Jouvenir, a new local startup aiming to highlight Israeli culture-inspired artists, launched with a Yom Ha'azmaut bash.
Hushed strains of electronica drifted in the background at the Israeli-owned Giovani’s Bar & Grill in Center City as Natale Tsipori greeted guests at a Yom Ha’azmaut party.
The music created an art gallery ambiance, which helped separate this event from other Israeli Independence Day gatherings occurring around Philadelphia. It also doubled as a public debut for Jouvenir, a new, locally based startup aiming to highlight artists from around the world who have been inspired by Israeli culture.
Members of the crowd of about 30 paused, drinks in hand, to look at the various works of artists from Los Angeles, Germany, Costa Rica, Moldova and Tajikistan pinned up along the bar’s exposed-brick walls.
At the April 26 event, the ratio of those present who came because they knew previously about the artists’ exhibition versus those who just wandered in was “about 50-50,” guessed Tsipori, 25, an Elkins Park native who lived in Israel for seven years after graduating from Cheltenham High School in 2007. She returned to Philadelphia about a year ago, and is herself an artist who designs and sells jewelry and other handmade, Israeli-inspired art.
Tsipori initially conceived of Jouvenir, a name derived from playing with various words, including the French word “souvenir,” which means “to remember,” during a rooftop barbecue in New York City last year, where she met Ariela Kader, a like-minded 23-year-old artist from Costa Rica. They traded ideas and contact information, and Jouvenir was soon created.
Their goal is to throw events where Israel-inspired artists’ works, including specially designed T-shirts, print photography and jewelry, can be displayed and purchased. Their website, jouvenir.com, will also be selling artworks in the near future.
“I’m really passionate about Israel and presenting Israel in a positive light,” said Tsipori, who is trying to expand Jouvenir through her fellowship with Tribe 12, a social entrepreneurial program designed to help young Jewish professionals build socially conscious startups that is partially funded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. “The game plan is whatever people feel most comfortable with, right now I’m trying to test it out.”
Throwing the party at Giovani’s was no coincidence.
Tsipori recently attended a fellowship meet-up at the bar, where she asked Tribe 12 staff members if they had any ideas about where she could throw her launch event. They suggested that the owners, Simon Atiya and his brother-in-law, Haim Atias — who are Israeli — might be interested, with the added bonus that the Chestnut Street locale serves hummus, falafel and other Mediterreanean-style dishes beyond their pizza and bar food options. She reached out and they immediately agreed.
“I’m Israeli, so I love it,” Atiya said of hosting the event, noting that it was the first time the bar had held an event like this, though they often do private parties. “I’ll do anything to help out my people.”
For the Independence Day event, artists sent original files of their pieces to Tsipori, who then reproduced the work in a local photography lab to be displayed at the show.
Tsipori hopes more artists will align themselves with Jouvenir as word gets out, and that she and Kader can soon expand their events to other cities.
“I want to go to all these places where people can feel it and be engaged in the community, Jewish and non-Jewish, because I want everyone to enjoy the Israeli spirit,” Tsipori said. "I have a lot of passion, a lot of fire — this feels like what I’m supposed to be doing.”