Students involved with the UC Berkeley chapter of Tamid
Students involved with the UC Berkeley chapter of Tamid

Engaging students with Israel by helping them ‘build a successful career’

When Israel first was dubbed the “startup nation” back in 2009, Shawn Ahdout was in middle school. Today, the Stanford University sophomore is among a cadre of students who work alongside Israeli business leaders, thanks to Tamid.

Founded nine years ago by University of Michigan students chagrined that their fellow students weren’t interested in Israel-focused campus programming, Tamid offers its fellows an experience that combines their passion for business with Israel’s entrepreneurial prowess. Tamid means always or eternal.

Yoni Heilman, Tamid’s executive director, said the group was formed when its founders asked questions such as “How do we make students more interested in Israel? What is non-political but giving them what they want?”

And “what they want,” Heilman added “is to build a successful career.” Thus, an enterprise for students “focused on training future business leaders and creating meaningful relationships with Israel” was born.

Based in New York, the nonprofit now has 46 chapters at U.S. universities, including a new one this school year at Stanford. UC Berkeley has had a chapter since 2011, when the program first expanded beyond Michigan, and membership, which includes chapters at NYU Shanghai and a research college in Herzliya, is approximately 2,200 students.

Heilman said that Tamid combines five core elements: education, consulting, investment, fellowships in Israel and post-grad resources. One example of how the program works was when a group of Tamid engineering students teamed up with an Israeli company to develop a camera that attaches to a smartphone and can identify cervical cancer cells.

According to Tamid officials, 25 percent of the national membership is not Jewish.

Ahdout, a 19-year-old from Los Angeles, joined the Stanford chapter, which includes fellow student Josh Lange.

“It’s a great way to bridge those interests with Israel in an apolitical and non-religious fashion,” said Lange, a one-time counselor at Camp Tel Noar, a Jewish summer camp in New Hampshire.

UC Berkeley sophomore Ariela Hekmat agrees. “Tamid is the best fit for me because it combines two of my strongest passions: business and Israel,” said Hekmat, who is very involved in the campus group Bears for Israel.

To date, Tamid fellows have logged 65,000 pro-bono consulting hours with Israeli companies. UC Berkeley students have consulted with 15 companies, including EXO Technologies, Terra Venture Partners and Mobile ODT.

It’s a lot of responsibility for young students who haven’t had a lot of exposure to the business world.

UC Berkeley senior Daniella Wenger worked at the Tel Aviv office of Deloitte Israel as a Tamid fellow. The business administration major advised Israeli energy companies about first-time investments in foreign countries as well as solar-field and wind-farm strategies.

“You are not just working on projects,” said Wenger, now Tamid’s national director of education and a national board member. “You are leading them.”

The Stanford chapter is working on a consulting project with a freight company that was co-founded by an Israeli and is based in the United States. “Because it’s in its early stages, it’s an opportunity to have a strong role in developing the startup before going to market,” Ahdout said. “It’s a lot of responsibility for young students who haven’t had a lot of exposure to the business world.”

Lange, a junior majoring in computer science, said, “This is not just reading information in a book. Nothing beats real experiences.”

While Tamid is not an advocacy organization, it does offer a perspective that differs from what most college students hear about Israel. Describing Stanford as a campus with “a lot of contention about Israel issues,” Ahdout said Jewish students often don’t want to get involved with Israel because “it’s too messy.”

Tamid, however, gives them an opportunity to change the narrative and to present Israel as an innovative business hub.

Israel’s business savvy was on display at the Startup Nation Tech Fair in Berkeley last month. Co-sponsored by Tamid and Bears for Israel, the event allowed Hekmat to educate attendees about what she called “Israel’s thriving [business] ecosystem.”

Wenger added that those involved with Tamid do not form their opinions of Israel based on the hue and cry echoing across Sproul Plaza or from posters waved at rallies.

“Those are polarizing narratives,” she said. “Tamid’s purpose is to allow people to gain acute and deep business skills using Israel as a case study. It’s a more effective way to advocate for Israel than shouting on Sproul.”

Lange also views Tamid as a program that adds an interesting dynamic to conversations about Israel.

“When you look at Israel, the numbers prove it’s a successful economy given its size and its contributions,” he noted. “Even if you don’t agree with Israel’s political ideology, it’s hard to argue with its technological success.”

Elissa Einhorn
Elissa Einhorn

Elissa Einhorn began her writing career in the Bronx at the age of 8. She earned a master’s degree in communications and journalism 20 years later. While Elissa worked for non-profits her entire career, including as a Jewish communal professional, she now enjoys working for herself as a freelance writer. Still, her most treasured role is that of ima (mom) to twin daughters who she is (finally) happy to count among her friends.