Two Torontonians set to excel in Israel this summer

Birthright Israel Excel names its first Canadian participants  

By Daniel Horowitz--Two Torontonians have been selected as the first Canadian students to take part in Birthright Israel Excel, an innovative program for students who combine academic achievement with social responsibility, the desire to succeed in the world of business and, as is the cornerstone of all Birthright Israel initiatives - strengthen their connection to Judaism and the State of Israel.  

The Taglit-Birthright Israel program, supported by the Charles & Lynn Schusterman Foundation, the Steinhardt Family Foundation and the Paul E. Singer Foundation, will bring 40 accomplished Jewish students to Tel Aviv at the end of May where they will intern for 10 weeks with some of Israel’s most exciting companies, gaining invaluable experience and making vital contacts that will help them in their future careers. Birthright Israel Excel participants will also meet with a myriad of Israel’s political, business, technology and philanthropic leaders.  

The two pioneering Torontonians – chosen out of more than 100 Canadian applicants - are Richie Chaikof, a 21-year-old graduate of CHAT’s Wallenberg Campus, currently in his third year at Western University and his first year at the Ivey Business School, and 19-year-old Daniel Gordon who recently completed his second year at Queen’s University in the Commerce program.  

The pair, who will be heading to Israel on May 31st, will be joining 38 other participants selected from across the United States.  

“It’s definitely an honour to have been selected to this very exciting program and to represent Canada, and, of course, Toronto,” said Chaikof. “I had applied for other programs and summer jobs, but Birthright Israel Excel appealed to me because it makes me part of a network with many others, some of whom will hopefully be North America’s future business leaders. We’re all staying together, in a residence in Tel Aviv, which is wonderful. I can’t wait to meet them.”  

Chaikof, who for now wants to give investment banking a shot, will spend his ten-week internship with a major bank in Tel Aviv.  

“I am eager to establish business and personal networks during the summer and continue to bring Israel innovation to the forefront of business discussions when I return to Canada,” said Chaikof.  “I want to join a network of young Jewish professionals and am seeking to broaden the engagement of North American businesses with Israeli commerce. That’s the most amazing part about the fellowship; participating in world-class global business in the context of our Jewish homeland.”  

As for Gordon, May 31st simply can’t come fast enough.  

A graduate of TanenbaumCHAT in Vaughan, Gordon, a participant on the 2011 March of the Living, is not only excited about gaining invaluable business experience and contacts, but doing it in Israel.  

“Being chosen for Birthright Excel is such an exciting opportunity, and one that I am so grateful for,” said Gordon. “The fact that through Excel I have an internship in the financial services industry, which is something I’m looking to go into, in Israel, is tremendous. It will be great to get a feeling for Israel’s business sector and it’s well known entrepreneurial drive.”  

And, as someone who continues to advocate for the Jewish state, Gordon feels the time in Israel will better prepare him to continue to advocate, but through a different slant.

“In my opinion, the best way to advocate for Israel, especially when dealing with non-Jews, is by focusing on Israel’s positive contributions to the world-at-large, and certainly two of her biggest contributions are in technology and business. It’s amazing when you realize how much Israel has accomplished in these areas, considering the fact that they are surrounded by many countries they can’t even do business with. I hope that this program will give me better insights as to how to better promote Israel, while teaching me leadership and communication skills which I will be able to transfer over to my future career, and even now, at school.”  

Excel is an extension of Taglit-Birthright Israel, which sends Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 26 on a 10-day trip to Israel to strengthen each participant’s Jewish identity.  Taglit-Birthright Israel aims to build an understanding, friendship, and lasting bond with the land and people of Israel and to reinforce the solidarity of the Jewish people worldwide.  Taglit-Birthright Israel is funded through a historical partnership between of the people of Israel through their Government, private philanthropists (Birthright Israel Foundation of Canada) and local Jewish communities around the world (in Toronto, through UJA Federation).  

“We are thrilled and proud that Richie and Daniel were given the opportunity to join this elite program,” said Elizabeth Sokolsky, VP of Education and Operations for Taglit Birthright Israel, North America. “We hope that we will be able to secure the necessary funding in Canada to expand the number of Canadian participants in the future”.  

For more information on Taglit-Birthright Israel Excel visit


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