Sophie Beren, founder and CEO of The Conversationalist, a non-partisan educational platform for Gen Z to have echo-chamber-breaking conversations on subjects like gun violence, health care, abortion, racism and climate change, was selected as one of the New York Jewish Week’s 36 to Watch (formerly 36 Under 36). This distinction honors leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making a difference in New York’s Jewish community. According to a recent profile in Forbes, The Conversationalist counts a community of more than 70,000 young people, reaching them through the “Gen Z Talk Show” and its digital network on the Geneva app. Beren lives in New York City.
For the full list of this year’s “36ers,” click here.
New York Jewish Week: Tell us about yourself and the work you do.
Beren: I was the only Jewish student in my grade in school growing up. I “followed the yellow brick road” all the way to the University of Pennsylvania, ready to immerse myself in Jewish life on campus. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by Jews in all aspects of college life, and still something was missing. I realized that I had taken for granted the environment I had grown up in Wichita, Kansas, when I was exposed to people from all walks of life. The walls of ignorance built up between us draw us further away from one another, causing us to revert to echo chambers of likeminded individuals on social media and IRL. This realization sparked my passion for dialogue and led me to found The Conversationalist.
What is a fun or surprising fact about you?
I’ve sung at the White House for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. I sang in the Penn Shabbatones, Penn’s premier Jewish a cappella group and we got to perform at the White House Hanukkah Party. You can find our music on Spotify!
How does your Jewish identity or experience influence your work?
Tikkun olam has always been such an important part of my identity as a Jew, which means to repair the world. I feel it is our responsibility as Jews to give back and try to solve the issues we see around us. I am on a mission to unify our generation, which to me means bringing people a bit closer together through conversation and connection. Right now, our world is shattered. We are incredibly polarized and we have become so far apart from one another, unwilling to even acknowledge people who differ from our own belief systems. The act of unifying and helping us all learn to coexist, feels like putting the puzzle back together. We all fit into the greater fabric of our shared humanity and we all deserve a seat at the table. Although the fabric might be frayed, we are weaving the tapestry back together, one conversation at a time.
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