Presenters

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Over 60 accomplished, exciting and diverse presenters will be part of Limmud FSU San Francisco.

This page will be continuously updated as we confirm the speakers leading up to the event.

Ophir Akunis

Ophir Akunis

Minister of Science

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Minister of Science, Technology and Space in Israeli Cabinet, Ophir Akunis has many years of experience in Israeli politics. Having served as Deputy Environment Minister prior to current post, he also held posts of deputy media adviser to Prime Minister, Likud party spokesperson, spokesperson to the ministers and many other posts through the years.  
David Blumberg

David Blumberg

Venture Capitalist, Philanthropist

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 David is the founder and managing partner of Blumberg Capital, an early-stage venture capital fund based in San Francisco. David is an authority on early stage investing with more than 30 years of experience. Prior to Blumberg Capital, David managed international investments with the Bronfman Family Office, Adler & Co, APAX Partners and at T. Rowe Price. He also launched business development for Check Point Software Technologies as one of its top four executives. David earned his A.B. in government, cum laude, from Harvard College and his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and INSEAD. David speaks French and is proficient in Hebrew and Spanish. David serves on the numerous boards of the companies, as well as the Board of The Lincoln Club of Northern California and is a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy.
Yishai Fleisher

Yishai Fleisher

Hebron Community Spokesperson

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Yishai Fleisher is the International Spokesperson for the Jewish Community of Hebron. Yishai is also an Israeli broadcaster and a frequent columnist for major news websites and media outlets. He holds a JD from Cardozo Law and rabbinic ordination from Kollel Agudat Achim. Yishai is a paratrooper in the IDF reserves and lives with his family on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem.
Danny Grossman

Danny Grossman

Head of SF Jewish Federation

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Current CEO of Jewish Federation of San Francisco, The Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, Danny Grossman is a native of San Francisco, a successful business owner, entrepreneur and diplomat. He has decades of experience as a volunteer and leader in the Bay Area’s Jewish and civic communities, and many years of business and public sector leadership. Fun fact, Danny Grossman served as a diplomat in USSR during Reagan administration years, actively supporting the Soviet Jewry movement.
Gil Hovav

Gil Hovav

Culinary Journalist, TV personality

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 Gil Hovav comes from one of the most respected families in the Jewish world: he is the great-grandson of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the reviver of the Hebrew language; the grandson of  Itamar Ben-Avi who began modern Hebrew journalism; and the son of Moshe and Drora Hovav, “founding members” of Israel’s modern day public radio. He began his career as a restaurant critic, moved on to become a newspaper editor, and was involved in many top television food shows. Mr. Hovav has published three best-selling novels all related to his family’s colorful history. 
Benzion Klatzko

Benzion Klatzko

Rabbi, Social Entrepreneur

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One of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis” per Jewish Forward magazine. Founder of Shabbat.com and many other Jewish social websites and apps. Jewish thought teacher to Hollywood producers, actors, directors. Formerly, campus rabbi at UCLA and congregation rabbi in New Jersey.
Natan Meir

Natan Meir

Professor, Social and Cultural Historian

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Natan Meir is a Chair of the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies at Portland State University. Dr. Meir’s area of academic specialization is Jewish social and cultural history in Eastern Europe, as well as modern European Jewish history.  He is the author of Kiev: Jewish Metropolis, 1861-1914 and co-editor of Anti-Jewish Violence: Rethinking the Pogrom in East European History.  His forthcoming work-in-progress is Republic of Beggars: The Jewish Destitute, Disabled and Dispossessed in Tsarist Russia. Dr. Meir was recently named as a Fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.
Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson

Composer, Performer

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Josh Nelson brings his extraordinary message of hope, unity and spirituality to concert stages and worship services across the globe. Josh is a gifted multi-instrumentalist and songwriter whose work is celebrated and integrated into the repertoire of congregations, camps and communities around the world. Recently hailed by Time Magazine as a “star of the New Jewish Music,” Josh is the music director for the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial Convention, faculty for the Hava Nashira Music Institute, and a musical artist in residence for the JCC Maccabi Artsfest. In 2014, Josh was cast in the starring role of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach for the NYC off-Broadway revival of Soul Doctor.
Yakov Palatnik

