- Beth deBeer
My Journey through Judaism and Impact Investing
I grew up in the suburbs of New York City. While much of what was on inside of my house was similar to my American neighbors, my father, who was born in Israel- wanted to pass onto me me the Jewish values he was raised with. He spoke to me only in Hebrew, sent me to Jewish Day School, and celebrated the Jewish holidays and customs.
From a young age, I had an awareness of a world beyond the street I lived on. I was instilled with the belief the world was in need of repair, and that part of life’s purpose is to make the world a better place. This concept of tikkun olam, manifested itself in different levels- from individual development to the world at large.
In third grade, I learned to memorize a phrase from lech lecha: לך-לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך אל-הארץ אשר אראך
“Go from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.”
The phrase took special meaning when I turned eighteen and moved away from home. I had a desire to explore the world and began to travel extensively. I travelled across Europe, South America, in Africa and in Asia. My experiences varied from learning traditional dancing and drumming in Ghana, volunteering in Ethiopia, to working with an NGO supporting Burmese refugees in Thailand. Navigating and adapting throughout diverse cultures, I was continually trying to understand more about how I could make a difference on the world around me.
What struck me most by my travels was that we have the resources to solve current global challenges. I was drawn to impact investment, as it made use of different sources of capital: financial, human, and social in order to bring about change. Empowering local communities and enabling markets, impact investment allows development through action and choice.
Impact Investment is a lens in which people can make decisions while considering the benefits of others beyond short-term personal financial return. It is a way of applying the Jewish value of “ךומכ ךערל תבהאו”- “love your neighbor as you love yourself”
My perspective towards Judaism and my role as an impact investment professional has been in a continual state of evolution. Applying a holistic approach of maximizing the “blended value” of economic, environmental and social factors in decision making- has allowed me to realize that my role and responsibilities as a Jew and as a business professional are intertwined. Just as traditional philanthropy and investing are synthesized in impact investment, my Jewish and professional life cannot exist separately.
The impact investment field is still in a nascent stage- and having spent the past month in Israel, I have been inspired by the Zionists and pioneers who created the Jewish state. Despite the risks and struggles, development has been tremendous in less than seventy years. Motivated by the spirit of Herzl- I am eager to see the potential of impact investing come into realization, and transform from ideas into action.