Recently, the ROI Community announced $500,000 in project grants. These grants are meant to foster innovation and help advance projects in early to mid-stage development. We’ve decided to feature a number of these projects – we’ve already discussed Manuela Zoninsein and Agrigate, Talya Lev and Bat Kol, Videographer Sasha Perry and now we’re interviewing Maital Gutman. Maital’s presented at two Jewlicious Festivals but I really enjoyed this interview because she is fun and we did it at Taami over hummus! Ya gotta love that! Well YOU don’t, but I sure do…

CK: Maital Gutman, you’re here in Israel for the ROI conference…

Maital Gutman: That’s right!

…and right after the conference you’re flying to South Africa with Sasha Perry…

That’s right, a fellow ROIer

…and this is all thanks to an ROI grant you recently received for a project of yours. You want to tell us about your project?

Sure. A few years ago I spent 10 months in South Africa shooting a documentary film and the film brought me to this amazing art space/HIV education center. So if you can imagine in South Africa, there’s the white part of town and then on the outskirts where the black and what they call the “colored people” live. In this township there are tin shacks, unpaved roads, high unemployment, high rates of poverty, one of the highest HIV rates in the world. There’s also an art center, a sort of community center that you drive to, and it’s completely different than the rest of the landscape. It’s colorful and there are kids running around smiling. Their mission is to use art to educate themselves and the community about HIV.

I got a grant to go back to the center and teach them basic film making skills. They do a lot of dramas, they do a lot of paintings, they have computers, they have the tools – basically I was trying to connect to these Flip cameras and to teach them how to make videos and upload content online and talk about online distribution and share the amazing work that they are doing with the rest of the world.

This is in the Tikkun Olam track at ROI?

Yes, Tikkun Olam.

So how did you get hooked up with ROI?

I had a friend that went on ROI a few years ago and recommended it to me.


Aaron Small. When I heard about it, it sounded amazing! To be with 120 other your social entrepreneurs and activists from all over the world who were Jewish and passionate… where else could you get that?

Well it sure paid off! ROI has not only provided you with funding but also a videographer (Sasha) who is going to accompany you to South Africa!

Well the whole idea is that if we’re trying to be the next generation of leaders then we have to really build the connections now and what ROI is trying to emphasize is collaboration with other like-minded people. You can imagine that there are all these creative people, a lot of media people and I can even envision an ROI production company where you have access to all these skills and talents and you put them together and that’s what it’s done! Everybody in the industry will tell you that it’s who you know, andd we’re now getting to know each other and for our future projects we’re going to want to work together!

Any other collaborations that came up due to ROI?

Well, for instance like whenever we had issues at the Moishe House that I used to live in, it was nice to know that I could talk to Rebecca Carp, a fellow ROIer who lives in the Moishe House in Philadelphia, and tell her what was going on and seek her advice. That was amazing and incredibly helpful.

Liz Nord is another documentary film maker and we’ve talked about documentary film making over salsa, guacamole and drinks while giving each other encouragement. I think that we’re all as innovators doing work that sometimes feels like we’re doing it alone. To have a community of people that are doing similar work, even in different projects, but all working to try to make a difference – to have tht support network is invaluable.

I also got to present at Jewlicious thanks to Sasha. Two years ago I went to Jewlicious to screen my documentary film “Mechina” about 6 high school students getting ready to go to the army. I toured around with it in schools, colleges, synagogues – trying to show a positive and realistic image of Israelis. This year, thanks to Sasha, we put together a panel about being queer and Jewish, and I think it went really well!

It’s all part of this network of people who are passionate about being Jewish and finding their own way of expressing it, whether its by film or Tikkun Olam or whatever the case may be. To have other people to bounce ideas off or to connect with, it’s one of the best parts of being an ROIer.

And now you’re coming back to us in a couple months!

That’s right, Once I come back from South Africa I will be back in Israel for a year doing a Dorot Fellowship where I will basically be studying Hebrew, a little bit of Torah and I’ll do some sort of internship or community service project and I am hoping to do some sort of film/media/television project in Tel Aviv – I am already having a blast!

Did you enjoy your hummus?

The hummus at Taami was amazing! If anybody wants to know where there is amazing humus, ask David Abitbol!

Yoffi! Ok, well thanks very much for your time..

Thanks David!

You’re welcome!

About the author


Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.

1 Comment

  • G-d Bless the Child, That Has her own. To be a light and to shine, is one thing… but to shine bright and brighter, and do it within a community of like-minded people – and to have support – is an even greater slice of humble pie. Shine, shine, shine on.

    A spoon full of Hummus helps the world go ’round.