Birthright tech intern program begins fourth year

North American students are working at Israeli firms to learn business and experience the country, ‘Taglit style’

Jews from all over the world, including Israel, at a Birthright event in Jerusalem. (Photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)
Jews from all over the world, including Israel, at a Birthright event in Jerusalem. (Photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

Citi Israel, the local subsidiary of the multinational financial giant, along with nearly three dozen other companies, is working with interns who came to Israel in June as part of the Birthright Israel Excel Business Leadership Program. The program includes 40 students from top universities in the US and Canada, who are interning with companies like Amdocs, General Motors (at their Herzliya Advanced Technical Center), Microsoft Ventures, Tnuva, Giza Venture Capital, Wix, along with Citi, and many more. This is the program’s fourth year.

“Besides exposing young people to how a multinational company like Citi works, we’re also exposing them to life in Israel, helping them to see Israel beyond the TV news headlines,” said Neil Corney, CEO of Citibank Israel.

The students from the US and Canada, chosen from among thousands of applicants, are scheduled to stay in Israel for two months, during which they are to meet Israeli business leaders, visit important locations across the country, take part in professional workshops and participate in a mentoring program featuring the CEOs and top executives of the participating companies.

When the students get back home, each student is linked to a local mentor, usually a senior businessman and philanthropist who is active in the Jewish community and Israel-oriented issues. The mentors advise participants about their professional futures and the importance of social and philanthropic responsibilities, and connect them to their Jewish identity and to the business and social sides of the State of Israel.

Birthright, called Taglit in Hebrew, is considered to be one of the biggest successes ever in promoting a connection among young Jews to the State of Israel as well as to their Jewish identity. Over the past 14 years, hundreds of thousands of students and young adults have taken the free 10-day educational tour of the country offered by Birthright, allowing for the creation of new friendships between participants and Israelis and deepening their understanding of the country and of their Jewish heritage. Since its inception in 1999, over 350,000 Jews from over 60 countries, including over 65,000 young Israeli soldiers and students, have been a part of the program.

At Citi, said Corney, interns would work at a variety of jobs in the bank’s international finance department. “We actually have a rather large operation in Israel, with about 140 people in the international finance department and some 75 people working in research and development in our tech lab.” Citi opened the lab several years ago to help Citi develop financial technology apps and services for the organization worldwide, Corney said.

“The program, currently in its fourth year, provides outstanding students from the United States and Canada the opportunity to intern at leading Israeli companies. These students will graduate college in a few years and find themselves working in key positions at large companies across the US, Canada and the globe. Their familiarity with the Israeli market will serve as a catalyst in creating cooperation between the Diaspora and Israel,” said Gidi Mark, CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel.

Citi, said Corney, was proud to be participating, as much to show off Israel as to show off the company. “We are big supporters of the idea,” he said. “We are happy to encourage anyone from North America to come to Israel and be exposed to life here, to see that it’s different than what they see on the news. In a way, students in the internship program become ‘tech ambassadors,’ both for Citi, and for Israel.”

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