Jerusalem of Gold & Tech: Celebration of Human Capital

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Israel’s best “natural resource” has long been regarded as its people, their impressive diversity and innovative know-how. On July 16, 17, and 18, CFHU partnered with the Jerusalem Foundation to bring that to Western Canada: Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

Four impressive guest speakers from a variety of facets of Israeli society spoke in a Ted-style talk before a sold out crowd. The common denominator for the speakers was their connection to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Hebrew U). The evening presented the many ways in which Israel is using its human capital to leverage its place in the world and continue to be the innovative nation for which it has become world renowned.

Jerusalem of Gold & Tech speakers

Click here for the photo gallery from the Calgary event.

Lior Schillat is the head of the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research (JIPR), an organization which collects data on everything about Jerusalem. Although statistics don’t tell the whole story, the data collected by Schillat’s institute sheds a great deal of light on how people in Jerusalem live, work and play. He explained that Jerusalem is faced constantly with a power struggle between three groups with very different worldviews he called the ultra-orthodox Jews, Arabs and “the general public”. These groups have not only diverse needs and interests but also huge variances in every imaginable part of daily life. The JIPR attempts to use collected data to influence lawmakers to try to minimize conflicts and use the city’s diversity to empower everyone. “Instead of the zero sum game we used to play where we win and the others lose, we want to turn Jerusalem into a win-win, for everyone.”

Schillat’s optimism was shared by the second presenter, Maya HaLevy, director of the Bloomfield Museum of Science in Jerusalem. Although her goal is to promote interest and love of science, her ultimate objective is to ensure that Israel is a country with workforce equipped for the future. She explained the variety of programs in STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) that her museum provides to all segments of Jerusalem’s population. “We need to make connections with families and students. Over 200 000 Arab and ultra-orthodox visitors use our museum. We serve all communities with STEM literacy,” said HaLevy. She mentioned that while it is easier to attract ultra-orthodox families to the museum, Arab families stay away but are happy to send their children through school programs. Her message was that one of universal empowerment, like Schillat, that Israel will thrive when all segments of the population are educated and successful.

Jerusalem of Gold & Tech speakers

Click here for the photo gallery from the Edmonton event.

Yonathan Avraham is living his dream of becoming a physicist and serial entrepreneur. He is an example of someone who is thriving because of the education he is receiving at Hebrew U. He is also the beneficiary of Toronto philanthropist Seymour Schulich’s ambitious scholarship program. Avraham described his gratitude for the place in which he finds himself studying. “I am at the intersection of three unique resources that are ecosystems for innovation: the academic knowledge at Hebrew U, Jerusalem as a municipality supportive of start-up companies and a young dynamic student atmosphere. The combination has produced many innovators who are able to take their ideas to market and grow the Israeli economy.

Helping smart people turn their ideas into companies that make money is exactly how the final speaker of the night fits in. Tamir Huberman serves as VP, head of Business Development Computer Science and director of IT at Yissum, Hebrew U’s technology transfer company. He works with researchers who he says are constantly asking the following question, “How can I make this better?” What “this” is depends on the scientist but with Israeli chutzpah, tachlis, problem solving ability and the pressure of Israel’s existential threats fuelling the process, Huberman explained Israel is producing plenty of great companies. Yissum is the exclusive owner of all intellectual property produced at Hebrew U and has created 120 spin- off companies since its creation in 1964. Hugely successful and profitable for the university, Yissum helps monetize the brain-power HaLevy nurtures, Schillat influences and Avraham exemplifies.

Jerusalem: City of Gold & Tech was a resounding success. Each participant found at least one speaker who strongly resonated and many commented that while they came thinking the night would be interesting the event exceeded their expectations.

We thank our various partners in the three respective cities: JCC in Vancouver, Beth Tzedec Congregation in Calgary and Edmonton, TELUS World of Science, Edmonton Jewish Federation, University of Alberta and TEC Edmonton.

Jerusalem of Gold & Tech speakers

Click here for the photo gallery from the Vancouver event.

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CFHU is dedicated to supporting IMRIC through direct funding and by developing key collaborative medical research partnerships between Canada
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