Yakov Palatnik

Writer and Educator

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Originally from Chicago, Yakov traveled through Europe and then to Israel, where he discovered the vibrancy and relevancy of Judaism. He studied at Aish Jerusalem for 10 years and received rabbinic ordination. For 13 years, he worked with Aish Toronto and became the founding rabbi of The Village Shul. He then worked with Aish Denver, and in 2005 moved to Washington. Together with his wife, Lori, he has started many new classes and programs which have resulted in the growth of a vibrant, Jewishly-committed community in the North Bethesda/Rockville area. Rabbi Palatnik is co-author of Remember My Soul, and the father of five children.”
Nathan Sharansky

Nathan Sharansky

Human Rights Activist, Politician, Author

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One of the most famous former Soviet Refuseniks and an Israeli politician, author and human rights activist. English interpreter for Andrei Sakharov. Sharansky became the first political prisoner ever released by Mikhail Gorbachev due to intense political pressure from Ronald Reagan and the United States. In Israel, Sharansky founded new party, served as Minister of Industry and Trade, Minister of Housing, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of The Jewish Agency.
Elena Zusmanovich

Elena Zusmanovich

Educator

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Elena has designed, organized and led Jewish educational programs, lectures, and tours in the USA, Israel, and Russia. She works in the Jewish institutions of the Bay Area since 1997. Elena is a recipient of the 2010 Helen Diller Family Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. She holds MS Information Science, BA Art History and is an alumna of the Mandel Teacher Educator Institute.
Tatiana Amirova

Tatiana Amirova

Singer, Songewriter

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Odessa native. “Voice of Ukraine” contestant. Unique side of Tatiana’s versatile repertoire are Jewish songs, gently seasoned with Soul, Funk and Jazz, and her own lyrical compositions. Tatiana won her first music competition “Morning Star” at 3 years of age, in Ukraine. Later on – win at Hungarian festival “Vesprem games” in 2003, in 2004, she conquered an Italian contest “the Golden Vine,” followed by contests in Paris and Cannes. Her shows envelop with a wave of charm, charisma and natural magnetism.
Gleb Budman

Gleb Budman

CEO and Entrepreneurial Executive, Engineer

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Gleb Budman is CEO and co-founder of Backblaze. Along with his team, Gleb bootstrapped Backblaze to millions in revenue and profitability. The company won the SIIA CODiE for Best Cloud Storage and secured a spot on Deloitte’s Fast 500 fastest growing technology companies as a result of its 917% five-year revenue growth. Previously, Gleb led the product teams from pre-funding through acquisition at Kendara and MailFrontier, and founded three prior companies. He received his MBA from Berkeley’s Haas School, has been a speaker at events including GigaOm Structure, Massive Storage Systems and Technology, and SNIA; profiled by Inc. and Forbes; and holds 5 patents on security.
Alex Furman

Alex Furman

Founder, Engineer, Serial Entrepreneur

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Co-founder and Head of Talent Operations at Invitae, genetic information company, Alex is an engineer and a serial entrepreneur, having co-founded Locus Development after leading the software engineering effort at Navigenics. Prior to that, he spent many years developing automated trading systems and financial planning software. A born-and-bred programmer, Alex grew up playing with computers that took up entire rooms and were orders of magnitude less powerful than the smartphone he now carries in his pocket.
Sasha Gutfraind

Sasha Gutfraind

Artificial Intelligence Expert, Data Scientist

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 Canadian Israeli with roots in Minsk, Sasha is a Chief Health Data Scientist at Uptake Technologies and a Lecturer at Loyola University Medical Center. His work and research focuse on applications of data science and computational methods for medical and societal problems.
Oleg Ivanov

Oleg Ivanov

Counter-Delegitimization Expert, Writer

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Oleg Ivanov is the Jewish Diplomatic Corps Coordinator and Digital Campaign Manager at the World Jewish Congress. Freelance writer. Pursuing PhD in Comparative Literature at UCLA. Earned M.A.’s in Comparative Literature at UCLA and in Theatre History and Criticism at CUNY Brooklyn. Also worked in theater as a dramaturge, performer, producer, and translator.
Daniel Kluger

