Israel engagement programs for college students come in many flavors, from religious to political to cultural. This summer, 231 students who have chosen to engage with Israel through its business ecosystem spent eight weeks honing their professional skills in Tel Aviv, in the heart of the Startup Nation.
The Tamid Group Fellowship is a competitive internship program open to active members of Tamid Group, an organization that two University of Michigan students looking for an alternative means of connection to Israel started in 2008. The group now encompasses about 2,200 members of chapters on 53 American college campuses.
While many Tamid fellows are not religious Jews — some are not even Jewish — two participants this summer were brought up in Teaneck’s modern Orthodox community: Daniel Bergstein (Columbia, class of 2021) and Daniel Ferber (Yeshiva, class of 20 20).
“I applied with the intention of getting a useful internship,” Mr. Bergstein said. “It ended up blowing my expectations away.”
He worked full time as a software engineer for Skywatch.ai, a drone insurance company. “Since this is a small startup I got to interact directly with the CEO, CTO, and marketing director,” he said. “I learned two new programming languages and worked on two major projects the company now uses every day, including a flight-analysis tool.”
Though the internship was “a pivotal aspect” of the overall experience, the social part of it was no less important, he said. “Being able to meet Tamid members from so many campuses was amazing. I’d been to Israel on a gap-year program at Yeshivat Orayta — a religious experience — while Tamid gave me an apolitical and areligious perspective on Israel I had never received before. About 40 percent of the kids were not Jewish, so it was very nice to explain my culture and religious identity, which I have so much pride in, to those who had not been to Israel before.”
Mr. Bergstein, who graduated from the Frisch School in Paramus, is a computer engineering major entering Columbia’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science. He is a transfer student from the University of Maryland, where he served on the board of its Tamid chapter and organized professional development activities for members.
He also was the project manager of a Tamid student consulting team that researched and wrote a report for Israeli automotive cybersecurity company GuardKnox about the U.S. regulatory landscape regarding connected and autonomous vehicles. Tamid Group encourages members to do pro-bono consulting for Israeli startup companies via its strategic relationships with venture capital firms and accelerator programs.
Mr. Bergstein therefore was eager to become a Tamid Fellow. Students accepted to the program pay $900 and receive a stipend, housing, air and ground transportation, and activities; “basically a free trip to Israel,” he said.
Tamid Fellows had the opportunity to participate in a startup pitch night at a business accelerator. They listened to five-minute pitches from four startups, considered feedback on those pitches from a VC partner, and then voted for the company they thought most likely to succeed.
The itinerary also included weekend trips to the north, Jerusalem, south, and Galilee; optional networking events; and evening programming geared toward professional development in the fields of consulting, investment banking, marketing, and computer science. Participants met with Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat, visited a youth village and an Ethiopian-Israeli farm, met college students at IDC Herzliya, enjoyed a hike, a boat ride, and bike riding, and did some volunteering.
For Mr. Bergstein and Mr. Ferber, being housed with other Tamid Fellows in the hip South Tel Aviv neighborhood of Florentin presented a very different way of experiencing Israel, particularly on Shabbat. Mr. Bergstein pointed out that although Florentin’s youthful residents are more likely to spend the day of rest in a street café than a synagogue, Israeli public transportation does not run during that 25-hour period, “so you did have this special vibe that was very nice.”
Mr. Ferber was one of eight Yeshiva University students in the program. He was more familiar than most with “The Big Orange,” as Tel Aviv is nicknamed, because his grandparents live there. In his Florentin apartment, he and his roommates “hosted big Shabbat meals for other Tamid Fellows and had some pretty inspiring experiences.”
A student at YU’s Sy Syms School of Business, Mr. Ferber interned at Clarity Capital, where he prepared reports on investment opportunities. “It was a really cool experience,” he said. “I learned a lot. I’m going into finance and it shed light on what I like and don’t like about the field, and helped me focus on what I want to be doing in the future.”
Thinking back, the first weekend trip was the most memorable, Mr. Ferber said. He was in Haifa along with 125 other program fellows. “It was the first time I got to meet so many people different than myself, and building those relationships was an awesome experience,” he said.