UpStart Launches ‘Change Accelerator’ in Chicago

Upstart Change Accelerator Chicago

UpStart Launches ‘Change Accelerator’ in Chicago to Bring Bold Jewish Ideas To Light 


What is UpStart in One Sentence?

ChiTribe goes straight to the source to learn more from Lynnley and Aleeza about their work with  UpStart. 

UpStart partners with the Jewish community’s boldest leaders to expand the picture of how Jews find meaning and how we come together.Whether someone is starting a new Jewish venture or reimagining what an existing one has to offer, UpStart gives them the entrepreneurial tools and network they need to build the Jewish community of the future. 

Exclusive with the Chicago Staff: Lynnley and Aleeza

Did you ever think you be working in the field of Jewish innovation?

LM: I studied bio in college so on the surface it seems like I am way off a certain career trajectory. However, in my role at UpStart, I am immersed in the concept of experimentation and testing out new ideas, which is not so far off from my science background. While I didn’t necessarily start off on this path, I think it makes a lot of sense that this is where my journey has taken me. 

AL: No.  I used to be a high school history and math teacher.  From there I moved into informal Jewish education, seeking opportunities to help young people see themselves as Jewish leaders.  That led me to further study in leadership and change management, and suddenly, here I was. I would never have imagined myself in this type of role back then, but looking backwards, my journey totally makes sense.  That’s the beauty of keeping an open mind through life. You often end up exactly where you should be, even if you didn’t know it from the start.

Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur or Jewish innovator?

LM: I am always seeking out opportunities to learn, both personally and professionally. I believe there is immense value to finding new connections between ideas that at first may seem unrelated. This is one lens that I like to think of innovation through; connecting the dots in a different, non-traditional way. 

AL: People often refer to themselves as serial entrepreneurs.  I am a serial INTRAPRENEUR. I have spent my life entrenched in the Jewish community’s legacy movements and institutions and what I love more than anything else is finding ways to make change from within, and help them change to meet the needs of the Jewish community of the future. 

What is Jewish Innovation?

LM: Innovation can be a tricky word and often conjures a very specific image in people’s minds of a Silicon Valley type. The way we like to think about innovation at UpStart is in terms of making change, whether that manifests as a new venture or a new offering at an existing institution. Anyone with a change-mindset can participate in this idea of “Jewish Innovation”. 

Why is this exciting field to be in?

LM: For me, it’s the people. There is so much passion and creativity in this field. The opportunity to work with folks who have the courage to challenge the status quo is inspiring to me. 

How is Chicago leading the way for the accelerator and Jewish ventures in general?

LM: Chicago is not always top of mind when people think about entrepreneurship,  but there is so much happening here. The impetus for expanding the Change Accelerator to 3 new cities is the success of the program in Chicago. We have a strong network of change-makers who are truly invested in reimagining what Jewish life could look like in Chicago. 

AL: And Chicago is also a great example of a community where old and new are coming together to create a robust ecosystem.  You see it in both the for profit and non-profit landscapes and the Jewish community is the same. This city is figuring out what it looks like for everyone to play in the sandbox together so that all needs are met and interest served.

How else can we get involved with UpStart?

LM: Let’s have coffee and figure it out! Send me an email at

There is still time left to apply to Cohort 3 of the Change Accelerator!


More about UpStart

UpStart partners with the Jewish community’s boldest leaders to expand the picture of how Jews find meaning and how we come together. Whether someone is starting a new Jewish venture or reimagining what an existing one has to offer, UpStart gives them the entrepreneurial tools and network they need to build the Jewish community of the future. UpStart is most well-known for their premier Venture Accelerator, as well as The Collaboratory, North America’s largest annual convening of Jewish community visionaries and catalyzers of change.Since its inception, the UpStart family of programs has fueled the impact of over 1,450 initiatives and trained nearly 3,200 of the Jewish community’s most inspiring leaders. Learn more

The program gave me a framework to think about a challenge through a different lens, to take risks and get outside of my comfort zone, but most importantly, it gave me the skills to make an impact in integrating and executing innovation within my organization. – Robyn Brenner, a participant in Chicago’s Change Accelerator

See Full Press Release Below!

On the heels of Chicago’s successful second cohort, UpStart is expanding its Change Accelerator program to 4 cities. As part of a widespread effort to support and cultivate change agents in Jewish institutions, , Denver, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area, will all benefit from this transformative program, with other locations to come. Over the course of six months, this experiential, highly-selective professional development program will empower a talented cohort of participants with the skills to identify and launch bold initiatives that meet their communities’ evolving needs. UpStart is bringing the same combination of practical skills and expert coaching that it’s known for with its flagship Venture Accelerator, as well as its robust network of change-leaders, to existing institutions within Jewish life. 

Across the established institutions that drive so much of Chicago’s Jewish life, individuals can play a pivotal role in creating vibrant opportunities for the Jewish community to connect. But too often, these potential change agents face obstacles, lacking the authority to test bold new ideas, the skills to gain buy-in across teams, and the supportive network to turn dreams into reality. UpStart’s Change Accelerator enables participants to spark culture change within their organizations, learn new methodologies to address a particular opportunity for redesign, and test a new program or project. As they shape their ideas, they are supported by a community of peers and expert coaches. 

With its third cohort about to launch, UpStart Chicago, is building on the success of the previous years and creating a vibrant cohort of leaders to move the needle on local challenges. Past participant organizations include JUF, OneTable, Northwestern Hillel, Temple Sholom, CJE Senior Life, JCFS, and more. 

Applications for this year’s groundbreaking program are currently open and will close on August 16. 


Learn more about UpStart on the ChiTribe Jewish Chicago Guide

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Rebecca Schwab

Rebecca Schwab

Rebecca creates best practices and executes marketing campaigns for Jewish organizations who are trying to reach the next generation of the Jewish community - specifically Millennials and Gen Z - through digital marketing, social media, online and in-person events.