American Technion Society Presents Albert Einstein Award to Polak Family

March 21, 2017
Kevin Hattori

L.A. dinner celebrates Technion “Evening of Innovation” with Technion President Peretz Lavie and Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover

On Thursday, March 16th, leaders of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology welcomed 250 distinguished guests to the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills to pay tribute to the Polak family—David, Janet, Jeff and Rob—with the American Technion Society’s highest honor, the Albert Einstein Award, in recognition of the family’s visionary and multigenerational leadership.

Polak Family receives American Technion Society’s highest honor, Albert Einstein Award, at L.A. Dinner / Credit: Elaine Lee Photography

The American Technion Society (ATS), which also hosted the Gala event, provides critical support to the Haifa-based Technion, ranked among the world’s leading science and technology universities. Comedian Elon Gold served as Master of Ceremonies. The event chairs were Rita and Steve Emerson, Helgard and Irwin Field, and Denise and Bob Hanisee.

“To build a world-class research institute, which educates leading global entrepreneurs, develops pioneering technologies, and expands the frontiers of science, you need visionary supporters who can look far into the future,” said Peretz Lavie, Technion President. “The Polak Family are those visionary supporters for the Technion, and we are thrilled and honored to celebrate the impact they have made through their generosity.”

One such contribution was their support of the work of Technion Distinguished Professor and 2004 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Aaron Ciechanover. Together with Technion Distinguished Professor Avram Hershko and the late Dr. Irwin Rose, Ciechanover discovered the Ubiquitin system, which has yielded the cancer-fighting drug VELCADE for patients with multiple myeloma. He holds the David and Janet Polak Chair in Life Sciences, and has been a leading researcher at the Polak Center for Cancer Research and Vascular Biology, which provided the foundation for building the interdisciplinary Technion Integrated Cancer Center (TICC), which he now heads. The TICC is unique in the world as it combines the best of the life sciences with engineering to solve the challenges in finding a cure.

“Long before others could see it, the Polaks, renowned both in business and venture philanthropy, recognized the opportunity in the Technion’s incredible human capital,” said Jeff Richard, American Technion Society Executive Vice President. “Because of their foresight, we are engineering the cure to cancer, cultivating innovation, growing on a global scale, and investing in a better future for Israel and for the world.” However, says Jeff Polak, “We’re not trying to lead by example. We’re just trying to do what we think is right.”

The event’s “Evening of Innovation” theme showcased many fruits of these labors, including work by Yael Vizel, co-founder and CEO of Zeekit, an app that allows shoppers to virtually try on clothing before purchasing; Dr. Ester Segal, Technion associate professor and inventor of the “Lab on a Chip” for use in early disease diagnosis; Dr. Yair Shapira, co-founder and CEO of NiniSpeech, a virtual speech clinic with real-time feedback; and Derek Herrera, co-founder and CEO of Spinal Singularity and the first U.S. owner of the ReWalk device, created by Technion alumnus Dr. Amit Goffer.

These individuals and their work illustrate the Technion’s increasing international renown: the Technion is one of Reuters’ 100 most innovative universities in the world, and Israel’s topuniversity in the highly-regarded Shanghai Rankings. Its innovation is also the lifeblood of the Israeli economy, with companies founded or operated by Technion graduates reaching a market value in excess of $28.2 billion, and the global economy as well—half of the Israeli unicorns in the U.S. (companies valued at more than $1 billion dollars) are founded by Technion graduates. Its Guangdong Technion-Israel Institute of Technology makes it the first Israeli university in China, while the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute in New York—the Technion’s partnership with Cornell Tech—makes it the first Israeli university to offer a degree on U.S. soil.

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The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, long a key driver of Israeli innovation, and a hub for the Start-Up Nation, has recently expanded to New York and China. It has earned a reputation as one of the world’s leading science and technology universities. Its three Nobel Prize winners exemplify academic excellence. Technion people, ideas and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world, in areas including life-saving medicine, sustainable energy, computer science, water conservation and nanotechnology.

American Technion Society (ATS) donors provide critical support for the Technion — more than $2 billion since its inception in 1940. Based in New York City, the ATS and its supporters across the U.S. provide funds for scholarships, fellowships, faculty recruitment and chairs, research, buildings, laboratories, classrooms and dormitories, and more. Visit to learn more.