Daniel Kluger

Books and Songs Writer, Journalist

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Israeli writer in science fiction and detective genres. He writes in Russian language. Graduate of Simferopol State University as physicist. Began to publish his works in the 1970s. Medical scientist and book publisher before moving to Israel and becoming a journalist, as well as continuing to write books, as well as write and translate poems. His poetic work Jewish Ballads was distinguished with Jerusalem Olive award in 20007.
Naya Lekht

Naya Lekht

Professor, Researcher, Writer

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 Naya Lekht was born in the former Soviet Union and immigrated with her family to Los Angeles in 1989. After obtaining her PhD from UCLA in Russian Jewish literature, Naya has been teaching at UCLA, as well as researching on Russian Jewry. In addition to her research, Naya publishes her fiction.
Ilya Novikov

Ilya Novikov

Attorney, TV personality

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Ilya Novikov is Russian attorney, often serving as a lawyer in politically controversial trials, including Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko and Moldovian businessman and politician Vyacheslav Platon. Another side of Novikov’s fame comes from being an active member of TV intellectual club “Что? Где? Когда?” since 2002. In 15 years since, he earned multiple best player awards from the club, but in 2016 his team was prevented from participating in that TV season because of Novikov’s involved in political legal cases.
Pinchas Polonsky

Pinchas Polonsky

Philosopher, Educator

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Russian-Israeli Jewish-religious philosopher, researcher, and educator. He has written several original books as well as a number of translations of important works on Judaism. One of the founders of the clandestine network for the study of Torah in Moscow in 1979. Today he lives in Israel and is an activist in the process of the modernization of Judentums. Pinchas Polonsky teaches in a Ariel University and is a researcher on the topics of the late Rav Kook.
Marina Sirota

Marina Sirota

Professor of Biomedical Informatics

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Assistant Professor at the Institute for Computational Health Sciences at UCSF. Prior to that – Lead Research Scientist in the Division of Systems Medicine at Stanford University and Sr. Research Scientist at Pfizer. She completed her PhD in Biomedical Informatics at Stanford University. Her primary focus is on leveraging and integrating different types of clinical data to better understand the role of the immune system in disease.
Gregory Asmolov

Gregory Asmolov

Social Scientist

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Gregory (Grisha) Asmolov is the new media, innovation and literacy expert, Researcher at the Institute of Russia, based at King’s College London. He earned PhD at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His focus – crowdsourcing digital platforms and role of internet in relationships between individuals and governmental organizations. Gregory has consulted on information technology, new media, and social media projects for The World Bank and Internews Network. Gregory is a co-founder of Help Map, a crowdsourcing platform used to coordinate assistance to victims of wildfires in Russia in 2010 and won a Russian National Internet Award for best project in the “State and Society” category. Earlier Gregory worked as a correspondent for Russian media outlets in Israel, and the news editor on Channel 9 in IsraelGregory holds MA in Global Communication from George Washington University (Washington, DC) and BA in Communication and International Affairs from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Evgenia Dodina

Evgenia Dodina

Award-winning Film and Theater Actress

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Graduate of Moscow State Academy of the Arts and actress at the Mayakovskiy Theater before moving to Israel in 1990. Founding member and leading female actor of Gesher Theater, and later – Habima Theater. Winner of numerous theater and movie awards. Most recently – 2016 Cannes Film Festival award for a short film “Anna.” 
Asya Gribov

Asya Gribov

Educator, Arts Administrator

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Freelance community organizer and creative educator, Asya splits her time between leading workshops at various museums, running experiential Jewish education programs, and working with the Russian-speaking Jewish community in North America. She spends her free time at galleries, museums, and artist studios delving deep into the art scene wherever she is.
Malcolm Hoenlein

Malcolm Hoenlein

Community Leader, Public Policy Advisor

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Mr. Hoenlein is an Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the coordinating body on international and national concerns for 52 national Jewish organizations. Previously, he served as the founding Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New York, the central coordinating agency for Jewish organizations in the metropolitan New York area. Prior to that, he was the founding Executive Director of the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry. Mr. Hoenlein serves as an advisor to many public officials and is frequently consulted on public policy issues.
Leonid Kaganov

