The Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT)—Lev Academic Center for the first time this academic year is offering a special program in entrepreneurship for Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox students. Targum Shlishi is helping to support the program for women students. The student-run program, called LevTech LAB, launched in November 2017 and is being offered again in the current semester. The twelve-week program is a multi-faceted introduction to entrepreneurship that exposes students to thought leaders, cutting-edge companies, and venture capitalists while it teaches the building blocks of entrepreneurship and involves students in an intensive collaborative project.
“I believe that much like the immigration of Russian Jews to Israel served as stimulus for an economic boom, so too will the integration of these very Orthodox women and the unleashing of their collective brain power stimulate another era of growth in Israeli society,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “Programs such as JCT’s provide much-needed training and skills for women to be able to actualize their potential in this arena. I am hopeful that the entire landscape of women’s roles in the realm of entrepreneurship will grow exponentially in the next five years, thanks to programs such as this.”
The ultra-Orthodox (haredi), modern Orthodox, and Hasidic women students who comprise JCT’s student body are an untapped source of innovation. Entrepreneurship, and especially hi-tech entrepreneurship, has not traditionally been an area that female students from Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox backgrounds have gravitated to, which means that Israel has to date missed out on realizing the entrepreneurial potential of this valuable and potentially game-changing sector of society.
“JCT is committed to providing opportunities for our women,” says Orlee Guttman, director of strategic partnerships at JCT. “We know that these women have the potential to do anything.”
Background: Developing the Program
The program originated from the desire to teach students essential skills, provide hands-on experience, and expose students to industry leaders.
As part of the program’s development, JCT representatives visited several university and college entrepreneurship programs and a number of accelerated programs. “We wanted to learn from all of the different programs and from the experiences and challenges that these programs had encountered so that we could build our own model,” Guttman explains.
Administrators at JCT were especially concerned with student interest and availability. Students at JCT have a heavy course load, as they essentially take a double curriculum that includes their academic focus and a full curriculum in Jewish Studies.
“Because we were not sure if the women students would have the motivation and time for the entrepreneurship program, we did some experiments,” Guttman explains. One of those experiments was to start sending the students to hackathons (technology building marathons)—in one, JCT women came in first, second, and third place. The level of interest, number of students who were responsive, and the stellar results made the JCT administration realize that “Not only do the students have the motivation, but they’re very, very good,” Guttman says.
Entrepreneurship Program Scope and Organization
LevTech LAB includes such topics as formulating strategy, market research, creating a business plan, marketing, financing, cash flow and budgeting, pitching ideas, product management, and more.
The program is broadly geared to encompass both high-technology and low-technology as well as start-ups and working for established companies. Regardless of goals and career trajectory, the program is designed to provide students with essential entrepreneurial skills.
“Everything we teach our students about how to be an entrepreneur are the same skills that they can use, whether they want to start their own business or whether they want to be entrepreneurial in a larger context,” says Guttman. “We know our women are creative. We want to give them the opportunity to express that and to build something with that creativity within the program and then beyond it.”
Students in the entrepreneurship program meet once a week for three months. In addition to weekly speakers, students work in teams on specific projects and have mentors from the business or technology sectors who advise them. During the current semester, JCT is also organizing a hackathon on the women’s campus, which will be open to all students.
“We’re very excited to offer this program and to see what develops from it,” says Guttman.
About Jerusalem College of Technology
The Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT)—Lev Academic Center was established in 1969 as a modern-Orthodox college, with a current student population of 4,500+ students. As there are separate campuses for men and women, more than 2,000 ultra-Orthodox (haredi) students are among the student population. JCT has a history of excellence in engineering, electro-optics, business management, and, more recently, established and quickly became top-ranked in health sciences. A significant number of JCT graduates go on to senior intelligence units in the military, including the cyber intelligence unit 8200. JCT graduates have established numerous high-tech companies and are top engineers throughout the country’s aerospace and defense industry and multinational and Israeli-based hi-tech companies. For more information on JCT, visit its website.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website. Follow Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director, on Twitter.