12 Alumni Making Headlines!
Hebrew University is extremely proud and honored to congratulate 12 of its alumni, who are featured in TheMarker’s 40 Under 40 list of promising young individuals.
TheMarker is a Hebrew-language daily business newspaper, and the following is a translation based on the 40 Under 40 feature.
VP and CFO, Menorah Mivtahim
Ziv Cohen embarked on his journey in the world of economics after successfully finishing his BA with honors in law and accounting at the Hebrew University. Cohen later on completed his master's with honors in business administration and commercial and corporate law. At the young age of 28, he held the position of lecturer at the Hebrew University, and then established the School of Accounting at the Hadassah Academic College.
Subsequent to his studies and law firm internship, where he specialized in the commercial and corporate arenas, he began to work at the Israel Securities Authority, where his duties included several senior positions, and was involved in many integral decisions. In his last position with the Authority, he was responsible for its finances.
Two years ago, Cohen decided to return to the private sector, and in his current position at Menorah Mivtahim, he has had a major impact on the changes the insurance and financial branches have undergone in the last few years.
Cohen is an experienced CFO, with a deep understanding in investment, finance, capital raising, mergers and acquisitions. He has insight in professional subjects in relation to regulation, law and accounting. His colleagues (both past and present) describe him as a creative thinking innovator. These traits are perceived as rare in the conservative branch of finance and are valuable, especially in a leading company that handles more than 150 billion shekels, and is involved in a variety of complex projects.
Partner, JVP (Venture Capital industries)
Since the 1990s, the capital industry has been looking for innovative ways to renew itself. One of the approaches is to build the generation of the future. Yonatan Machado is an excellent example of accelerated intra-organizational advancement through his position as partner in the oldest fund in the country - JVP in Jerusalem.
Machado was born and raised in Jerusalem, and fulfilled his military service in Golani (an infantry brigade). At the age of 23, he began his studies at the Hebrew University, in a track for outstanding students, and upon completion, received a BA in law and business management. He interned in the law office of E. S. Shimron, I. Molho, Persky & Co, a prominent law firm in Israel. Four years ago, Machado began working in JVP as an analyst. A year and a half later, he was promoted to the position of investments manager in the satellite company NSLcomm, a field that was new to the fund. Several months later, he was promoted once more to partner, with the goal of leading the fund's young investment activities, specifically in Jerusalem. With his colleagues, Machado launched JVP Play, a platform the presents young companies with a chance to collaborate globally.
Partner and Manager, Meron Capital Investment Fund
At the age of 31, Liron Azrielant has acquired experience comparable to senior high-tech officials. She was a program developer in the army and Agilent Technologies, served as a mergers and acquisitions consultant in the world leading business consulting firm Bain & Company in Atlanta, and PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York, and served as senior manager in the Israeli branch of the Capital Fund Venture & Blumberg Capital.
A year ago, she was appointed to manage the Zion Capital Fund, which looks to invest in start-ups in the fields of enterprise software, cyber, machine learning, finance, and digital health.
Since Azrielant skipped a grade, she was drafted into the army at the age of 17 in the Talpiot program. Two years later, when Azrielant understood that she did not want to pursue a career in the army, she left the program. She was placed in the prestigious 8200 R&D Unit where she conducted feasibility studies for new technologies.
A year after she completed her service, she received her BA in math and physics from the Hebrew University and became one of the youngest alumni with a dual degree master's program from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in computer science and business management.
Azrielant decided to return to Israel and quickly discovered venture capital, and quickly realized that she was interested in participating in deals during the early stages of development.
Rachel Berner Shalem
Deputy Director General for Strategic and Economic Planning, Ministry of Health
Rachel Berner-Shalem is newly appointed to her position as Deputy Director General for Strategic and Economic Planning at the Ministry of Health after having served as Director of Research and Policy at Employment Services for the past five years. Berner-Shalem lead a revolutionary process in which all programs created at Employment Services were accompanied by research in collaboration with Tel Aviv University. The researchers examined the effectiveness of the program for the employment seeking public and the state and whether it was a good return on the investment of public funds. Under her leadership, Employment Services became the first, and as of now, the sole government body where its programming is accompanied by research.
