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February 28, 2017 2:34 pm

Start-Up Tech Fair at NYU Featuring Israeli Entrepreneurs Attracts Diverse Student Population Interested in Innovation, Organizers Say

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NYU Start-Up Nation Tech Fair. Photo: Courtesy Hasbara Fellowships.

NYU Start-Up Nation Tech Fair. Photo: Courtesy Hasbara Fellowships.

A technology fair held on Monday night that featured Israeli entrepreneurs “attracted students from a wide range of cultural, religious and political backgrounds,” an event organizer told The Algemeiner.

“The diversity of the students who came to the NYU Start-Up Tech Fair was the most exciting part. Most pro-Israel events attract the same crowd of Jewish students who are already interested in Israel,” said Elliot Mathias, executive director of Hasbara Fellowships. “Students came to the fair because they were interested in technology, business and innovation, and then at the event they learned about how Israel is a world leader in all of these areas.”

The fair, co-sponsored by a dozen student clubs — including business groups and the NYU Shruti Indian students club — included some 25 Israeli companies and a panel discussion about the difference between Israeli and American business culture, during which practical tips for student entrepreneurs were conveyed.

David Moed, a member of the NYU student group Realize Israel and committee chair of the event, told The Algemeiner, “It went great. There were no anti-Israel demonstrations, and though we had security ready, we really didn’t need it.”

“NYU has a culture that is career-oriented, and it doesn’t have the political culture of Columbia, for example. Here, people just want to do their thing. So an event like this, where students can come and figure out their career, explore and learn about business is perfect,” Moed said. “I don’t know if someone will wake up now saying, ‘I love Israel, I’m going there right now!’ But it definitely showed a different side of the country.”

The fair was one of 25 such events being held at universities across the country this spring, as part of a joint project by Hasbara Fellowships and  Israel Ideas.

According to Mark Cohen, founder of Israel Ideas and originator of the Start-Up Nation Tech Fair concept, “65 percent of fair attendees are not Jewish.”

Cohen said he conceived of the event during a 2012 trip to Israel that coincided with Operation Pillar of Defense — an Israeli incursion into Gaza to combat Hamas — during which he saw the Iron Dome missile defense system deployed for the first time. “It was an awesome sight,” he told The Algemeiner. “And, in addition to meeting with a number of Israeli entrepreneurs, I realized that there was a story here that had to be told about Israel — as something other than a conflict zone.”

“We piloted our fair event in 2015, with programs at NYU and George Washington University. In the spring of 2016, we did 13 campuses, and this year we are doing over two dozen. Last year we had 37 businesses, this year hope to have about 60,” Cohen said.

Yuval Arbel, founder of BuyforGood — which sells products made by members of Israel’s disabled and underprivileged communities — participated in the fair and said that his company’s “social impact message” resonated with the students.

“Millennials don’t just want to buy something, they want to actually make change, so we get good feedback at the universities. We are a social tech Israeli company, connecting with Israel supporters around the world, and this fair is a great way to do that,” Arbel told The Algemeiner.

The fair will next be held at the University of Connecticut.

NYU was listed ninth on The Algemeiner‘s 2016 list of “40 Worst Schools for Jewish Students,” due to ongoing campaigns to boycott Israel and a number of antisemitic attacks on campus.

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