An Inside Look at Israeli Innovation

EMBA Program at Sy Syms School of Business Travels to Israel for In-Depth Study of Entrepreneurship

A behind-the-scenes tour of the Knesset and frank conversations with the leaders of companies including high-tech startup Given Imaging, integrated energy giant Delek Group and Recanati Winery were just a few of the unique learning opportunities for students in the Executive Masters of Business Administration program at Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business during one jam-packed week of field study in Israel this summer.

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EMBA students on a site visit to Elbit Systems, which develops, manufactures and integrates advanced, high-performance defense electronic and electro-optic systems for customers throughout the world.

The trip, from July 1-9, enabled students in the program’s Management of International Business course to shape their own learning experience so that it provided maximum exposure to the topics that were of most interest to them, with an overall aim of understanding the specific opportunities for global arbitrage offered in Israel. That meant arranging their own on-site visits with government and policy-setting bodies, globally-oriented Israeli companies, the Israeli presence of foreign-based multinational companies and academic institutions.

“Our goal was to expose our students to the unique needs of the global marketplace and to introduce them to business leaders in Israel’s high-tech economy,” said Sy Syms Dean Moses Pava. “We selected Israel not only because of the University’s special relationship with this tiny country, but because of Israel’s outsized role in technology and entrepreneurship.”

The differences between the way Israelis and Americans approach startups were deeply intriguing to the EMBA students, some of whom come from a startup background. David Berk ‘82YC, chief executive officer of a startup company that designs robotic technology for hospitals, was especially taken with a place called The Library. Located in the heart of Tel Aviv’s business center and funded by the city, it offers co-working office facilities, hosts networking events and provides professional infrastructure for young technological visionaries.

“The city allocated space for these startups to work on their ventures, enabling a kind of synergy and cross-pollination of ideas between the different groups that gather there,” Berk said. “It was just one of the ways the trip highlighted the differences between how things are done in the United States and Israel. The Israeli government allows these companies to grow in a way that’s unparalleled in other countries.”

“Israel’s ‘startup nation’ phenomenon has astounded the global marketplace,” said Dr. Steven Nissenfeld, clinical professor of management at Sy Syms, who accompanied the students on the trip. “We visited and spoke with a broad range of companies and executives, all of whom provided insight into the full spectrum of Israel’s groundbreaking efforts in innovation and entrepreneurship. Ranging from Israeli representatives of such multinational giants as Microsoft and IBM to Israeli-born emerging global high-tech superstars and first-stage startups, we had the opportunity to learn how Israel nurtures these companies and their leadership talent.”

A major takeaway, according to Nissenfeld, was the entrepreneurs’ capacity to take risks. “There was a willingness to fail and a commitment and perseverance to try again and again, a fearlessness some might call chutzpah,” he said. “I know the students will attempt to replicate it in their own careers and organizations.”

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EMBA students met with the senior vice president of marketing at IBM’s Israel-based global technology unit.

Steven Hershman, a controller at Sage Investors, felt the group’s “behind the curtain” talks with major companies gave him valuable insight and new ideas for his own work. “I was able to gain a greater understanding of the Israeli market and mentality from this trip,” he said. “They have an inspirational confidence and maturity and an understanding of what is truly important which I believe is developed during their years of army service. Being able to use the knowledge I gained on this trip to potentially invest in Israeli companies and further Jewish causes is an added bonus.”

For Berk, the trip not only capitalized on the University’s close ties with Israel to provide thought-provoking business strategies, but broadened his personal horizons as well. “I hope to make aliyah one day and work with a startup in Israel, and after this visit, I’ve made some connections and better understand the environment—I feel like I’d fit right in,” he said. “The intimate knowledge and familiarity that the students and University have with Israel was a unique advantage to us on this program.”

Featuring a unique Sunday schedule and a focus on ethics, the EMBA program seeks to prepare business professionals and managers heading for high-level positions to lead organizational change and develop strategies to help their businesses thrive in a world of global competition. In addition to coursework that is designed to integrate skills and methodology from a broad range of business areas, each student builds a personal development portfolio tailored to his or her career objectives and aspirations and studies with experienced entrepreneurs, executives, scholars, authors and researchers.

Classes are held over 14 Sundays each semester and one weekday evening per month. In addition to international study in Israel this summer, the program will include a residency in an emerging market country next year.

“EMBA programs have become very popular during the last few years because employees are less willing to risk leaving a good job for two years to attend a full-time MBA Program, since it is less likely that their job will be waiting for them when they return or that they will get a comparable or better job at the company that they left or elsewhere,” said Michael Strauss, associate dean and clinical professor of management at Sy Syms. “Our program, which offers classes on Sundays, allows observant Jews as well as anyone else who works or is busy on Saturdays to still get their MBA, and the combination of the course work, once-a-month lectures by industry leaders and overseas trips during the summers give students the tools they need to progress in their respective organizations or move on to greater responsibilities elsewhere.”

To learn more about the EMBA program, click here.