Creating Career Opportunities

More than 1,000 immigrants came together this week to network with other academic Israelis.

They came to Gvahim's gala event at Tel Aviv University on Wednesday evening to see and be seen, to network, and to schmooze.

No matter that many among the well-dressed, mostly twenty- and thirty-something crowd in the swank, glass-encased Smolarz Auditorium did not know what Gvahim, the event's organizer, actually does. But for most of the approximately 1,000 guests who doled out 100 shekels for an evening of Recanati wine, an endless sea of hors d'oeuvres, and the privilege of hearing Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer speak, the objective was clear.

"I'm here because I'm getting out of the army in two weeks and I'm looking for a job," said 27-year-old Jason Lurie, who made aliyah from Detroit, Michigan nearly three years ago and plans to make a career in finance.

It turns out he was in the right place. Gvahim, a nonprofit organization created six years ago, aims to prepare highly-skilled immigrants for the Israeli workplace and to help them secure professional jobs at their level of qualification. It counts among its sponsors 50 companies, organizations and individual donors.

Deborah Alvarez, 29, an immigrant from the UK with a background in real estate, who unabashadly announced that she is "looking for the perfect job in Israel," is considering applying to Gvahim's coveted career development program, so that it can help her with that ambitious goal.

Gvahim is a joint initiative of the Rashi Foundation and a group of Israeli business leaders. Working on a relatively small budget, which will total $1 million in 2012, the organization has trained and placed some 600 immigrants from 30 countries in 300 companies throughout Israel.

About 85 percent of its participants work in "quality positions" by the time they have completed the program, according to Dr. Mickael Bensadoun, the 33-year-old French-born executive director of Gvahim.

Marina Shats arrived in Israel last month from London, where she worked for a major accounting firm in risk management and compliance. "I'm in the process of starting to look for a job, and I thought this would be a really great event to network and meet new people," said the 36-year-old.

New York City native Daniel Farb, CEO of the Negev-based Leviathan Energy, a renewable energy technology company, came to network and to hear what Stanley Fischer had to say.

"I'd like it if he could influence Israeli policy so they don't do things like raise taxes, but make it easier to start and run businesses in Israel," said Farb. "That will have the effect of improving the economy without the downside of raising taxes and hurting economic activity."