It’s Not Just a Neighborhood—It’s an Identity


Oliver Jones

– VOL. 4

“It doesn’t matter if I’m from Israel or Africa or China. What really matters is that I’m from Williamsburg,” says Venn CXO and Co-Founder Chen Avni. 

A neighborhood is more than the place we call home. Often, it’s one of the more meaningful elements that make up someone’s identity. 

“I identify more with the fact that I live near McCarren Park than that I was born Israeli,” says Avni. With a laugh, he adds, “Of course, if my mom heard this, she would probably keel over.”

Like so many people in his vibrant hometown of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Chen’s neighborhood is as much a part of him as where he comes from, what he does, and how old he is. Identifying with and having pride in your neighborhood is less about rejecting the past than it is a celebration of what is possible. It’s about embracing and engaging with the place where you live and the diversity of the people who surround you. It is also at the core of what Venn is all about.

Image of neighborhood identity kansas city midtown

 Neighbors admire and take great pride in the historic architecture lining Armour Boulevard in Midtown, Kansas City. 

“It doesn’t matter where you come from,” says Avni. “It doesn’t even matter if you are paying for our platform. You are part of the neighborhood, the neighborhood is part of you, and we will include you. You are always welcome to be a part of our community— whether we are in Bushwick or Shapira or Midtown, Kansas City.” 

So, what is a neighborhood anyway? In short: it’s many things to many people. 

In Bushwick, it can mean enjoying locally sourced products from the shelves of General Irving, meeting friends over the otherworldly pizza at Roberta’s (we recommend the Bee Sting!), or marveling at the gothic churches and stately red brick mansions once owned by 19th-century brewing magnates.  

“A neighborhood is not just a place. It is also— or mainly— the people.”

In Shapira, it’s scarfing down a sizzling post-club skillet of spicy shakshuka in a North African cafe, ducking into one of any number of art galleries, or volunteering with a neighborhood Scout troop that has members from over 10 different nations. 

In Midtown, Kansas City, it’s sitting in on a rooftop yoga class, sampling produce from seasonal farmers markets, or learning more about the neighborhood’s architecture, like the Bellerive, a stunning terra cotta and limestone Neo-Baroque hotel-turned-apartment-building.

Image of neighborhood identity kansas city midtown farmers market

Jameson Hubbard, the founder of Dirt Beast Farms and frequent face at Venn events, sells freshly picked produce at a local farmers market every Saturday in the summer.

But of course, the soul of a neighborhood cannot be found in its buildings or shops. 

“A neighborhood is not just a place,” says Nofar Drukman, a longtime Venn neighbor in Tel Aviv. “It is also— or mainly— the people.”

Equally powerful? The connections forged between those neighbors. 

The strength of those connections, and the ability of Venn to nurture and sustain them, was put to the test during the pandemic when people literally took their neighborhood with them when they left the city to avoid the spring Covid surge.

“I remember a crazy, weird virtual event— a party— where someone left Bushwick to live with their parents in Texas while other people went to other places,” recalls Avni. “But everyone came together for this virtual event. They were hanging out together as neighbors, not in our physical space but in our virtual one.”  Adds Avni, “Even when you are in Texas, you are still Bushwick. You are still Venn.”