Engaging Emerging Jewish Professionals
Updated: Feb 24, 2020
By ESTHER D. KUSTANOWITZ from jewishjournal.com
Bradley Caro Cook founded Career Up Now to engage emerging professionals ages 18-26 through career advancement, unique experiences and social good.
He holds daily back-to-back meetings with potential partners, active collaborators, philanthropists and friends about their shared passions: entrepreneurship, Israel, Los Angeles and the Jewish people.
Born in Atlanta, Cook moved to Israel in 2012 and then returned to the United States, settling in Los Angeles in 2015. His limitless enthusiasm is a necessity, given the depth and breadth of his work. He also leads Birthright Israel trips; is an adviser for IsraAid; designed the Masa Innovation Forum; launched Women of Wisdom gender equity programs; and partnered with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for a healthcare and medicine cohort with support from Glazer Philanthropies, among other things.
Cook says Career Up Now has engaged 2,000 people in Los Angeles over the past three years and is growing its programs in Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco and Silicon Valley. And, yes, that “Caro” in his name is a nod to Rabbi Yosef Caro, the author of the “Shulchan Arukh,” the codification of Jewish law, and his ancestor.
Jewish Journal: You’re very proud of your connection to Rabbi Yosef Caro. How have you been impacted by this connection?
Bradley Caro Cook: I read the “Kitzur Shulchan Arukh” (the abbreviated code of Jewish law codified by Caro) and found such power in the words there that it lit up my soul. I felt this eternal, soulful connection to waking up with gratitude and saying Modeh Ani (the morning prayer). [After reading it] I had a direct link to my ancestor. It was like an angel came down and gave over that Torah and I was actually living it. My core motivation is to make an impact for the Jewish people and for Israel. Caro did so much good for the Jewish people and I’m using Career Up Now as a vehicle to bring good into the world.
JJ: What was the founding goal of Career Up Now? Has it changed?
BCC: Career Up Now was just focused on college students connecting with industry leaders. Now the question is how do we manage a community that’s over 3,000 people with just that one person? We’ve adopted an intentional community model through Hazon’s Hakhel three-year incubator initiative. We’re shifting the local bases and turning them into intentional communities at the intersection of career advancement, Jewish learning and mentorship.
Growth hacking is a strategy used by high-tech companies to rapidly acquire new users for their products. It’s worked so well for them, I decided that we should use this approach to strengthen Jewish engagement.
JJ: Can you share an example of a successful Career Up Now project?
BCC: We got a grant from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to do a cohort in Beverly Hills at the intersection of civic responsibility and applied Jewish wisdom. The project that came out from the student leaders of that cohort is what is now the City of Beverly Hills Entrepreneurship Incubator. Now we’re in our fourth cohort.
JJ: What is growth hacking and how have you used it to grow Career Up Now?
BCC: Growth hacking is a strategy used by high-tech companies to rapidly acquire new users for their products. It’s worked so well for them, I decided that we should use this approach to strengthen Jewish engagement. I first dabbled in growth hacking when I created a program for Birthrighters to extend [their time] in Israel to have informational interviews with Israeli industry leaders. I had three months to recruit 200 mentors. I sent hundreds of LinkedIn messages and recruited 300 industry leaders within a month and a half. That program was adapted to a U.S.-based program and became Career Up Now.
When I arrived in L.A., I knew no one and had to recruit 150 industry leaders in a three-month period for a micro-grant we received from the Jewish Federation. I put on my growth hacker hoodie, jumped on LinkedIn to see who was interested in serving on nonprofit boards, wrote advanced Boolean searches to see who was Jewish and got a 25% positive response rate. I’ve been able to recruit 1,600 members to join as mentors. Now I have organizations asking me locally and globally if I can do the same thing for them. It’s opened up a lot of doors to collaborate and do good.
JJ: As Career Up Now’s sole full-time staff person, how do you find time to oversee all of these initiatives?
BCC: I have to give credit to my co-founder, Rabbi Adam Grossman, who operates quietly part time behind the scenes, and my wife, Tanya Freeman, who coaches local communities. The truth is, it’s my disability that enables me to do so much. I was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) at 5 years old. So, I rely a lot on technology and automation to streamline what I do. The key for me is to stay occupied in many different things and devote small periods of time to each. I operate by jumping from project to project to project, working quickly and getting it all done.
JJ: What’s changed for you since you started Career Up Now?
BCC: My mission and vision is: How can I impact millions of people in a positive way? So now I’m creating technologies around how to help Jewish and Israeli nonprofits through growth hacking. I made a promise to God that I’d dedicate the rest of my life to serving the Jewish people and Israel, and our people need help.
JJ: How do you measure the impact of Career Up Now?
BCC: We measure impact by surveying how our community members incorporate Jewish wisdom into their lives and how they interact with the Jewish community. One student from our environmental and sustainability cohort, who self-identified as having “no current Jewish engagement,” wrote, “I learned at CUN that the value of not taking credit for what’s good was a Jewish value. That’s what every day guides my environmental engineering work. Now every day when I’m at work, I feel I’m Jewish all the time, and that’s a huge statement as an atheist of Jewish descent.”
Because of his time with CUN, he’s holistically pursuing his passions through his Judaism. Through growth hacking, we are able to engage those deemed unreachable and have an immediate impact on Jews who now feel connected Jewishly. And that’s huge. We hope to work with more Jewish organizations on this approach. It’s very effective and easy to do.