Reboot Start-Up Nation helps displaced Ukrainians join Israeli hi-tech

Five volunteers co-founded the organization to welcome displaced professionals and Russian-speaking olim into hi-tech in Israel.

 THE REBOOT’S Hebrew Conversation Club, a free professional meetup for displaced professionals and olim in partnership with Pearl Cohen and Yad L’Olim, in July. (photo credit: Sophia Tupolev-Luz)
THE REBOOT’S Hebrew Conversation Club, a free professional meetup for displaced professionals and olim in partnership with Pearl Cohen and Yad L’Olim, in July.
(photo credit: Sophia Tupolev-Luz)

“In the first weeks of the Russia-Ukraine war, we realized there will be many consequences and asked ourselves where we can be most effective. We were gripped by a sense of urgency to do something for the people who were fleeing to Israel and starting new lives,” Tamar Abramson, co-founder of the Reboot Startup Nation. 

“I met Sophia [Tupolev-Luz], who had already gathered a powerful group of volunteers. We started working together right away. We got the first report of a company hiring a displaced professional on March 22. I will never forget that moment. Today, we know that hundreds have started new jobs in Israel’s hi-tech ecosystem from the Reboot community of displaced professionals and olim,” she adds.

"Today, we know that hundreds have started new jobs in Israel’s hi-tech ecosystem from the Reboot community of displaced professionals and olim."

Tamar Abramson

The influx of immigrants and refugees into Israel from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia created a sudden global employment crisis of displaced professionals. Due to the war, at least five million people were displaced from Ukraine to places such as Poland and Europe

Immigrants and asylum-seekers arrived in Israel from Ukraine and from Belarus and Russia due to political oppression and fear of speaking out against the war, for which Russians can be jailed. In the last six months, 36,000 people have immigrated to Israel – 50% are of working age (18,000) and at least 20% are skilled to work in tech companies.

 THE REBOOT Startup Nation co-founder Sophia Tupolev-Luz at the Knesset, where she works on the Green Pass program with MK Ron Katz, in April.  (credit: Sophia Tupolev-Luz) THE REBOOT Startup Nation co-founder Sophia Tupolev-Luz at the Knesset, where she works on the Green Pass program with MK Ron Katz, in April. (credit: Sophia Tupolev-Luz)

Helping people in Israel displaced by the Ukraine-Russia War

In response, on February 25, a group of five volunteers co-founded the organization to welcome displaced professionals and Russian-speaking olim into hi-tech, rallying Israel’s hi-tech sector in support of these displaced from throughout the former Soviet Union. As of August, an estimated 18% of new arrivals in the Reboot community have reported starting new jobs in hi-tech, numbering from 700 to 1,000 people.

“On February 25, in the first week of the Ukraine war, I was being contacted by people I knew who were coming to Israel, but nobody was talking about what they would do once their basic needs for physical security were met,” recalls Tupolev-Luz, who is in charge of corporate partnerships and communications. “At the same time, there was an immense desire among the senior leadership of the hi-tech community to ‘do something’ and help.

“It was obvious that these immigrants would need jobs – fast. But we didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the 1990s, when people couldn’t find work in their professions, and when even people with physics degrees got stuck in low-paid employment. We wanted to help them, believing this aliyah could be different. We were convinced that hi-tech held the key.

“With about 20,000 jobs open in hi-tech earlier this year and well-documented efforts by the government [Innovation Authority] to fill those jobs, the solution seemed obvious to our team. Let’s convince hi-tech companies in Israel to hire displaced professionals [Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians] who had to move here because of the war.”

The organization opened a Telegram channel and LinkedIn group, and the offerings went viral among people interested in moving to Israel. 

Tupolev-Luz notes that the aliyah process from the former Soviet Union “is fraught with challenges and uncertainty; it takes many long months [to acclimate].”

“At Reboot, we want displaced professionals and olim to know that they are welcome in Israel and that they should not be afraid. And we want companies to know that they can be, and should be, sourcing talent the minute an aliyah application is opened abroad,” she says.