The division created a set of reports that allows every manager in Israel to know where each participant stands within the employment process, and whether obstacles exist, in order to make the most out of each program. As a senior manager in the Employment Service's strategy team, Brenner-Shelem instilled the perception that new programs should be developed that are clear and accessible to the public. "We did not build a program that encourages employment among a weakened population, with eligibility conditional upon filling 20 pages of legal forms," she says. “If it’s not possible to explain the program in a half page with pictures, we did not do a good enough job.”
From 2015-2016 Berner-Shalem was member of the Maoz program for training administrative reserves in the civil and public sector. She completed a BA and MA from the Hebrew University in economics, graduating with honors in both. In 2012 she began her doctoral studies as a recipient of a Presidential Scholarship, which was suspended when she joined Employment Services. In the past she was an independent economic adviser for the government and other public bodies. Among her clients were the Public Committee for the Advancement of Occupational Safety and Health in Israel, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, the Green Movement and the Organization for Life and the Environment.
Shira Havtam Shato
Director of Human Resources and Strategic Development, Ministry of Religious Services
Shira Havtam Shato started her long challenging journey from a small village near Gondar, Ethiopia to Israel when she was three years old. Her family moved from the absorption center for new immigrants to Migdal Haemek. "I was a good kid and a good student because I didn’t want to bother my parents, I didn't want to be a burden," she explains. After her army service, which included officers' training, she was accepted to the Atidim program which trains cadets for public service. As a part of the program she completed her BA in international relations and political science from the Hebrew University. She completed her MA in the excellence program in public service and governance at the Hebrew University, writing her thesis about immigration waves from Ethiopia to Israel. She is also a graduate of the Mandel School for Educational Leadership.
From 2014 to 2016 Havtem Shato was the manager of Zinuk Ba-aliya, a community program at the Aluma Association which aims to expand and deepen the contribution of young Israelis of Ethiopian origin through significant military or national service. The program encourages the young generation to take part in influential and active centers while maintaining their personal and communal identity, and helps prepare the youth for the struggles they will face in the army. "I went to Aluma in order to be exposed to work within my community and not just represent them to the outside" she explains.
After finishing her position at the Association, Havtam Shato returned to the public sector and, as she claims, is there to stay. "I believe that the public sector is the place that allows you to make big changes on a large scale" she states. "All the more so, it is extremely important to have representatives from under-represented populations. Sometimes the mere fact that I'm present in the room changes the conversation, the way people think, speak or make decisions."
Vice President, Government Companies Authority
Since June 2017, accountant Hassan Tawafra is the Vice President of Government Companies Authority, where he manages the Department of Finance and Inspection. Tawafra works in many fields, but in particular works on financial inspection and supervision of the governmental company's performances. He directs strategic steps towards business development and innovation and is responsible for leading privatization processes and issues of tradable debt.
Despite his young age, Tawafra has enjoyed a long career in the public sector. Prior to his current position, he was an electric and education coordinator at the Government Companies Authority, and prior to that he was a referent at the Israel Securities Authority. He completed his accounting internship at KPMG. The departing manager of the Government Companies Authority, Ori Yogev, said that Tawafra is "the kind of manager who thinks creatively, and leads unconventional acts." He predicts that Tawafra "will be one of the leading managers of the public sector."
Tawafra has always been passionate about the ideological-social sector. When he was a student he worked to promote Arab students at the National Union of Israeli Students. He initiated projects in academia and the work force and was the lead advisor for Arab students in the National Union. In the years 2005-2006 he participated in the Sadaka-Reut, Arab Jewish Youth Partnership.
He received his high school education in The Israel Arts and Science Academy boarding school, far from his hometown, Maghar. He has an MBA with a specialization in finance and a BA in accounting and economics, both from the Hebrew University, both with excellence. He has also been teaching in the economics and accounting department at Hadassah Academic College.
