From strictly Orthodox to strictly high tech


Chaya Soggot grew up in a strictly Orthodox family, destined for marriage, children and a possible job as a teacher.

That was until she left school at 15 to pursue a career in high-tech.

By the time she was 18, she was running 13 websites. Three-and-a-half years later, she opened her own digital advertising company, Woobi.

Now 30, she has seen her company become one of the major players in in-game advertising, partnering with firms such as Ubisoft, responsible for video games like Assassin's Creed, Just Dance and Far Cry.

Woobi now has 40 employees and branches in Tel Aviv and London. It inserts advertising into video games in ways that avoid interrupting the flow of the game.

Where I came from you were married by 18

Ms Soggot, who grew up in north London and moved to Israel when she was 18, knew at an early age that she would not follow the conventional path for a strictly Orthodox woman.

She says: "At school, I couldn't find my place. I was looking for my own way.

"The girls there were all brought up to be teachers and stay within the community, but my parents were very educated and ambitious, so I saw something at home that according to the school system I was in, I wasn't allowed to pursue."

She was lucky in that her mother supported her decision to leave school as soon as possible, although they disagreed over her career choice.

Ms Soggot, who was in London last month to meet clients, says: "I always wanted to do architecture, and my mum was like, 'No, you're going into high-tech'. And that was it. We compromised and decided on web design."

She says that much of the knowledge and expertise she relies on now "was self-taught," modestly adding that after learning complicated online tools for attracting users to her website, "one thing led to another."

An increasing number of young Orthodox men and women are following Ms Soggot into the world of high-tech, where, she says, their upbringing gives them an advantage.

"My Orthodox childhood certainly helped me. It gave me different tools. I was taught to be more responsible.

"Even as a teenager, coming from the religious world, I didn't feel that young. I was very young compared to other people sitting at desks next to me, because they'd been travelling and to university, but I didn't feel young.

"I came from a world in which you were married by the time you're 18 and then when you're 19 you have your first child, and these people - my co-workers - were still single, trying to figure themselves out. I was brought up to be much more mature."

There were still drawbacks to coming from another world, though. Laughing, she describes one particularly painful moment where those differences became clear.

"I went paintballing once with a bunch of colleagues. I didn't serve in the Israeli army, because religious girls don't do the army.

"So the instructor comes in and spends four minutes speaking in military language about how you're supposed to shoot, and everyone there was on top of it - except me and this one French girl.

"We were the only two on the team who had no idea what he was saying. Thirty seconds later, we were shot from head to toe."

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive