Paying it forward

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Stanford University recently hosted the first annual Stanford Israel Tech Fair, an event dedicated to building the connection between Israel-based technology companies and the Stanford student body. The fair was an overwhelming success because of its careful focus on audience, designed by Stanford students for Stanford students.

I started to plan the Tech Fair in late October, when representatives from Write On for Israel approached me with the idea for a new initiative called Pay It Forward. I had spent my junior and senior years of high school participating in JUF's Write On for Israel program, preparing to advocate for Israel on campus through journalism. The Pay It Forward initiative offered a unique opportunity--a chance to plan any program specific to my campus with financial and advisory support from Write On for Israel.

Along with the Stanford Israel Alliance, the umbrella pro-Israel student group on our campus, I brainstormed an event that would fit the unique needs of our student body. Stanford is a technologically charged university set in the middle of the Silicon Valley. Our goal was to engage the vast majority of our student population—one that does not have any particular leanings towards Israel—with an event that was decidedly apolitical and could be pitched easily to any student. 

We settled upon the concept of a technology fair that would allow students to learn about the direct connections between Israel and the Silicon Valley. Companies and organization would be invited to talk to our students about their technological innovations, with some even offering jobs, internships, or research opportunities.

After months of dedication from the students of Stanford Israel Alliance, we were proud to host 10 companies at our first annual Stanford Israel Tech Fair in February, including Check Point Software, Mellanox Technologies, and KLA-Tencor among others. The event attracted some 200 students with a wide variety of prior associations with Israel and technology. In that sense, the Stanford Israel Tech Fair served its goal, reinforcing a positive association with Israel among our student body.  

In the future, we look forward to engaging more companies, student groups, and students in the event. We hope to further shift the scope of Israel-related discussion on campus, focusing on the potential for collaboration between two of the world's technology hotspots. 

We want to see more events on campuses nation-wide that are specifically tailored to their student populations. We valued the opportunity to make this advocacy our own, providing an experience that fit naturally with our campus and, therefore, had a broader impact. But most importantly, we are passionate about taking our understanding of Israel and paying it forward. 

Pay It Forward and Write On for Israel are generously funded by the Avi Chai Foundation. Write On for Israel is a program of JUF's Israel Education Center.

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