craig Hatkoff

Two years ago at the Awards, Clay Christensen issued a call to action for everyone in attendance; Clay in his remarks exhorted that “we desperately need to disrupt religion, parenting and terrorism!” We took Clay’s call to action quite seriously particularly with regard to religion. Last year Pope Francis received our Adam Smith Prize presented by the Harvard Business Review; his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium was our book of the year. We also introduced a disruptive religious innovation: the smashing of the glass by Disruptor Foundation co-founder and co-conspirator Rabbi Irwin Kula who was joined on stage by 2010 Honoree Eric Raymond, the legendary author of “The Cathedral and the Bazaar.” Together they smashed the glass traditionally performed at Jewish weddings. It just so happens that Eric is a self-described pagan-shaman-atheist so the irony and the symbolism was not lost the audience.

I had entreatied Irwin to invite ten of his most innovative rabbis both to the Anti-Summit and the Awards this year. Below is the first post from Rabbi Dan. Following on the heels of the Anti-Summit, I asked Irwin the night of the Awards if he could quickly convene the ten rabbis to join him for the smashing of the glass; the next morning seven rabbis (out of ten) showed up and kicked off ceremony without saying anything; a wordless sermon that spoke for itself. 

Meet #tenrabbis

– Craig Hatkoff

Rabbi Dan Ain breaks the glass

Rabbi Dan Ain breaks the glass

Below text by Rabbi Dan Ain. Originally posted on The Wisdom Daily:

So there I was last Friday morning on stage about to smash a glass in front of hundreds of people.

But this was no wedding.

It was part of an opening ceremony at the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards, which are sort of like the MTV VMAs but with a red hammer instead of the moon-man.  

These awards celebrate “those whose ideas have broken the mold to create significant impact.”
Winners present that morning included Shane Smith of Vice Media, Bill Simmons of Grantland, Brad Katsuyama of IEX, Reshma Saujani of Girls of Code, and a dozen other innovators and boundary pushers.

Irwin Kula — a co-founder of the awards and an eighth-generation rabbi who has spent a career upending expectations of what an eighth-generation rabbi should be — gathered a group of ten rabbis for the glass breaking as a “disruptive spiritual innovation” of which, Kula believes, many more are necessary.

Religion was a hot topic at the awards. It was a field singled out by keynote speaker Clayton Christensen as being in need of greater disruption, along with parenting (“Stop outsourcing!” he said) and how we confront terrorism. Christensen, who wrote “The Innovators Dilemma,” is the inspiration for the Awards and is responding to the increasing number of people (across faiths and denominations) who are fleeing traditional houses of worship to go off on their own spiritual exploration… or to not go at all.

My spiritual journey started the week after the Twin Towers fell. I fled my job as an attorney to pursue a life as a rabbi. My calling was to try and address the spiritual concerns of those for whom the late 20th Century models of Jewish expression are no longer compelling (if they ever were) — those who think it makes as much sense to observe in the fashions of our ancestors from 1765 Poland as it does those of 1985 Long Island.

I met Rabbi Morris Shapiro, a Holocaust survivor who, toward the end of his life, taught Talmud to would-be rabbis in the basement of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

“Why do it?” I asked. “After what you saw, why live an entire life as a rabbi?”

“Judaism rests on three things,” he replied. “God, Torah and Israel. I love Torah, I love the people of Israel… two out of three ain’t bad.”

But, two out of three was never enough for me.

Late 20th century Judaism held that Judaism could survive market and technological change by focusing on good management (the “rabbi-as-CEO” model) and an emphasis on listening to the needs of a changing and dynamic laity. But, genuine disruptive innovation (or inspiration) rarely comes about in that fashion. 

Christensen’s book puts forth the theory that well-managed firms fail to stay atop their industries precisely because they do those things that responsible firms should do – listen to their customers, invest in new technologies, etc… They cannot maintain their position of leadership because they cannot do the crazy irrational thing that will ultimately disrupt their industry. 

Every person who received an award came onstage and, one after the other, spoke of the need to buck the trends and the consultants, to stop asking what kind of products people want and, instead, to present them with possibilities that they never knew could exist. As our host, Perri Peltz, handed a hammer award to Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb, she wondered aloud how many people there must be who wished they had thought of Chesky’s idea first.

What all of these disruptors possessed was a deeply personal calling (or, if you prefer, drive) that could not be quantified or manufactured. 

Abraham, the original disruptive innovator, famously placed a hammer in the hand of the largest idol in his father’s storefront after smashing all of the other icons. A current retelling of that story would have Abraham as an Apple Genius who, when the manager returns to find all of the screens busted on the iPhones and iPads on display, says that the iWatch did it.

The most powerful protection that these innovators have, writes Christensen, is that as they “build the emerging markets for disruptive technologies… they are doing something that it simply does not make sense for the established leaders to do.”

In other words, if you wanted to genuinely disrupt religion — to serve the people who are no longer being served — you would have to be like Abraham and follow the voice that threatens to overturn the prevailing fashions and infrastructures.

A voice that calls you to a higher purpose. 

As Christensen teaches, it doesn’t always make sense for the existing structures to listen. But two out of three is running out of steam in this century.

As we went on stage, Kula handed me the red hammer to break the glass, saying: 

“You’ll need it.”

When You Give David Lynch A Hammer…

Last Friday at the sixth annual Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards, we honored filmmaker David Lynch for his work with the David Lynch Foundation, which has become a powerful force introducing Transcendental Meditation as a healing and stress-reducing program to hundreds of thousands of children and adults. We welcomed TM educator of 40 years and the Foundation’s Executive Director (and a Disruptor Foundation Fellow), Bob Roth, to accept on Lynch’s behalf when we heard that Lynch couldn’t make it to Awards.

So what happens when you DO give David Lynch a hammer? We sent one to him couple of weeks ago and hoped for a 30-second thank you video. What we got was an almost 5-minute short film voiced by Lynch and starring a Barbie doll–a little bit dreamlike, a little bit macabre…but blew away all the David Lynch devotees. One well-known TM expert in the audience commented: “Just brilliant! Absolutely brilliant.”  

You really have to think about the Barbie Doll/Trixie motif.  Heavy stuff..

 Take a look:

Turns out, we have a history of quirky acceptance videos where Honorees leave us speechless with their creativity instead of taping themselves giving a traditional speech… remember last years’ Kanye West/Rick Rubin mashup of clips and sounds (a tribute to the Roland-808 drum machine) directed by Mark Romanek? Rick Rubin also made us a video in 2012 reminiscent of a black and white silent film.

We can only imagine what we get next year…

Fran Lebowitz: Disruptor Foundation Fellow

Fran Lebowitz for difellows site

Fran Lebowitz lives in New York City where she divides her time.


Jay Walker — Lifetime Achievement Award

Jay Walker is the founder and chairman of LabTV, an innovative new video platform designed to encour…

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Robyn Shapiro — Director of Community, The Lowline

As Director of Community for the Lowline, Robyn Shapiro oversees strategic partnerships, production,…



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Fellows Luncheon 2015

Photography credit: Meredith Cohen…

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Congratulations to our Fearless Moderator Perri Peltz on her New Film

By Craig Hatkoff Here’s a piece I’d like everyone to read. And watch the video. It’s a pi…

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