Leonid Kaganov

Literary Author, Poet, Humorist

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Futurist writer, poet, humorist, screenplay and song writer. Award winning book author.
Shlomi Kofman

Shlomi Kofman

Consul General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest

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Shlomi Kofman, Consul General of Israel to Pacific North West, born in Georgia, USSR, raised in Israel, has a degree in international relations from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with his first posting coming in 1998 in Shanghai. After four years there (during which he learned Mandarin and earned an MBA), he transferred to Thailand, serving as deputy ambassador at the Israeli Embassy in Bangkok. After stints as the chief of staff in the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., and as a diplomat adviser to the Knesset, he was made deputy consul general of Israel at the all-important New York consulate before being posted to San Francisco this summer.
Yariv Levin

Yariv Levin

Knesset Member, Minister of Tourism

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Born and raised in Jerusalem, during his national service Levin joined the IDF Intelligence Corps as an Arabic translator and later served as commander of an Arabic translation course. In 1995 he published a dictionary of economic terms translated between Hebrew-Arabic-English. Levin gained an LLB from the Hebrew University and worked as a lawyer in the field of civil-commercial law. He plays an active role in Israel Bar Association. Active in 18th, 19th, 20th Knessets in various roles, Yariv Levin is currently the member of Knesset from Likud and Minister of Tourism.
Yulia Patrakova

Yulia Patrakova

Art, Literature Historian

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Yuliya Patrakova is a teacher. She was born and lives in Saint Petersburg, Russia. In the past Yulia taught Russian language and literature, but lately she has been teaching Hebrew, and authored and led Jewish culture education projects. Her interests lie in the literature in general, and children’s literature more specifically, Jewish artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the history of Saint Petersburg. Her motto: I love everything that flows.
Garrett Reisman

Garrett Reisman

Astronaut, Engineer

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American engineer and former NASA astronaut. Currently – director of crew operations at SpaceX. He was a backup crew member for NASA Expedition 15 and joined Expedition 16 aboard the International Space Station for a short time before becoming a member of Expedition 17. He returned to Earth on June 14, 2008 on board STS-124 on Space Shuttle Discovery. He was a member of the STS-132 mission that traveled to the International Space Station aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis from May 14 to 26, 2010.
Abby Stein

Abby Stein

Transgender Activist, Speaker

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Abby Stein is an American transgender activist, blogger, and speaker. She is the first openly transgender woman raised in a Hasidic community, and is a direct descendant of Hasidic Judaism’s founder the Baal Shem Tov. In 2015, she founded the first support group nationwide for trans people of Orthodox background.

 

Stein is also the first openly transgender woman to have been ordained by an Orthodox institution, having received her rabbinical degree in 2011, from an Ultra-Orthodox Hasidic school. To date, she is also the only female rabbi to have been ordained by an Ultra-Orthodox institution. However, she was ordained before coming out as transgender, and is not working as a rabbi as of 2016.

Sacha Batthyany

Sacha Batthyany

Journalist, Book Author

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 Sacha Batthyany is a journalist born in Switzerland to Hungarian parents. He belongs to a once aristocratic, wealthy and powerful Hungarian family who lost everything in the Second World War, and in the Communist takeover immediately afterwards. Sometime before the war, his great uncle, Count Batthyany, had married Margit Thyssen-Bornesmisza, sister of Baron Thyssen-Bornesmisza, billionaire Swiss industrialist and famous art collector. Quite by chance, around 2007, Sacha found out that Margit was involved in a massacre of 180 Jews that took place while she was hosting a party one night towards the end of the war at the family castle. Amongst the guests were German aristocrats and SS officers, as well as local officials. This is the first he has heard of such an appalling event, naturally he must find out more, and so his journey begins, the result of which is the memoir called “A Crime in the Family.” 
Sacha Dratwa

Sacha Dratwa

Counter-Delegitimization Expert

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Sacha Dratwa is a Head of Counter-Delegitimization Unit of World Jewish Congress. Sacha founded the Israel Defense Force’s New Media Operations. After completing his position in the IDF, Sacha joined the Yesh Atid political campaign as director of projects for the digital team. After the campaign, Sacha worked for Rimon Cohen Sheinkman, a leading PR firm in Israel, as director of digital media communication. Sacha holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Interactive Communications from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC) and is currently studying Master’s in Political Communications from IDC. 
Stella Grizont

