School daze

Who needs Harvard? We’ve got Tel Aviv: Michael Eisenberg looks to entice U.S. Jewish students to move to Israeli universities

Amid rising antisemitism on American college campuses, the Israel-based VC says he wanted to test the waters to see if people would be interested in transferring

Looking to test the waters, Michael Eisenberg, an Israel-based venture capitalist and philanthropist, created a Google Form last week for American Jewish college students interested in transferring to an Israeli university in light of rising antisemitism on campuses in the United States.

“If you are a Jewish student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Harvard University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art or other university and you would be interested in exploring moving to an Israeli university to finish your studies with a scholarship. Please fill out this form. You can also come serve your people and get an internship,” Eisenberg wrote in a post on LinkedIn.

Eisenberg said he had first tried to get the Israeli government to take on this issue, but when that failed to gain traction, he set out to do it himself.

“I called two philanthropists and said, ‘Would you fund this?’ And I spoke to Reichman University and Tel Aviv University and said, ‘Can you take these students and teach them in English?’ Eisenberg told eJP. (He said he could not disclose the names of the philanthropists.) “They said yes, but we need to know what we’re dealing with. So I did what I do in technology, which is a test.”

Eisenberg said he anticipated less than a handful of people to fill out the form, but got 32.

“I’m shocked by the response,” he said. “I’m working with all of the universities to figure out if there’s a match.”

The respondents come almost entirely from East Coast and midwest universities, including several from MIT and Harvard. Only two came from West Coast schools: one each from the University of California Los Angeles and the University of Southern California.

Roughly half of the respondents are studying something in the STEM, while the other half are in the humanities.

There are already English-language programs at Israeli universities, including Tel Aviv University and Reichman University, formerly known as IDC Herzliya, along with several others. So Eisenberg’s initiative is not a particularly new one, which he acknowledges.

“I’m not suggesting that this is a panacea,” he said. “What I really believe is that this is a tiny, little step toward something that [will come to fruition] three to four years from now.”

Eisenberg said he would want to first start in Jewish day schools, particularly Orthodox ones that already direct students to Israeli yeshivas for post-high school gap years. 

“Your Israel advisor, sending you to yeshiva, and your college advisor should be merged into one, and you should just go to Israel now,” he said.

Once the idea is entrenched in Jewish day schools, Eisenberg said it could spread to other American Jews.

“In ‘startup land,’ where I come from, you start with a very focused strategy and then expand out,” he said.