Professor Nathan Keller
Researcher, Bar-Ilan Department of Mathematics
The technological revolution that has taken place during the last few years has gifted household devices and vehicles with "intelligence" - the ability to communicate. With all of its benefits, this innovation also falls under the threat of hacking. Two years ago, security experts demonstrated how the computer system of a Jeep can be hacked while driving. As a result, Chrysler ordered 1.4 million automobiles to be fixed. The purpose of Professor Nathan Keller's research is to provide a sufficient code for computer systems. He does this by simulating attacks on computer systems, and as a result finds the weak points of the current security systems.
Among other things, Keller and other researchers helped develop a simulation of a breach into the security system of the GSM Cellular network. They tracked a security flaw in the system that provides the ability to listen to conversations, in addition to speaking at the client's expense. In consequence, the coding system was changed in over a billion devices! In other research, they proved that the locking system in cars was deficient.
Keller, who emigrated from the Soviet Union at the age of 8, has represented Israel in over 15 international competitions in mathematics. In parallel to his studies in high school, he began his BA at the Technion, which he finished when he was 17 years old, and finished his MA a year later. All of this was done while he was studying in Yeshiva - an institute for Jewish studies. He finished his PhD at the age of 27, which he acquired from the Hebrew University, and completed his Post Doctorate at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Throughout the years, Keller has received various grants, the latest one being from the European Research Council, a 1.5 million Euro grant. In addition to being a faculty member at Bar Ilan, Keller is a certified Rabbi, and head of the Jewish Law program for academics in Rabbi Yigal Shpern's community in Jerusalem.
Dr. Danny Ben- Zvi
Researcher, School of Medicine, Hebrew University
Dr. Danny Ben Zvi's research examines the effects that weight loss surgery has on metabolic diseases that are connected to issues, such as diabetes and fatty liver. He studies how these changes in the anatomy that occur in consequence to the surgeries lead to physiological changes in other organs in the human body, and endow the body with improved control of blood sugar levels as well as maintaining low weight after surgery.
Ben Zvi earned a BA in physics, mathematics and chemistry the from Hebrew University through the army as a participant in the Talpiot program. After earning his PhD from Weizmann, he traveled to Harvard for his Post Doctorate under the guidance of Professor Douglas Melton. There, he researched the implications of weight loss caused by surgery as opposed to malnutrition. The study showed that gastric bypass surgery causes changes that lead to extensive alterations in several organs in the body, which together contribute to the maintenance of a lower weight and improve monitoring of blood sugar levels in the body.
Now, in the lab that was established with Ben Zvi's return from Harvard University, Hebrew University researchers are working closely with other researchers to find out how to achieve the same effect as surgery without surgical intervention, and to find new drugs and treatments for metabolic diseases, first and foremost diabetes. Recently, Ben-Zvi has been selected as a Zuckerman Faculty Scholar, which helps support his research through a new fund created by businessman Mort Zuckerman intended to support future leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the United States and Israel.
Dr. Nadav Cohen
Researcher, Mathematical Foundations of Deep Learning, Hebrew University & Princeton University
In recent years there has been a leap in the development capabilities of computer learning, which is the basis of artificial intelligence technologies. However, rapid development has been achieved mainly through experiments, and many researchers in the field of artificial intelligence claim that despite the success, this technology still lacks a mathematical basis. Dr. Nadav Cohen is currently at the forefront of the research that deals specifically with these mathematical questions.
Cohen's penchant towards mathematics began at a young age. In high school, he focused his studies on physics and electronics. During his military service, he served as an engineer and over time he discovered a passion for bridging theory and practice. He went to university and studied electoral engineering and mathematics at the Technion, and was accepted to an honorary program. Towards the end of his BA, he contacted Professor Amnon Shashua after attending one of his lectures, and even before they met in person, Professor Shashua agreed to be his advisor for his MA and PhD.
Cohen conducted research to develop an automatic model that combines two opposing approaches to computational learning. After a year it became clear that the results he found belonged to the field that is known as deep learning. Cohen is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, where he was invited by professors Sanjeev Arora, Elad Hazan and Yoram Singer who mentored Shai Shalev-Shwartz, currently Vice President of Technologies at Mobileye.