Stella Grizont

Positive Psychologist, Entrepreneur

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Stella Grizont is the Founder and CEO of WOOPAAH, which companies like Google, Genentech and Johnson & Johnson employ for programs in work place culture design, engagement and well-being. In the past 12 years, Stella has coached over 1,300 high performers in 17 countries. Grizont was one of the first 150 people in the world to receive a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. She was a regular contributor in many TV and print media outlets and has lectured for several universities including NYU, MIT, Rutgers..  
Ami Horowitz

Ami Horowitz

Documentary Filmmaker, TV Personality

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Writer, producer, and director of Ami on the Streets, a satirical short film series made for Fox News. Horowitz co-wrote, co-directed, and starred in the 2012 documentary U.N. Me, a critical examination of the United Nations. Prior to that, he worked in political campaigning and then spent sixteen years in the investment banking, including at Lehman Brothers.
Yelena Khanga

Yelena Khanga

Journalist, TV Personality, Author

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Russian journalist of African/Jewish/African-American ancestry raised in Moscow, USSR, who came to the USA in 1990 to write Soul to Soul: The Story of a Black Russian American Family: 1865–1992. Khanga was the moderator of the Russian television talk show The Domino Effect. She also moderated Russia’s first talk show about sex, called About That.
Oleg Kuvaev

Oleg Kuvaev

Artist, Designer, Animator

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Creator of famous Masyanya animated internet series, that originated in 2001. St. Petersburg native, Kuvaev has been a painter and sculptor during 1987-1997 period, but since 1997 he turned to computer graphics, working as designer and developer at some studios. In 2001, he founded Mult.ru studio and has fought for copyrights on his own creation – Masyanya brand. In 2006, Kuvaev moved to Israel.
Jonathan Medved

Jonathan Medved

Investor, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist

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Founder and CEO of OurCrowd, the leading Global Equity Crowdfunding platform for accredited investors and angels. Serial entrepreneur and “One of Israel’s leading high tech venture capitalists” according to the Washington Post. “Top 10 most influential Americans who have impacted Israel” according to NY Times. One of the “50 most influential Jews” according to Jerusalem Post.
Lori Palatnik

Lori Palatnik

Writer and Educator

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Lori Palatnik is a writer, Jewish educator, sought-after international speaker, who has appeared on television and radio, and is the author of several books. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband, Rabbi Yaakov Palatnik; and is a regular speaker on Capitol Hill. Lori is the Founding Director of The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, an international initiative that has brought thousands of women, and hundreds of men, to Israel each year from 19 different countries, on highly subsidized programs to inspire them with the beauty and wisdom of their heritage. She is the busy mother of five children.”
Alti Rodal

Alti Rodal

Historian, Writer

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Alti Rodal is a historian, writer, former professor of Jewish history, and advisor to the Government of Canada. She is currently the Co-Director of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter Initiative. Born in Chernivtsi (Czernowitz) in western Ukraine, she received her early schooling in Israel, and was educated at McGill, Oxford and Hebrew universities in the fields of history, religion and literature. Her professional experience includes eight years of full-time teaching on aspects of medieval and modern Jewish history at universities in Montreal and Ottawa, and twenty-five years of senior advisory and management experience in government in Canada, including as Director of Research for the Commission of Inquiry on Nazi War Criminals in Canada.
Yonatan Winetraub

Yonatan Winetraub

Co-founder, CTO of SpaceIL

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Presently a biophysics PhD student at Stanford University, Yonatan Winetraub is also a Co-founder and CTO of SpaceIL, an Israeli contender in the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Along with two friends, Yariv Bash and Kfir Damari, Yonatan conceived their mission in a pub in 2010, and filed their paperwork with the XPRIZE Foundation mere minutes before the entry deadline. If all goes well, its 500-kilogram spacecraft—informally dubbed “Sparrow”—will hitch a ride to the moon sometime in 2017 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket chartered through private aerospace company Spaceflight Industries. 
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