At the age of 23, Akiva Futter, Teaneck native, is already confident about his life’s goal, that of contributing to the Jewish people in Israel through the world of technology. Futter will be making aliyah on the summer 2016 Nefesh B’Nefesh flight on August 16, with many other Teaneck natives and residents of all ages.
A recent graduate of the University of Maryland, where he pursued a degree in Computer Science, Futter was afforded a unique opportunity through a program called The Israel Tech Challenge, to explore the world of high tech in Israel up close.
Created by The Jewish Agency for Israel in partnership with the National Cyber Bureau of Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office, Israel Tech Challenge brings over 100 gifted Jewish students and young professionals from around the world in computer science–related fields to Israel for one of three experiences. Futter was a participant in two of their three programs, which he joined in between his sophomore and junior years. The experience was eye opening and life changing for Futter. As for his draw to technology, that came as no surprise having grown up in the home of his father who works as a venture capital attorney in a law firm. As for the Israel draw, Futter claims his father once sat him down and challenged him to “Look at the list of subjects available at the university and decide which one you think is an area where you can best contribute if you want to immigrate to Israel.” And so he did.
During one of the programs, the 10-day Israel Tech Challenge Experience, Futter and his talented co-participants from all over the world visited tech companies. They then were invited to take part in a 24-hour “Hackathon” during which they tried their hand at coding and creating original programs, apps and websites aimed at solving real-world problems.
Futter participated in the Israel Tech Challenge during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, which posed an additional challenge to his experience. He said he experienced a very tense time in Israel and was able to help out during a very complex period. During his 10-week internship in Tel Aviv at CheckPoint Software Technology Ltd., Futter’s Israel Tech Challenge internship coordinators were intermittently being called up to miluim (reserves) during which time he and his co-interns were left to “take care of themselves.” However, Futter felt it was a very rewarding experience for him, as many other programs had added precautions in place during this period. He remembers working at his desk when suddenly the tzeva adom (red alert) would appear on his phone. He then hurried with the others to the cheder mugan (safe room). It was an authentic Israeli experience.
Futter’s family background and educational experience leave little doubt as to why he will be boarding that NBN flight shortly. Futter was born and raised in two areas of Teaneck, where his family was a member of both Congregations Rinat Yisrael and Keter Torah. He attended Yavneh Academy from kindergarten through eighth grade and then on to SAR for high school. He spent his gap year at Yeshivat Har Etzion (Gush) and then attended the University of Maryland for four years.
Futter’s summers were spent at Camp Moshava in Edot Aleph through Daled and Machal. Two summers were spent in Israel, one on Kibbutz Sheluchot in the Beit Sha’an Valley, and a second on Bnei Akiva’s Mach Hach Ba’aretz program. Futter returned to Moshava as a woodshop coordinator and counselor for several summers.
Futter’s advocacy for Israel began as early as middle school. His activism continued at the University of Maryland, where he served as the legislative coordinator of Terps for Israel in which capacity he arranged visits to members of Congress and their staffs from Maryland as well as Florida, New York and New Jersey among other states, to advocate for strengthening the US-Israel relationship.
Parents Dror and Karen Futter have been major influences in their son’s decision and are very supportive of his move. Each was greatly imbued by their own parents with a dedication to the land of Israel. Dror’s parents moved to the US from Israel and made it a point of speaking only Hebrew to their children. Among numerous relatives, they have a daughter who settled in Israel and they themselves are readying for their imminent return. Karen has a brother whose children and grandchildren live in Israel. A Memphis native, she is proud of the legacy of her parents who hosted the very first Memphis AIPAC parlor meeting.
For the young Futter, Israel is the only way to go. ”I feel like a better person in Israel. I’m happier and even more sure of myself here. In my wonderful Teaneck community, young people like myself live in a ‘perceived bubble.’ We are raised in an all-encompassing Jewish world until we venture out at some point either in college or when we enter the workforce. Then we see that accommodations must be made for our lifestyle. In Israel, our lifestyle is woven into the fabric of everyday life, and I feel that is a place where I want to lay down my roots.”