Cohen continues to deal with fundamental questions of mathematics behind deep learning. His research has the potential to explain phenomena that are now perceived as "magic," and even more important, to develop scientific tools that will improve the performance of artificial intelligence.
VP of Strategic Advisors and Customers, Psagot
A little over a year ago, when she was nine months pregnant, Keren Danziger was called to the office of Psagot CEO, and was informed of her appointment to the position of Deputy Director of strategic consultants and clients. This is one of the core positions in the largest investment house in Israel. The unit is responsible for the relationships with the largest clients of the investment house - the institutional funds, institutional customers, investment consultants and pension consultants, as well as the management of the banks and other strategic investors. This is the system that generates the main arena of the investment house's investments, and hence the great importance of the group's activity.
Danziger manages 50 employees and managers who are responsible for mutual funds, ETFs, provident funds, advanced study funds and structured funds. This is not Danziger's first managerial role in Psagot. Prior to that, she served as Vice President of Institutional and Industrial Funds, and was the head of the institutional department and manager of the ETFs product within only ten years, as she began as a customer service representative in Psagot. She completed her BA in economics and management from the College of Management, and earned her MA from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During her studies, she also worked as a teacher’s assistant in finance and marketing courses, and even now she makes a point of giving guest lectures at universities and colleges on issues related to the capital market.
Ifat Falkon Shnider
Deputy Chief Accountant, Israel Securities Authority
CPA Ifat Falkon Shnider will celebrate ten years at the Israel Securities Authority (ISA) this year, and still remembers the days when she used to be shy at executive meetings. She joined the corporations’ department as a CPA intern, climbed the corporate ladder and in 2012 was promoted to Deputy of the Accounting Professional Unit. Since 2016 she has held the position of Deputy Chief Accountant at the Israel Securities Authority, and is the representative of the Authority at the International Organization of Securities Commissions.
Falkon Shnider grew up in Jerusalem. After her army service where she served in the intelligence corps, she enrolled in accounting and communications at the Hebrew University. She completed her studies with outstanding excellence and was immediately accepted to the Israel Securities Authority. She went on to later complete an Executive MBA, also from the Hebrew University.
In her position at the Authority, Falkon Shnider coordinates the ISA's positions on professional accounting topics, which are reflected in ongoing enforcement with public companies and publications published by the ISA to ensure proper reporting to the public. Furthermore, she is leading the application of the new revenue recognition standard (IFRS 15) that will be launched in 2018.
In 2015 Falkon Shnider was awarded Distinguished Employee by the CEO of ISA, Shmuel Hauser. Her goal is to continue to advance in managerial positions which will give her the opportunity to use both her professional capabilities and her management skills.
Partner, Goldfarb-Seligman, Energy, Infrastructure and Regulation Department
Lawyer Rayek Khoury has two major passions that usually don't go together: law and music. In addition to his impressive career in law, Khuory is also a gifted violinist and has performed many times in various places around the world. Lately he has managed to combine the two worlds when he was appointed as a member of the board of the Keshet Ayalon Association, which works to promote violin in Israel. As a lawyer, Khoury's main foci are infrastructure, project funding and auctions. In the past few years, he was involved in a few major projects in real estate and infrastructure. He also works as an advisor for major public and private companies in the Israeli economy and for international companies.
Khoury grew up in Nazareth in a Christian family. He has a BA in law from the Hebrew University and an MA (with excellence) in commercial law as part of a joint program between Tel Aviv University and the University of Berkeley in California. He was an intern at the longstanding Haifa-located law firm, Piron, where he became partner at the age of 31. Among the projects he had worked on at the Piron firm are the founding of the red tram line in Tel-Aviv and the auction for its operating and funding, the Israel Railways auction for the supply of electric carts, the Carmel Tunnels project in Haifa and the bid for the construction of ports in Ashdod and Haifa.
In the Goldfarb-Seligman firm, where he joined as a partner several months ago, he handles the auction for building and running the green tram line in Jerusalem and the project of establishing the power plant in Hadera.