It was in high school that Jonas Singer of Millburn discovered a passion for Israel advocacy — cultivated in large part by Write On For Israel, a two-year fellowship for high school juniors and seniors sponsored locally by the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ and the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life, the federation’s Jewish identity-building organization.
Now a sophomore at Brandeis University, Singer is applying the lessons learned through WOFI as vice president of BIPAC, the Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee, and as the 2015 organizer of an annual fair and gala that matches students with opportunities at tech companies under a pro-Israel umbrella.
BIPAC’s Israel Invents: The Story Behind the Startup Nation enables companies and students to engage with one another, share knowledge, and network with fellow entrepreneurs. The event consists of a dinner followed by presentations with an open networking forum.
The idea, Singer said, is “to create cross-cultural opportunities for internships and future employment and solidarity.”
In 2014, the program’s first year, student Andrew Savage, a member of the campus TAMID: Israel Investment Group, gave the keynote address. In attendance were 30 students and three companies — the Boston-based Apptopia, Inc.; Intralise, a mobile app developer also based in Boston; and MASA Israel, the umbrella group for many Israel-based programs.
This year the 36 students who attended on Jan. 29 heard keynote speaker Haim Levkowitz. An associate professor of computer science at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Levkowitz is managing partner of HyperGROWTH Ventures LLC, based in Andover, Mass. Attending were representatives of three companies: Apptopia; WordPlay Graphics, a Judaica company in Millburn; and Karyopharm Therapeutics, with headquarters in Natick, Mass.
A student also presented on behalf of OurCrowd, a crowd-funding source for Israeli startups based in Jerusalem. The event was cosponsored by the Hiatt Career Center, Entrepreneurship Club, and TAMID, all at Brandeis.
Write On For Israel, created by The Jewish Week in New York, teaches students about Israel, Zionism, and the Arab-Israeli conflict and provides guidance on methods of advocacy for Israel using the tools of writing, broadcasting, and public speaking. It includes an eight-day trip to Israel.
“WOFI got me interested in Israel advocacy before I realized I had the interest,” said Singer. “It was intense but set me on course to stay on top of Israel issues and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” He added that while he identifies himself as a “cultural” Jew, “I feel really connected to Israel because of the experiences I had with WOFI. That definitely carried over in terms of Israel advocacy on campus.”
“I wanted to promote Israel on campus as much as I could,” he said.
Singer graduated from Millburn High School in 2013. His parents, Lisa and Tom Singer, belong to Kol Rina, the independent minyan in South Orange.
Coverage of youth and higher education made possible by a gift to the Friends of NJJN Fund from the Florin Family Foundation.