BELONGING

Everyone is Invited: A Venn Neighbor Brings His Community Together to Celebrate Pride

By

Oliver Jones

– VOL. 3

Venn Building Leader Shai Cohen has always looked forward to the Tel Aviv Pride Parade. Having grown up LGBTQ+ in a far less tolerant city than his current hometown of Tel Aviv, he loves the feeling of exhilaration and acceptance he feels at the parade–something he lacked growing up.

So when the 2020 Tel Aviv Pride Parade was canceled, it hit Cohen particularly hard. The parade, which was founded in 1993 and is the largest pride parade in the Middle East and Asia, is an annual rite of celebration and belonging. To make up for its loss, he decided that this year he wanted to try something a little different and more intimate, an event that reflected the life he was building for himself in his neighborhood of Shapira in the south of the city.       

“I really felt the need to celebrate with all my neighbors,” says Cohen.

Cohen took the idea to Venn community manager Gali Sheskin, and she immediately snapped into action. Together, Sheskin and Cohen planned the event: finding the space, booking the DJ, and promoting it through flyers and the Venn app. 

“We want our community to feel part of and responsible for our events,” says Sheskin. “We also knew people will come to a party that their friend and neighbor is hosting and producing because that’s much more personal and connected.” 

Image of Tel Aviv Pride Celebration

Around 50 Neighbors gathered for the rooftop Pride celebration and dance party in Tel Aviv.

Held on July 3rd, over 50 people attended the rooftop event, many of them dancing well into the evening. For Cohen, celebrating his identity with his neighbors was “amazing and joyful.”

For Venn, it was also nothing out of the ordinary. 

We give every member of this community the freedom and the space to do what they believe in.”

A neighborhood platform, Venn provides tools— local experts, creative and well-designed spaces, and an app, among others— that not only allow their members to express themselves but inspire them to connect more profoundly with the place in which they live.    

“We give every member of this community the freedom and the space to do what they believe in,” says Chen Avni, Venn co-founder and CXO. “This sort of thing is very much part of our day-to-day. We provide a platform to our community to show off their values.” 

Because Venn events can originate from members of the community, they are as diverse as the people who create them. 

In Bushwick, Brooklyn, community members who are filmmakers might set up a screening of their latest work using Venn’s backyard projector. 

In Midtown, Kansas City, an environmentally-focused community member might gather their neighbors together to promote the glories of composting.

Image of Tel Aviv Pride Celebration

Shai Cohen (middle), a Building Leader for Venn Tel Aviv, plays an active role in his community and organized a pride celebration with fellow Neighbors.

The one thing that links these vastly different events? Venn’s absolute dedication to inclusivity. “From day one, it was very clear that we must open our doors to anyone who wants in,” says Avni.

Venn practices that commitment in myriad ways. In addition to following the lead of their community members, they also partner with existing local businesses to cater or provide entertainment or space. Most importantly, the events include neighbors outside of the Venn community, whether they are immigrants who arrived in the neighborhood less than a year ago or longtime residents who have lived there for decades.

“There have been great examples of Shapira’s older population coming to our nighttime events and hanging out with 25-year-old hipsters,” says Avni. Adds Avni with a smile, “It goes back to the very basic idea behind Venn: invite people to participate, and truly great things will happen.”