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THE SLOGAN that brought many overseas members of Bnei Akiva, the religious Zionist youth movement, to Israel appears to be the foundation of an alliance between industrialist Stef Wertheimer and Talmudist and educator Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. Their joint venture when it comes to fruition will indeed be a true example of Torah V'Avoda - learning and work. Wertheimer will fund vocational yeshivot in the Negev and the Galilee within the network of Steinsaltz educational institutions. The alliance was announced last week at the annual fund-raising tribute dinner that Friends of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz organize in his honor and in support of his projects. Wertheimer, who was among the special guests this year, engaged in dialogue with Steinsaltz and noted the importance of teaching people a trade so they can be self-sufficient and contribute to the economy instead of being a burden on the State by relying on its welfare system for their sustenance. Although Israel is widely recognized as a hi-tech country, it cannot function properly without low-tech and no tech industries argued Wertheimer who noted that Iscar, his own multi-million dollar enterprise is not a hi-tech business but was sufficiently successful to interest American billionaire Warren Buffett, who earlier this year acquired 80 percent of the company for more than $4 billion.
Although Wertheimer, who has devoted much of his time towards Israel's economic independence, is well known for his views about vocational education, he does not ignore higher education. The Wertheimer family is among the key supporters of Atidim (Futures), a program initiated by the Israel Defense Forces to enable promising young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue university studies primarily in science and engineering. In fact, Wertheimer's son Eitan is the chairman of the Friends of Atidim and an eloquent speaker on its behalf.
The fact that Wertheimer is secular does not impact negatively on his attitude towards religious educational institutions. On the contrary, here more than anywhere else he sees the need to equip students with a trade to supplement their religious studies. Wertheimer, who several years back helped establish a trade school in Netanya, explained that he understood a long time ago that if Israel is to stand on her own feet economically she must have trade schools as not everyone can be a doctor or a lawyer or a computer expert. "We have a minority complex," he said, alluding to Jewish minorities in the diaspora where parents encourage their children to be over-achievers at school. Turning to politics, Wertheimer, a former MK who has created several industrial parks, noted that compromise on territorial issues will not bring about peace. What will bring peace, he asserted, is gainful employment. "We must make sure that all the people who live in our region - both inside and outside Israel - have jobs to improve the quality of their lives." If everyone is busy working, he contended, they won't have time to fight with each other. Wertheimer, who is concerned about large scale emigration from Israel, noted that if people have jobs from which they can live in reasonable comfort they are unlikely to go in search of greener pastures elsewhere.
FINANCE MINISTER Avraham Hirchson will be the keynote speaker at the inauguration on November 29 of the Marcel Gordon Business and Academic Club on the campus of Tel Aviv University. An initiative of the Friends of Tel Aviv University, the club will facilitate a dialogue between research and education and the socioeconomic realities of Israel. The club will arrange meetings between business leaders and academics with a view toward encouraging cooperative endeavors.
US AMBASSADOR Richard Jones, who also happens to be the Honorary Chairman of the Israel America Chamber of Commerce, hosted the Chamber's annual awards dinner at which the guest of honor was Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Numerous Chamber members, comprising leading Israeli businessmen, were joined by politicians at the ambassador's residence in Herzliya Pituah. Peres, who was the keynote speaker, emphasized the importance of technological cooperation between Israel and the US, especially in the field of Homeland Security. In this context, he specifically mentioned Kassam rockets. Jones underscored the need to reopen the Karni Crossing to both Israelis and Palestinians to facilitate trade between Israel and Gaza. Chamber President and former Israel ambassador to the US Zalman Shoval commended the Israeli economy for its strength during the war, and noted that Elliot Broidy, president of Markstone Capital Group, never backed away from investing in Israel. Broidy lives in the US and came to Israel to receive the Chamber award. Other awardees were Makhteshim Agan and Oran Safety Glass for excelling in trade with the US. Intel was singled out for the Ambassador's Award in recognition of its involvement in the community and its contribution to bilateral economic relations.
IN OTHER Chamber news, Springboard Enterprises has launched its program for 2007 aimed at recruiting Israeli women managers to stand at the helm of hi-tech and biotechnological start-ups. According to Ralph Robbins, the executive director of the Virginia Israel Advisory Board, which acts as a bridge between Israeli companies establishing or expanding business in the US and potential US investors, Springboard is the brainchild of entrepreneur Amy Milman who has recruited some $3.5 billion for approximately 350 diverse companies across America. The not-for-profit project is dedicated to advancing those companies that are willing to place women in top executive positions. The project has been operating successfully in the US for the past seven years. This is the first time that it has extended to Israel.
STUDENTS AT the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya have been given additional incentive to use their brainpower. Whoever responds best to the challenge thrown out by the famed Louis Vuitton brand will win an all expenses paid group trip to Paris. The idea is to come up with a dynamic Beyond the Brand marketing campaign that will target the Israeli consumer. Lisa Young, the company's regional manager flew to Israel from France to present the Louis Vuitton brand and history to students at the IDC's Raphael Recanati International School's Business Track. The students will compete in groups, and each group will operate as an individual strategic marketing firm. Among the judges will be Jean Marc Gallot, CEO of the LV European branch, who will come to Israel to announce the winners. The contest will give students practical as well as theoretical experience.