Sarah Hostyk, 29, knows about start-ups, be they companies or congregations. The Rockville native is chasing her dream of running a successful technology business, and she’s gotten a lot of valuable experience from building a Jewish community in less-than-perfect circumstances.
She sat down with WJW to talk about her professional drive and the weekly need to simply unplug.
What drew you into the business and technology world?
Since I was a really little kid, I wanted to start my own business. I was a kid writing business plans at 13, so it was always the goal. And as I got older I realized that with technology you can do so much more. I got interested in designing websites and entering these elevator pitch contests.
Right out of college there was an app in Israel I was really interested in, so I basically emailed the CEO and convinced him to hire me. So at 22 I basically picked up and moved to Boston to work on this app that was based in Rehovot.
Being from the area, though, I eventually wanted to come back here to bootstrap this company. The tech scene here is really supportive.
What’s the app that you’re working on now?
Place Tempo matches students who are remote workers with the best place to work based on their needs, like quiet, wifi, open tables, outlets, music playing or not. That way you’re not wasting time, you can be productive.
Where did you go for school?
Appalachian State [in Boone, N.C.]. We actually had a wonderful Jewish community there.
Yeah? That might surprise some people.
When I was there we had all these Floridians who had second homes in western North Carolina. There were only about 100 Jewish students, but we had a ton of elderly Jew Floridians. So a bunch of my friends from college are in their 70s and 80s.
We lobbied the local grocery store to get kosher meat. When I was there we started the process of building the only synagogue for 80 miles and it was built when I left. We didn’t have a rabbi, so someone would lead services, someone would write the d’var Torah. I wrote tons of d’var Torahs when I was in college. Everyone had to pull their weight to make the community go. The president owned a
Christmas tree farm so we would have kosher meals on a Christmas tree farm in Appalachia. Who can say that?
Why was it so important to help build that community when you know you’re only there temporarily?
I grew up like that. Going to a place with no Jewish community or anywhere to go for Shabbat, I’d be missing such a huge part of my life. Going places where you don’t have those resources, it’s almost like a start-up in itself because you have to work hard and think outside the box.
Plus I had friends who didn’t even know any Jews before, but by the time we graduated they knew all about Shabbat, kashrut. It was really great.
Where might someone find you on Shabbat in the city?
There are partnership minyans I like to go to, like DC Minyan and Rosh Pina. I’ve also hopped around at different times to Ohev Sholom, Adas Israel and Kesher Israel. Everyone’s so welcoming.
Do you observe Shabbat in terms of shutting off?
Yeah, I say we’re 24/6. The second Shabbat ends I’m back on the computer. But Shabbat’s amazing because to have that break to ideally go to shul, but sleep and just disconnect, it really recharges and clears my head.
Do you find yourself reaching for technology?
I really relish just being completely shut off. Otherwise there would be no break, it’d be around the clock every day. I’m not perfect but I try to basically, every Shabbat, turn the phone off, turn the computer off. I’m usually downtown. So I go for walks around the city with friends or by myself and it rally clears my mind. I get to smell the flowers in a way that you can’t when you’re buried in a laptop all week.
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