Women’s PLUS ONE event packs the house for Israel speaker Viva Sara Press

by | Jan 22, 2016 | Other News

Jodi Klebanoff with Leah Genossar and speaker Viva Press.

Jodi Klebanoff with Leah Genossar and speaker Viva Press.

In early December, the Women’s Cabinet of the UJFT invited the women of the community to a PLUS ONE engagement event featuring Israeli journalist and blogger Viva Sara Press, who presented to a standing room only crowd at the Sandler Family Campus. To quote an overheard remark made by a few of the participants: “She was a ROCK STAR!” Press wowed the audience with her presentation on hightech medical advances coming out of Israel today.

She couldn’t over-stress the fact that what she was bringing the group was just a very small fraction of a growing industry which seeks to create the products and services that improve the quality and length of life for all humans—not just Israelis—not just Jews. And this was the message which truly resonated. These are Israel’s “gifts to the world.”

Press talked about newly developed apps which will allow individuals to do early self-diagnosis of various medical issues, from cancer to diabetes. She talked about micro-cameras connected to ear-pieces which “talk” to their wearers, enabling the blind and visually impaired to “see” through the camera’s lens. The camera relays a message to a computer chip which verbalizes it through the earpiece alerting the wearer to encroaching obstacles and providing a heretofore unmatched level of independence. She talked about the “old technology” of the camera pill, which continues to allow physicians all over the world to diagnose gastrointestinal problems that can then be treated. The list goes on and on. And the new start-ups continue to popup. Many are then purchased by larger companies and the cycle perpetuates.

‘What is it?’ Press is often asked, “that makes Israel disproportionately successful in the area of high-tech medicine (as well as other areas of high-technology).” In her response, Press sites a number of factors, not least of which is the small size of the country. “If you are a small start-up and you want to collaborate with the research department of a large and respected university,” she says, “here in Israel, you can get in your car and drive for an hour from Netanya to Tel Aviv.” In other places it’s not as easy. In the States you might have to book a flight from Silicon Valley to Boston, then stay a few days, because it’s a long schlep. Distance to travel might not seem like much of an obstacle…until it’s completely removed.

Another characteristic that sets Israeli start-ups apart from others, is their willingness to risk failure. Add to that an incredible resiliency that encourages those who’ve failed to try something new, right away. And it’s a recipe for great success. It’s getting back on the horse before one has time to become fearful of horses. Still another characteristic Press mentioned as unique to the Israeli workforce is the willingness of workers at every level to step up and suggest better ways of doing things. Hand in hand with this is the willingness of management to listen. From the lowliest new hire to the CEO, all suggestions for improved processes are valued and considered. This kind of openness is cultivated, surprisingly enough, in the IDF—Israel Defense Forces—within which nearly all Israel are required to serve, and from which come many of Israel’s best and brightest ideas and inventions.

Finally, Press stressed the importance of constantly bringing new ideas from varied backgrounds to the fore. And here, she stressed, is where the work of the Federations and their value to Israel is unparalleled. “You provide the funds,” she says, “that enable the Jewish Agency to bring new Olim [immigrants] from the furthest corners of the earth to meet, to exchange ideas, to collaborate, create and produce in the heart of the Start-Up Nation. How can we ever say thank you enough?”

By any measure, this Women’s Cabinet PLUS ONE event was successful. Women came away from the room full of pride in Israel and the Jewish people. They came away with a sense of satisfaction in even the small part that each of them played and continue to play through their support of the UJFT and its Annual Campaign each year. While Israel may be the incubator, many here in Tidewater can feel a part of this amazing phenomenon called the Start Up Nation.

by Amy Zelenka, UJFT women’s campaign director