Lili Ben Ami honors her sister Michal's memory by working to combat and prevent domestic violence.

There are a lot of things Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, could post on her FB wall. But on May 20, she used her popular platform to draw attention to a hackathon in Israel with a noble purpose — raising awareness about domestic violence.

The hackathon is being held in memory of Michal Selaz”l, a young Israeli mother who was murdered by her husband last fall. Sponsored by leading companies and President Reuven Rivlin, the project aims to find creative ways to use technology to prevent further victims.

While conceived pre-pandemic, sadly, the hackathon is more timely than ever, as domestic violence has surged during lockdowns.

UJA played a key role behind the scenes in making this hackathon a reality.

Lili addressing the audience at hackathon event, with President Rivlin sitting at center. Photo credit: Mark Neiman, government press office

It was conceived at Co.Lab, our signature initiative, which brings together leaders, activists, and entrepreneurs from across Israeli society, connects them, and supports them in developing joint initiatives. In fact, this hackathon is a result of two such Co.Lab connections and initiatives.

To start, Michal’s sister, Lili Ben Ami, is currently participating in Co.Lab. As a way to honor Michal’s memory, Lili’s Co.Lab group project focused on how technology might be used to combat and prevent domestic violence. One of the ideas the group explored was to do a hackathon, but they didn’t know where to start.

Co.Lab staff suggested that they connect with Michal Halamish, a Co.Lab alum, whose own project, a socially oriented software development company called Coda, had received seed funding from UJA. And the rest was history. Coda decided to lead the planning and execution of the hackathon, which attracted more than 1,800 participants. Co.Lab staff also helped secure pro bono services from a leading Israeli law firm for the winning hackathon project.

UJA’s rationale for launching and operating Co.Lab — the only program in Israel which we run ourselves — is that in addition to continuing to invest in nonprofit organizations, advancing UJA’s vision in Israel can, and should, be done through investing in people as well.

This hackathon is just one way we’re bringing people together — to bring about great change.