Thirty-six of North America’s brightest Jewish college students will begin
two-month all-expenses-paid internships at Israeli finance and hi-tech firms
through Birthright Excel next week, but program organizers say the biggest
dividends will be reaped decades from now.
Birthright, Taglit’s flagship
program, brings Jews between the ages of 18 and 26 from the Diaspora to Israel
on a free, 10-day educational trip.
Birthright Excel, which debuted last
year, is more selective and focuses on a broad range of topics including
leadership, Jewish identity, the global economy and teamwork.
head Vered Fishbein told The Jerusalem Post Thursday that Birthright Excel
trains its participants to become the Jewish business leaders of the future. She
said it does this in the hope that these future leaders will safeguard the
strong relationship between the American Jewish community and Israel, including
support for initiatives such as Birthright.
Participants will be placed
at leading Israeli firms, including Citibank, Tnuva, Pitango Venture Capital,
Genesis Venture Capital, Checkpoint, NICE Systems, Compugen, KCPS Private Wealth
Management, and Carmel Ventures and its subsidiaries.
They will be
assigned mentors here in Israel and will meet with leading decision-makers such
as Bank of Israel Gov. Stanley Fischer and Finance Minister Yuval
It was no easy task asking Israeli companies to take on board
college-age non- Hebrew speakers for such a short period of time, Fishbein said.
But she added that the firms understood the importance of training the Jewish
leaders of tomorrow, and pointed out that this was the first time Israel’s
business community had joined with the American business community in answering
Harvard sophomore Samuel Doniger is one of the young
Americans the project’s backers are hoping turns into a future leader. The
economics and history student participated in a regular 10-day Birthright
program earlier in May, and after a short vacation in Tel Aviv is ready to begin
Excel and his internship at Giza Venture Capital.
Doniger told the Post
that he had always intended to spend this summer abroad.
He added that
being accepted to Birthright Excel was enough to convince him to knock back
offers to teach English and participate in a business immersion program in
“I think going abroad is a fundamental part of growing up and
maturing. How can I pretend to be an educated citizen if all I know is the
northeastern part of the USA?” said Doniger, who was raised in New York. Now
that he is in Israel, he has managed to convince his parents and three siblings
– none of whom have been to the country – to visit him during his stay
“I’m Jewish, but what connected me to Israel I didn’t really
understand,” said Doniger, “and being here has shown me why Israel should exist
and what’s important about having a Jewish state.”