Deepening the ties between Yeshiva University and Israel, a select group of 30 YU undergraduates (including Rensop Fellows 2020) participated in a one-of-a-kind educational opportunity to explore Israel’s dynamic startup culture at its source: game-changing organizations and institutions founded by entrepreneurs, high-tech innovators, VC leaders and medical professionals, many of whom are YU alumni.
From Jan. 12 to Jan. 19, two weeklong educational programs, scheduled during winter break—“Discover Innovation in the Startup Nation” and “The Future of Health”—offered an in-depth view of Israel ingenuity from two distinct vantage points: high-tech startups and health care. Both programs looked at the creativity and persistence Israeli innovators, academics and scientists draw upon as they pioneer important advances in their respective fields that are sure to have a global impact.
“YU students spending time in Israel is as natural as breathing,” said Stephanie Strauss, executive director of Yeshiva University in Israel. “What made these trips extraordinary is having our students encounter Israeli innovation and science at its best.” Strauss went on to note that meeting leading experts in medicine, entrepreneurship and STEM-related startups gave YU students brand-new perspectives not only on what was achievable but also on how to achieve it. Many program participants in the organizations “were our own YU alumni, who offered new networks and channels of communication for further guidance and support.”
This was the third year running for “Discover Innovation in the Startup Nation.” Organized by Strauss and Gabi Sackett, program director for YU in Israel, in collaboration with Susan Bauer, executive director of YU’s Career Center, the program’s high-tech focus attracted undergraduates studying business and STEM. For seven high-energy days, they toured more than 15 companies and met face-to-face with leaders at the forefront of innovation, including Ovi Jacob, director of business development at Vayyar Imaging, a leader in 4D imaging, and Miriam Eljas Goldman, founder of accessibleGo, an award-winning online service for people traveling with disabilities. They also met with Hillel Fuld, a respected technology blogger, vlogger, business adviser and international speaker, who helped them understand how tech innovations get tested, and Michael Eisenberg ’93YC, a YU alumnus and partner at Aleph VC, who explained how to search for the funding needed to launch new products into the market.
For Zachary Greenberg ’21SB, this year’s high-tech trip provided a difference-making perspective. “I have been to Israel several times before but have never experienced anything like this. The companies we visited were beyond impressive and innovative. They showed us what was truly unique about Israeli startup culture and how we as students can translate classroom learning into action.”
As the Rensop Fellows learned the ins and outs of high-tech startups, a second group looking to pursue health care careers explored the vocational possibilities Israel has to offer in that fast-growing sector of its economy. Their vehicle: the newly launched “Future of Health,” developed by Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Wilbur, executive director of Beit Medrash Govoha for Medical Halacha in collaboration with YU’s Office of Student Life and YU in Israel.
“Our intention with this inaugural program,” said Strauss, “was to inspire the next generation of Jewish medical and health care professionals by reinforcing the values they are learning at YU. What’s more, they got to see these values actualized as they learned more about the tremendous advances both YU alumni and non-alumni have made in this important field and how those advances have had a positive effect well beyond Israel.”
Traveling across Israel from Tel Aviv to Haifa, students explored potential career paths at over 10 health care facilities, med-tech companies and medical schools and spoke with some of Israel’s top academic and clinical professionals and ethicists. Among them were Dr. Ido Ben-Ami, director of the In Vitro Fertilization and Infertility Unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center; Dr. Tzvi Dwolatzsky, director of the Technion American Medical School Program; and Dr. Alan Jotkowitz ’87YC, a YU alumnus and director of The Medical School for International Health at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Students also had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Aaron Allen, deputy director of the Sackler School of Medicine New York State/ American Program of Tel Aviv University, which has been training American doctors for more than 40 years. Dr. Allen discussed the many benefits of studying medicine in Israel in general and at Tel Aviv University in particular.
As Gaaila Strupinsky of Stern College noted, “There was never a dull moment. ‘The Future of Health’ was one of the best programs I have ever had the privilege to experience during my time at YU.”
“By participating in these uniquely inspirational and informative educational programs,” said Dr. Noam Wasserman, dean of the Sy Syms School of Business, “YU students got to see Israel’s ingenuity firsthand, learned from the pioneers who have driven Israeli innovation and deepened their understanding of how to realize their own potential.”