Blog  Derech Eretz: Bringing our Jewish Values to Innovation

Derech Eretz: Bringing our Jewish Values to Innovation

By Rachel Landman 

On Shabbat, Sci-Tech Israel heard from their first entrepreneur of the trip, Giel Matz, the Managing Director of the hardware department of Keter Plastics. Look around Israel, have you ever sat in a white plastic chair? If so you’ve most likely sat in a Keter chair. Keter’s name is everywhere: on garden furniture, household plastics, storage containers, and hardware.
Keter plastics is one of the largest manufacturer of resin based products in the entire world, with 26 factories, including 8 in Israel and 5 in the United States. In 2017, Home Depot was the largest customer of Keter plastics, which manufactured the many of the plastic you see there, including Husky toolboxes. Keter is committed to “simplify and enhance the daily lives of consumers” and focusing on innovation driven by consumer insight.

Giel opened his presentation with the 5 core values his group lives by as they innovate, manufacture, and sell. These values are integrity, innovation, excellence, fun, and passion. Giel’s team is reminded of these values morning, noon, and night, and can recite them in their sleep. He taught us the importance of values based work and allowing our values to guide our work ethic and decision making.

Giel also shared with us his Jewish journey. He grew up in Haifa where he was one of the first babies born in his Reform congregation where he later had his Bar Mitzvah. He and his wife spent time as Shlichim in the United States and remain connected to the Reform movement through their congregation in Nahariya.

While focusing on innovation and growth of his department at Keter, Giel taught us that the most important thing for him is to “stay true to [his] Jewish values” and that the values of “Derech Eretz is above them all.” Derech Eretz literally translates to “way of the land,” and teaches us that being a good person and member of the community is more important than anything else. When hiring new members of his team, he is less impressed by an extensive resume of experiences and skills, but rather focuses on personality, ensuring each person will contribute positively to the team dynamic of values of his department.

It is incredibly special to have innovators such as Giel join the group, as he so naturally connects his Jewish identity to his success with Keter plastics and clearly shows his Jewish values are a guiding force for the work that he does. Following the presentation, many teens rushed up to Giel with questions about their own inventions they have been working or if they could use Keter’s hardware for their robotics clubs. It was apparent in their questions and excitement that many of them saw a piece of themselves in Giel and he served as motivation for them as they seek success in their scientific and technological innovations.

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