Sixty young Jews from the world’s leading universities recently landed in Israel to participate in the Birthright Israel Excel program for 10 weeks.
Forty of the participants came from the United States, while 20 came from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, France, Mexico, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom. For 13 of them, this is their first visit to Israel.
“Birthright Excel is a lifelong fellowship, and as such, a lifetime commitment,” said Oz Reshef, an Excel fellow in 2013 who now serves as chairman of the Israeli Leadership Board. Reshef also works as Head of Information Security Operations at Wix.com.
“What we as fellows strive for, is to leverage and even utilize the tools that we receive from being a member of this global community to the general well-being of society – from a business perspective, but also from a social perspective. We are committed to being there in every important junction of Jewish life and to make sure we are on the right course.”
Reshef explained that, in his opinion, the most important thing is to be part of a global, well-connected community, whose members are “on the road to do something great in their lives.”
“What we as Fellows strive for is to leverage and even utilize the tools that we receive from being a member of this global community, to the general wellbeing of society – from a business perspective, but also from a social perspective. We are committed to being there in every important junction of Jewish life and make sure we are on the right course.”
Birthright Israel Excel
Founded in 2011, Birthright Israel Excel is a highly selective fellowship that builds leadership skills and relationships among future global business leaders; its aim is to propel the future success of the global Jewish community.
Fifty-five students and entrepreneurs are selected each year from thousands of applicants studying at leading universities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, UK, Germany, France, Latin America and Australia
They come to Israel for a 10 week summer internship at the best companies in the Israeli tech and business ecosystem. Each participant is paired with an Israeli peer, who is likely to be either an outstanding undergraduate student or an officer from leading units in the IDF.
In the decade since its launch, Birthright Israel Excel now has a global network of 900 young business executives, some of which are already CEOs, entrepreneurs, investors and key contributors in the technology and business realms in both Israel and North America.
At the end of the summer program, all participants join an active community that creates a variety of social and business opportunities in North America and Israel. The community offers professional lectures and workshops in the fields of business, law and technology. They also offer job opportunities, professional mentoring, social activities and much more.
The Birthright Excel community doesn’t only foster great leaders in their fields, but it also develops a deep connection between Israelis and young Jews in the Diaspora. Thanks to that, the community strengthens the Diaspora Jews’ connection to Israel and their Jewish identity.
In recent years, more and more graduates of Birthright’s prestigious business and leadership program have been selected by Forbes as the most promising young people.
Reshef said that his proudest moment as an Excel fellow is witnessing how the community reacted to the latest conflict between Israel and Gaza, Operation Guardian of the Walls.
“Within a few hours since the first missiles were launched, we created several online platforms for the transaction of unmediated information and engaged with our fellows from around the world,” Reshef said.
He added that “we did live broadcasts, info sessions, opened WhatsApp groups, public diplomacy workshops – many Israelis during those stressful and worrying times felt like they wanted to do something. Anything. And the community was able to facilitate such doings”.
Idit Rubin, executive director of Birthright Israel Excel, said that the fellows in her program came from an array of fields, such as finance, entrepreneurship, VCs and pro-Israel activism. “Excel fellows are currently employed by some of the most known companies around the world, such as Google, Amazon, Meta, LinkedIn, Wix.com, Monday.com, and many more,” Rubin said in detail.
Other fellows, according to Rubin, are partners in the biggest Venture Capital firms like Bessemer or Aleph, “or entrepreneurs which started their own companies, start-ups, or investment firms.” But there are also fellows in less corporate roles. “We have fellows pursuing a more political-diplomatic career, and one of our fellows was just appointed as the new Consul of Israel to the Southwest United States,” she said proudly.
“Birthright Israel Excel is the most prestigious and selective Business Leadership program in the Jewish world,” Rubin said. “We provide our fellows with a set of tools, which we then expect them to use in order to give back to society and their local communities, if not the Jewish world in its entirety.”
“As we are locating the future leaders of the Jewish world in Israel and the globe, I look forward to seeing them making an impact on business, social, and public policies around the world,” said Ruben when asked of the vision of the Excel community.
In addition, she hopes to expand the geographic areas of the fellows. “Last year, we decided to expand and accepted participants from all over the world, such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, France, Italy and the UK, in addition to those from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Israel,” she said. “Part of our vision is to continue to expand and bring in fellows from all countries.”