Stories from the SEG Hub: Rabbi Elan Babchuck

November 23, 2016

By: Traci Picard

What is it about a co-working space that pulls us in? That keeps us coming back? It’s the strong coffee, sure. The sunny space, the wi-fi and the printer. But more than anything else, it’s the people, and their stories.

The HUB is a co-working space, but it’s also an intentional gathering space for entrepreneurs who are actively working on one or more projects. We are Mission-driven people who are communicators and collaborators.

This spirit of collaboration emanates from Rabbi Elan Babchuck, a SEG Hub (the Hub) member and the Director of Innovation at the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. CLAL is a New York City-based think-tank whose mission is “Making Jewish a Public Good”.

Rabbi Elan Babchuck

He is also a co-founder of Thrive, a grassroots  organization which promotes wellness through mindful action.

Originally from Boston, Elan made his way to Providence by way of California, a slight detour off 95. Like many explorers, he felt the call back to the land of Quahogs and Red Sox when he and his wife started a family. He was looking for an office space, and a place to store his giant book collection, when his wife helped to organize the SEEED Summit at Brown and learned about the Hub.

He signed up right away, “I knew that I wanted to be in a place that was generative. People [here in the Hub] are intentionally serendipitous.”

And it’s true.

As Elan points out, we all benefit from a co-working space which allows for making connections. We discussed the accidental conversations that happen in-between, how we give and receive fresh perspectives on our works-in-progress.

So what does Elan actually do in the Hub? What does this work look like on a daily basis? He talks to people! Words like “building partnerships” come up often in our interview. Engaging with others, building connections with groups, cultures and organizations are all important pieces of his work. This requires keen observation skills and an ability to listen.

One goal he shared is to bring broad and innovative ideas to a new audience. For example, Thrive has started a program called Mindful Mondays. The purpose is to lead a mindfulness meditation right in the middle of everything. The workplace has been identified as a source of ongoing stress for many people, and this is one way to creatively address that. He asks “What might it look like if, rather than meditate on top of a mountain–we wanted to go right to the source.” A theme for each program emerges from his own life, perhaps the news of the day or something that comes up in study. “The most common inspiration for a guided meditation comes from what I need to hear.”

This feels like a grounded approach to mindfulness, where we don’t avoid reality but examine, share, acknowledge it. There is a teamwork between the leader and the meditators, a vision of our shared humanity that can spark further engagement.

Elan comes back to his values throughout our discussion. He shares that he values getting comfortable with quiet, empathizing with others and character development. Many of us may wish to bring these values into our lives, but may not know how. Organizations like CLAL and Thrive may help to give us a path forward–through ideas, yes, but with action, events and participation too. Mindful Mondays are held at the SEG Hub and are open to everyone. Check out Thrive for information and updates on other events, such as mindfulness walks and a water meditation, and listen to our first-ever podcast interview with Rabbi Elan Babchuck here.


Traci Picard
Venture Development Assistant

Traci Picard is a VISTA serving as Venture Development assistant here at SEG. She comes from the world of alternative health, running a small herbal business and teaching classes like Critical Thinking for Herbalists and Asking Better Questions. Traci is also a writer pursuing a Journalism degree, a mother of 3 and a passionate fan of books and the Public Library. Born in Providence, she has lived all over but continues to return home.