Voice of the Jewish News: New tech champs

Voice of the Jewish News: New tech champs

This week's Jewish News editorial reflects on a landmark London conference celebrating Orthodox innovators

Jewish News
Moshe Lebowitz, Healables. Credit: Shai Dolev
Moshe Lebowitz, Healables. Credit: Shai Dolev

Every year for the last decade, Israeli high-tech firms – typically led by secular Jews – have come to London to present to UK-based investors. Rarer, but still a business calendar feature, is next week’s showcase of high-tech Israeli start-ups by Israeli Arabs, pitching in the City for the fourth time in seven years.

Unheard of has been the idea of an Orthodox Jewish high-tech delegation flying in from Israel to do the same, until it took place in a shared work-space for scale-ups in Shoreditch this week. As the smell of Vietnamese street food wafted in through the window, history was made.

Sure, some of the presentations need a bit of spit and polish (one forgot his prototype, another skipped over his “effectiveness” slide) but the ideas and entrepreneurial flair were fully recognisable from past Israeli visitors.

Among the ideas were “smart glasses” to help lead the blind round obstacles, systems designed to cut queues, and even “electronic butlers” to anticipate your needs, such as automatically turning your reading light off at night when it senses you close your book. Yet the pitches were part of a bigger picture. The challenges Orthodox Israeli Jews face in launching a tech start-up are infinitely greater than those faced by their secular peers, who often know each other from army service or university.

That is why efforts to support the few Orthodox high-tech entrepreneurs who don’t just dream about inventing something but design it, raise money for it and make it happen, all the while juggling religious and family commitments, are so vitally important, not just for Israel, but for Orthodox communities around the world. They are, in a very real sense, tech champions.

It is therefore of note that some of the biggest supporters of Orthodox start-up programmes are British Jewish families, and a point of pride that Israel’s first Orthodox high-tech cohort should choose London for their first investor pitch. We wish them well.

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