The Michigan delegation learned from high-achieving Israeli women.
Fifteen Michigan women recently enjoyed a unique multi-faceted educational trip to Israel. Along with 14 other women from the U.S. and one from the United Kingdom, they participated in the Women of the American Technion Society (WATS) Mission in early June.
This was only the second Technion women’s mission — the first was held in 2014. That mission included Detroiters Cathy Deutchman and Linda Kovan, who serve on the national board of the American Technicon Society. Barbara Cohn, also a Detroiter, joined the 2014 mission for several days while visiting her son who lives in Israel and participated in the recent WATS trip.
According to Kovan, WATS missions are intended to familiarize and educate participants about Technion’s positive impact in Israel and beyond, and to spread that knowledge.
Technion has been a science and technology powerhouse for Israel even before it became a state. Approximately half of the founders of Israel’s startup companies and the country’s engineers are Technion alumni, according to the university.
The 2022 WATS Mission was a comprehensive exploration of Israel — its people, historic places, religions and culture with a foundation of Technion’s scientific and technologic achievements. Underlying the itinerary was an emphasis on meeting high-achieving Israeli women — from professors to entrepreneurs to writers.
“We had the opportunity to meet students and faculty and learned so much about Technion and the world,” Cohn said.
One presentation focused on the growing diversity of Technion’s student body and faculty. “It’s a microcosm of how the world should get along,” Deutchman said.
The mission included a “Technion Touch” every day with a program featuring people, technology and startup businesses with a Technion connection.
“We had brilliant students and professor traveling with us,” Kovan said. “It was a women’s entrepreneurial mission with participants from their 40s to 70s. We learned about Israel through its literature, a reporter who covers the Knesset and professors who shared their work.”
One program featured Technion alumna Yael Vizel — co-founder and CEO of Zeekit, a technology platform that enables online shoppers to virtually try on clothes; it was recently acquired by Walmart.
“We loved meeting women from all over and seeing Technion through their eyes,” said Andi Wolfe, a Detroiter and WATS Mission participant. She appreciated the opportunity to meet not only Israeli Jews from different religious backgrounds but also non-Jewish Israelis, including women from Druze and Arab communities.
Kovan, who is interested in high tech, was impressed with a Technion speaker she heard years ago. Subsequently, she became involved with the local chapter of the American Technion Society, eventually serving as its first woman president. About 10 years ago, she started a Detroit-area Women of American Society of Technion stock group to “try and build ambassadors” for Technion. Most of the stocks purchased have a Technion connection and profits are donated to the university.
Wolfe, who joined Kovan’s Technion stock group, was already familiar with Technion. Her late father — D. Dan Kahn — became involved with Technion decades ago and donated funds for a robotics laboratory and other facilities on its campus.
Deutchman’s grandfather, the late Samuel Brody, attended an early Technion support meeting in Detroit and contributed for an agricultural and engineering building during the 1950s. Since then, Cathy Deutchman, her late father and her husband have served on the national board of the American Technion Society.
The 2022 WATS Mission was the result of more than three years of planning, says Kovan, who was its co-chair with Janey Sweet of California. Cathy Deutchman was the National Program and Mission Sub-Committee co-chair. According to Kovan, the group got along well and was enthusiastic about what they saw and learned. The only downside was an outbreak of COVID — six participants came down with the virus and were tested, treated and quarantined in keeping with Israeli protocols.
The Israel Institute of Technology, known as Technion, is Israel’s oldest university. Technion opened its doors to students at its Haifa campus in 1924. Today, Technion has more than 15,000 students and is considered a “powerhouse of science, engineering and medicine.”
The Detroit Chapter of the American Technion Society, which assists Technion primarily through philanthropy, was established in 1940. Most supporters were engineers, scientists or businesspeople, but other civic leaders, including Philip Slomovitz, the first publisher of the Detroit Jewish News, were early members.
Sources: Technion website and a history of the Detroit chapter of the American Society of Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, 1989.