City: San Francisco, CA

Passion: Education

Websitewww.lchaimsushi.com

Video: Fundraising Campaign

When I first contacted Alex, I assumed we'd meet up in a coffee shop to chat more about his passion for sustainability and education. Instead, he graciously invited me to his home in the Sunset district of San Francisco for a multi-course sushi lunch, which was absolutely delicious. He's a Rabbi, dedicated to his faith and his family but moreover he is a full-on community leader who knows that food brings people together. He saw an opportunity and has spent the last few months working in partnership with the A.I. Community, building the world's first Kosher sustainable sushi catering service, L'Chaim Sushi. Meet Rabbi Alex, who's recently returned from a spiritually-rejuvenating two weeks in Israel and is excited about L'chaim Sushi's tremendous growth yet even more excited about his community's budding growth and the chance to educate and inspire.

ON PASSION

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The passion of L’chaim Sushi came out of a desire to build relationships. I lead educational sessions about Jewish spirituality in people’s homes. A challenge I’ve encountered is that I follow a Kosher diet and most of my students do not. They often want to fully welcome me into their homes with open arms, but they can’t feed me. I wanted to be able to form relationships and not have the barrier of kosher standards, so I started making kosher sushi to bring to the weekly classes. My connection with students grew stronger as sushi became the backbone that fostered our relationships. Delicious food is the cornerstone of any social gathering. By sharing food with Kosher standards, my community and I grew closer in equally nourishing our bodies, minds, and spirits.

I realized that beyond providing fresh sushi, I also could communicate educational principles it stands for. The sushi often sparked conversation about it’s Kosher values, and eventually the need for sustainability as well. While sharing sushi began as a social activity, it evolved into an educational tool. I noticed the lack of kosher food options in the Bay Area and the desire for more sustainably sourced products. L’Chaim Sushi began as an enhancement to community gatherings that grew into a business.

The students in the weekly classes really enjoyed the food, and asked if we could start catering their business lunches. They wanted to introduce and share the delicious sushi with their work environments. Through word of mouth, we encountered many interesting catering opportunities from romantic dates to the annual Jewish Family Children’s Services Emigree Gala. It was incredibly exciting to see the great reviews of the sushi, a high demand, and engaged customers that demanded ethically sourced materials.

ON MASTERY

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There’s a concept called “shmuch” in Torah wisdom that the greatest form of learning is through the immersive experience of becoming an apprentice. I am personally not a master, but I am good at becoming an apprentice to masters. I listen and observe how they work. A core value of L’Chaim Sushi is a commitment to constant improvement and mentorship from industry experts.

ON TRANSITION

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I wouldn’t call it a transition, I’d call it an evolution. I see the role of a rabbi as being a social leader, activist: fostering social change. Social business is a powerful avenue for fostering social change. It’s a natural extension of my passion.

ON FAILURE

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The first time we launched to the public eye, three months ago, we were overwhelmed with orders. The failure was that my operations were not able to keep up with the demand. This led to late orders, and not the quality product we wanted to provide. That evening, I remember walking away from the kitchen thinking ‘We are not going to do this. What am I doing? I am an educator, what am I doing in the sushi business?’ What happened is that I had my wife and my close friends who believed, and saw this idea and what it could be, when I couldn’t see it. Their support during that time was crucial. They saw things objectively and and hearing them say, “you need to continue” gave me strength to persevere during that challenge.

ON FEAR

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I personally embrace fear. It’s exciting. If I didn’t have fear, I’d lose everything I love about being an entrepreneur. If i knew the future, it would be so boring. I overcome fear by recognizing that fear is the price we pay for excitement, passion, and the joy of overcoming challenge.

ON MONEY

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I strongly believe that passion is the meeting point between what you love to do and what needs to be done. If a person is in that spot, there will always be money. Additionally, Torah wisdom defines real wealth as being content with what one has. I feel very blessed by all that I have already been given.

ON SELF-LOVE

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There’s one day out of my whole week when I’m totally detoxed from my entrepreneur world. It’s Friday night to Saturday night: sundown to sundown, Shabbat. It’s a weekly commitment to self-love and to my family, my spirituality and acknowledging the fact that ultimately I’m not in charge. That’s very freeing.

ON INSPIRATION

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My inspiration is my kids. My daughter is 2 ½ and she’s curious, loves life, she’s not cynical in any way: those are the most amazing qualities of being an entrepreneur. She’s totally engaged in every moment. She inspires me to be the person I am in this business.

ON SUPPORT

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“An individual is the sum average of the five people he spends the most time with.” I try to surround myself with the individuals who see and bring out the best in me: my wife, my children, my personal mentors in this business and also, my spirituality: my connection to the divine.

ADVICE TO THE COMMUNITY

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Surround yourself by passionate people, who support each other. The most transformative moment in my life was when my daughter was born and I held her for the first time. I looked into her blue eyes and I saw a reflection of me. Remember that there’s someone in this world who sees you as the most loving, benevolent person in the world. In that moment, I stopped caring what people think. In that moment of seeing myself through her eyes, I felt my best self and saw a greater reflection - this is community.

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