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Nonprofit Seeks to Plug Students Into Israel’s High-Tech

July 24, 2013 By:
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Brett Goldman

A Philadelphia entrepreneur who has spent extensive periods of time in the Jewish state has been tapped to be the first executive director of a national Washington, D.C.-based organization that aims to plug American college students into Israel’s high-tech economy.

Brett Goldman, 28, is heading up the TAMID Israel Investment Group. “Tamid” means “al­ways” or “eternal” in Hebrew.

He’s the first full-time professional hired by the organization that was founded five years ago by students at the University of Michigan and now has chap­ters on 15 campuses, including the University of Pennsylvania and Lehigh University. TAMID received seed funding from the Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and is being supported by the Israel on Campus Coalition.

TAMID arranges for guest speakers — such as Philadelphia-based entrepreneur Wayne Kimmel —to talk with students about the Israeli economy, organizes investment clubs concentrating on Israeli firms and arranges for undergraduate students to spend time in the Jewish state working for start-up companies.

The idea is to help students bolster their own business acumen while at the same time connecting them to the Jewish state.

“It is a great way to do Israel,” said Goldman, explaining that TAMID currently has 40 students — not all of them Jewish — placed in Israel.

To be sure, this is not the first effort to bring wider attention to Israel’s economic sector or put forward the image of Israel as innovator to counter perceptions that it is an aggressor or a nation defined solely by conflict. Web journals such as israel21c.org to books like Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle have brought attention to Israel’s economy.

And there’s been initiatives on campus as well, including an annual, student-organized two-week trip for graduate business students at Penn’s Wharton School. But Goldman and others said there wasn’t anything as intensive or sustained until TAMID came along.

Goldman first visited the Jewish state at 19 on a Birthright Israel trip and has since led numerous Birthright trips himself. He later spent several years there completing a master’s degree in government at IDC Herz­aliyah. (He also has a master’s in education from Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.)

In 2011, he co-founded the America-Israel Business Lab. Based at the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia, the venture helps Israel clean-tech firms set up shop in Pennsylvania. Goldman, who recently moved to Washington, D.C., said it was a tough decision to leave his own start-up.

“We have a great thing going in Philly,” he said, adding that the offer to lead TAMID “was a really great opportunity for me. When something like this comes up, you shouldn’t turn it down.”

He hopes to grow the organization and add new chapters.

Several students involved said the group is filling a need on campus.

Michael Lefkoe is an industrial engineering student at Lehigh University, a graduate of Lower Merion High School, who is helping to set up a TAMID chapter there.

“At Lehigh,” he wrote in an email from Ireland, where he is working for the summer, “we have a fairly large pro-Israel community, but rather limited means of being able to support Israel in a consistent manner. So, TAMID will hopefully be playing a big role in filling that need among the pro-Israel students.”

Ron Koren, a Penn State University student from Montgom­ery County, is spending the summer in Israel. He’s working on a TAMID fellowship at a company called Calendo that is developing a smart phone app to help people find local events that match their interests.

“I've found that by participating in TAMID, students gain real-world experience, deeper knowledge of international business, meaningful personal relationships and important connections,” Koren wrote in an email. “As TAMID grows, a personal vision of mine is to see all TAMID members make the fellowship to Israel at some point during their undergraduate years.” 

Kimmel, a board member of the Jewish Federation of Great­er Philadelphia who has invested in Israeli businesses, has mentored several TAMID participants and spoken to the group at his alma mater, the University of Maryland.

It’s not just the students who gain from the fellowship program. The undergraduates who decided to work in Israel, he said, provide Israeli start-ups with a tremendous amount of brain power skills and understanding of the 21st century marketplace.

“Young people today,” said Kimmel, “have knowledge of what’s next and really understand innovation.”

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