Serving over 10,000 olim in Israel

REBOOT SERVES more than 10,000 olim who are tech professionals in Israel and in transit, by mapping the “opportunity landscape” for them through their supporters, which include partners from private, public and nonprofit sectors, and giving them an information layer that they use to restart their careers

The organization has received more than 2,000 CVs. These are entered into a database that companies can access privately and hire suitable candidates directly. It has signed up 300 Israeli tech companies, from the smallest startups to giant multinationals, to support the community by sharing jobs and even fast-tracking hiring processes. For example, Intel and Phillips created VIP links to get displaced talent a shortcut to hiring.  

The Reboot team also runs a 3,000-person Linkedin group where companies post their hot jobs and meet candidates. They work with corporate partners to develop training courses and events, online and offline, free of charge, thereby helping candidates and companies meet each other. 

Reboot lobbied and then partnered with MK Ron Katz (Yesh Atid) to make it easier for companies to bring people from Ukraine, in a “green pass” program now recognized by the Innovation Authority. The Reboot team is also part of a working group on displaced olim organized by the Aliyah and Integration Ministry.

Grigory Kuznetsov, a radio frequency engineer, was ready to spend several months looking for a job when he came to Israel. But thanks to Reboot, he found a job in his field in a week, and “did not feel alone against the world.”

“There is a limit to luck or hard work. When you are a refugee in a foreign country, you also need help and connections – and the people at Reboot did everything they could to help me find my first job in Israel,” Kuznetsov says. 

Olah Manpel also attributes his success in quickly finding work in Israel to Reboot. “I now work on large business analytics projects, where I can develop myself not only in depth with the specific projects, but also in breadth, by developing my skills,” he says. 

Not everyone has been able to join the Israeli job market

UNFORTUNATELY, Reboot hasn’t been able to help everyone integrate into the Israeli job market. Leonid Barats, 28, came to Israel from Ukraine with extensive experience working in public relations, journalism and marketing, including coordinated cultural and business events like Ukrainian-Israeli IT hackathons and organizing the “Ukraine supports Israel” concert during the Guardian of the Wall Operation featuring top Ukrainian artists. 

“My connection with Israel was strong, and I sincerely thought that my training and work experience was useful for both Ukraine and Israel. When the war in Ukraine started, I crossed the border and I had to decide where to stay – Europe or Israel – there wasn’t really a choice. Israel is my homeland and the place I wanted to live and work. 

“When I made aliya, the reality I faced was very different. I was just another refugee who was neither a native Hebrew speaker nor did I have a degree from a European university. I was so disappointed to see that everyone treated me as though I didn’t have experience at all, even though I had worked for more than 16 years. Israeli employers didn’t consider me, since I had never worked in Israel or in hi-tech.

“Sadly, Reboot couldn’t help me get work in my specific field. Through Reboot, I applied for hundreds of jobs, and I never got real feedback – only, ‘Sorry, we’ve decided to move forward with another candidate who is more suitable for us.’

Barat doesn’t blame Reboot, saying “they did try really hard. It’s just I think they are more successful in helping refugees in tech and engineering, rather than journalism.”

Although he is currently living and working in Europe, he has maintained a relationship with Reboot to help olim. “I still consider Israel as my home. And yes, I’m still looking for a job in Israel. I hope to return – but only with a job!”

REBOOT IS now partnering with the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the United Jewish Israel Appeal and the Jewish Federations of North America, and the NGO itworks to accelerate the placement of displaced Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian olim into Israel’s leading tech companies. 

Still, things are not smooth and challenges lie ahead, Tupoley-Luz explains. “Six months in, the country still has to figure out how to best support tens of thousands of olim, as well as non-status people seeking refuge here who won’t make it into the immigration process. Creative solutions are needed, and we will continue to work in partnership with the leaders of the private, public and nonprofit sector, as well as many individual volunteers.” 

The Reboot’s Daniil Chernov, who heads the job-seeking division adds, “The main challenges for new olim, from most countries actually, is lack of network and lack of understanding the market. The Israeli tech ecosystem is very different from many other countries. You can’t copy-paste your approach to job seeking here; you need to figure things out first. Add the stress from an unplanned, urgent move, all the language-related challenges, finding an apartment and signing a contract in Hebrew – it’s very stressful. 

“At the same time, these talented people bring a lot of experience, skills and diversity that companies can benefit from. Innovation is born from the exchange of ideas, and having someone with a different perspective can enrich local teams’ performance when building global products,” Chernov concludes. 