YU Social Entrepreneurs Get a Boost

Neal’s Fund Helps Student Entrepreneurs Create Startups That Give Back

While all entrepreneurs and startups begin with a good idea, most are also driven by the bottom line. But at Yeshiva University, a new fund is enabling students to apply that hybrid of inspired innovation and business acumen to endeavors that seek to make a difference, not a profit.

Gabriel Simkin, left, and Daniel Benchimol, right, are student entrepreneurs whose startups received grants from Neal's Fund.
Gabriel Simkin, left, and Daniel Benchimol, right, are student entrepreneurs whose startups received grants from Neal’s Fund.

Called Neal’s Fund and established in memory of Neal Dublinsky ’84YC, the fund provides micro-grants to student social entrepreneurs founding startups that will benefit the broader Jewish and global communities.

Dublinsky grew up in Queens, New York, and graduated with honors from Yeshiva College before attending the New York University School of Law. In 1987, at the age of 24, he was diagnosed with advanced stage of lymphoma, just as he was beginning his career as a corporate attorney in Los Angeles, California. Despite medical setbacks, Dublinsky fought his illness and succeeded in living a full life for another 23 years, often providing support based on his own experiences to others struggling with cancer.

“Neal’s Fund allows our students to dream about changing the world through their creative and entrepreneurial ideas,” said Rabbi Kenneth Brander, vice president for university and community life at YU. “Neal cared very much about helping the world around him. This fund established by his family and friends is a very fitting tribute to his memory.”

The grants range from $1,000 to $2,000, with a maximum of $5,000 per project. Student proposals are judged on their uniqueness, creativity, projected impact and long-term vision by the Office of University and Community Life and a committee established by Harry Dublinsky, Neal’s brother.

“My brother lived most of his adult life as a cancer survivor and strongly believed in reaching out to help others,” said Harry. “The social mission of Neal’s Fund mirrors the life he led by training a new generation of communal leaders, teaching them to reach beyond the daled amot [four cubits] of their own communities to create positive change for the world while emphasizing the need for accountability and transparency in the process. Neal’s Fund pushes to the forefront these student entrepreneurs who are using their ideas not for commercial gain, but to better the world around them.”

The startups receiving grants from Neal’s Fund run the gamut from Tech4Life, an organization seeking to help impoverished communities achieve computer literacy, to Music Vs, a volunteer network forging relationships with hospital patients using the universal language of music as a point of connection.

“As college students infused with idealism and a passion for healing the world, we were frustrated with the limitations that our small budgets placed on our efforts,” said Joe Teplow ’16YC. “But we realized that while as individuals our power and impact is somewhat limited, pooling our time, energy, and money as a collective could truly make a difference.” Together with three friends, Teplow created Good St., an online community where participants commit to giving just a quarter each day to a handful of causes, pooling thousands of people’s pocket change into a donation with the potential to create real, impactful change. “We are so honored and excited to merit Neal’s Fund’s support in our journey to making Good St. the go-to place for doing good every single day—we’re rolling out exciting new programs, features, and events to help build a stronger, more powerful community here on the Street.”

Daniel Benchimol ’14SB, who recently moved to the United States from Argentina, conceived the idea for his organization, Enmunitos, after frustrating searches for online Torah learning in his native Spanish were unsuccessful. “I had very little time on my hands so I was searching online for short videos that would teach me something that I could take with me throughout my day and week,” he said. “The more time I spent searching, the less time I had to learn.” Benchimol suspected he was not alone: according to a study, close to half a million Jews around the world speak Spanish. He decided to take action.

“The goal is to bring Spanish-speaking Jews one step closer to their roots, with concise, professional-quality Torah videos that we believe can accomplish it,” said Benchimol. “We’re already making an impact—many well-known rabbis from Latin American countries are reaching out to us to collaborate on videos and we reach thousands of people each day with hopes to grow. Neal’s Fund believed in us and gave us the financial resources to make this idea a reality.”

Other recipients of Neal’s Fund include YU’s Counterpoint Israel program, a summer immersive service-learning initiative that works with at-risk Israeli youth in impoverished towns in Southern Israel, and Project Teach, founded by YU undergrads and students at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, which runs fun educational programming based on science and the humanities for hospitalized children and their families.

To learn more about Neal’s Fund or to make a donation, visit www.yu.edu/cjf/neals-fund.