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Thursday, October 2, 2014

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CTS engages next generation

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Generation Next organizer Hershel Recht and Cheryl Koperwas, executive director of the Canadian Technion Society, at a Generation Next meeting last month. [Michelle Bitran photo]

TORONTO — The Canadian Technion Society (CTS) is literally refusing to grow old.

The organization, which creates awareness and fundraises for Haifa’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, has been around since 1943, but in the last year, it’s been focusing its efforts on the 25-to-45 crowd with its Generation Next project.

The goal is to “pass down the philanthropic role from one generation to a new one,” said Scott Woodrow, CTS board liason to the Generation Next group, which includes about 25 young professionals who are interested in learning about fundraising for the Technion and spreading the message about the institution in Canada.

The young, enthusiastic crowd that has signed up comes from a range of different professional backgrounds.

“We have venture capitalists, we have architects, real estate agents, lawyers – you name it, we’ve got it – all people that took an interest in the Technion,” said Hershel Recht, CTS’ national development director and the main organizer of Generation Next. 

Though the idea to form Generation Next originated in 2004, it had been put on the back burner until last year. Now that the group is in full swing, Recht is enthusiastic about the impact it will have. “Over the last year, it’s back,” he said “and it’s back with a vengeance.”

The group’s first event was held last March, with businessman and philanthropist Seymour Shulich addressing the crowd about his personal story as well as about why the Technion is crucial for Israel’s development.

For its next event, Generation Next has planned a trip to Israel later this month. The group of 16 who have signed up will be taken to see the Technion and examine its impact on the thriving high-tech industry in Israel. The one-week trip is being heavily subsidized by a donor, and Recht is certain it will be an eye-opening experience.

“It’s a one-week smash, bang – this is Technion, this is high-tech in Israel,” he said with his typical enthusiasm, adding that, as supportive as the Generation Nexters are, it’s impossible for them to fully understand the Technion’s impact without seeing it for themselves. 

The itinerary promises a peek at Better Place, the electric car company founded by a Technion graduate, as well as a visit to the Elite chocolate factory, where food and biotechnology graduates help create delicious treats. The group will also listen to several speakers and have the chance to take in the sights and sounds of Israel’s cities.

Torontonian Moran Drori, 29, only joined the group about a month ago, but the ninth-generation Israeli snatched up the opportunity to go on the trip. She said the first-hand experience will help her spread the word about the Technion when she gets back to Toronto.

“It’s not just about going to the university, it’s about going…to the places where the Technion is involved to see the fruit of the labour,” she said.

Recht added that the trip will also allow the Toronto community to make professional connections with Israelis, so that both sides can benefit from new partnerships.

According to Recht, Generation Next is going to forge a new path when it comes to young Jewish organizations. He wants to keep it focused on emerging technology and its creators, rather than on the glitz and glamour of traditional fundraising parties. “We’re not looking for parties. That’s not us,” he said.

After the trip to Israel, Generation Next will get back to planning its growth in Canada. Recht is confident the group of enthusiastic young people he has brought together is a strong one. “Ten years from now, they’ll be the board for Technion.”

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