A Baltimore native has achieved a high honor in the Israeli business world by being selected for Forbes Israel’s 30 Under 30 list.
Justin Hayet, 28, served as the senior adviser to Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations and now serves as the chief operating officer of Bnai Zion, an American nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the Jewish people and State of Israel through media and entertainment.
Hayet credits much of his success and initial involvement in the Jewish community to his tenure as a member of the Diller Teen Fellows program in Baltimore. Growing up in Owings Mills, he admitted that he did not have a wider connection to the Jewish community until he became involved with Diller, a program meant to help teens develop leadership skills and to embrace their Jewish identities.
“It really changed my life,” he said, recalling his experience. “It was a jumpstart that helped me build the early stages of my career and develop a lifelong passion for Israel. I feel very grateful to The Associated: [Jewish Federation of Baltimore] for giving me the opportunity, because it ended up being the brick that everything else was built on top of for me.”
Hayet also said that he believes that if not for his membership in Diller Teen Fellows, he would not have pursued the path in life that landed him on Forbes Israel’s 30 Under 30 list.
In his second year of majoring in political science at Binghamton University, during which he would receive the David Bar Ilan Award for organizing events in support of Israel on campus, Hayet happened to overhear a conversation that changed his life. He was walking in Manhattan near the United Nations headquarters, where he heard some people speaking to each other in Hebrew.
“I spent the next year and a half of my life trying to figure out a way to work [at the United Nations],” Hayet said. This would lead him to spend the next three years working under Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon, accompanying him on diplomatic trips.
After the United Nations, Hayet worked as a senior project manager at Genesis Philanthropy Group, which helps provide grants for Jewish activities and is well-known for its work with Russian Jews. In early 2020, he started work at Bnai Zion, the position that earned him his 30 Under 30 nomination.
In 2021, Hayet made aliyah to Israel, fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“I moved back to Baltimore during COVID, and it was a time for reflection about what I really wanted out of life,” he explained. “[The COVID-19 pandemic] gave me the strength and perspective to take the leap and move to Israel.” He now lives in Tel Aviv.
Hayet was nominated for the Forbes Israel 30 Under 30 by some of his mentors and colleagues in Israel and was chosen out of approximately 3,500 potential applicants.
“I remember leaving the photo shoot for the 30 Under 30,” Hayet said, “and seeing people like an Air Force quantum computing professional, people working in labs figuring out proteins to fight cancer and people from startups that raised hundreds of millions of dollars. It was very humbling to be amongst them and to know that there is a space and respect for the work I do.”
Currently, Hayet works with Bnai Zion to bring major influencers to Israel in order to promote the the country. He wants his work to not only be one that is fulfilling for himself, but also one in service to Israel. Right now, Bnai Zion is engaged in a variety of different humanitarian projects, such as providing aid to Holocaust survivors through the Yad Rosa charity and promoting cultural enrichment with projects like supporting the town of Ma’ale Adumim and the George W. Schaeffer Music Conservatory.
But while he is a citizen of Israel now, he still feels that he owes his success to Baltimore’s Jewish community and specifically to The Associated.
“I’ve been reflecting a lot on what got me here,” he concluded, “And after my family and friends, I’m especially grateful that The Associated sponsors Diller. In the future, I look forward to seeing what other Diller alumni are doing in the coming years ahead.”