Visiting Vienna and Israel this past Winter break was absolutely phenomenal. The trip was a great balance of fun, learning and self exploration. From visiting tech starts ups and VC firms to firing M16’s with ant-terrorist unit soldiers to lectures from prominent rabbis and journalists, the breadth, depth and variety of activities made each day a unique experience. Also, the nature of our small group allowed us to dive much deeper into every discussion and enjoy each adventures that much more. Thank you to Rabbi Sorani and the JGSI for organizing such fantastic trip!

-Roman Bootman, UCLA Anderson ’15

Every year around the Passover table, I have exclaimed “Next year in Jerusalem!” I am so very thankful to JGSI for making that aspiration a reality after 25 years. Even though I was more than 7,000 miles from my home base in Los Angeles, I never felt as at home as I did celebrating Shabbat under the stars with families in the Old City of Jerusalem, trekking up the mountain trail to reach the Masada, and standing where generations of Jews stood before me at the Western Wall. As a law student, I also particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to learn about Jewish law from several distinguished speakers, interviewing U.S. Department of State personnel about foreign policy, and visiting the center of Israel’s industry. I urge other graduate students to consider applying for a JGSI trip because, in the words of the great Rabbi Hillel, “If not now, when?”

-Samantha Gold, Loyola Law ’16

The JGSI trip to Israel and Vienna in 2013 was an incredible experience that I am sure to remember for the rest of my life. After exploring the deep roots of the Jewish people in Eastern Europe, we were immersed in our even deeper roots in the land of Israel.  The trip introduced us to the varied faces of modern Israel: at once both modern and cosmopolitan and ancient and mystical. Weaving all these threads together was the indefatigable leadership of Rabbi Dave Sorani.  What could have easily been turned into a pedantic, dull trip was made fun and lively by his iconoclastic personality.  He created a safe space where no topic was off limits and served as en excellent bridge between the modern and the religious.  On top of that, his irrepressible sense of humor encouraged us to let our hair down as well, and meant that the trip was filled with fun moments and inside jokes that members of the trip still reference when we see each other.  From meeting with cutting-edge Tel Aviv start-ups to an unforgettable Shabbat at the Kotel to enjoying some of the best food in the world, it was truly the experience of a lifetime!

-Matthew Schonfield, UCLA Anderson ’14

I have had the pleasure of visiting Israel before–competing in the Maccabiah Games and volunteering for the IDF, but never have I had the privilege of such a holistic experience in this country. Rabbi Sorani and the JGSI arrange a dynamic journey that covers a myriad of life’s facets, from ATV-ing in Tiberias to personal meetings with venture capitalists and startup executives. Floating in the dead sea, shooting M-16’s with the special forces [no joke!] and Shabbat service at the Western Wall continue to set this experience apart. As an MBA this trip has brought deep perspective and valuable connections toward my career goals, as well as introduced me to a great group of friends. Oh, and the shawarma is great!

-Ben Brown, USC Marshall ’15

The 2013 JGSI Trip to Vienna and Israel was one of the most unique opportunities that I’ve had the good fortune to participate in. We had a great group as Rabbi Sorani was very thoughtful in who was selected for the trip. In Austria, we got to learn about the Jewish history of Vienna, visit the US Embassy to learn about Austria today, and I had my first visit to a concentration camp. It was a sobering and powerful experience. The Israel portion of the trip was diverse and fascinating as we saw the rich spectrum of Jewish life that exists there today. I can’t believe that in only 9 days we met with IDF soliders, visited with interesting business executives, spoke with different religious scholars, went on an ATV adventure, and floated in the Dead Sea.

-Jon Cowan, UCLA Anderson ’14

Wow! The 2013 JGSI Mission was my first trip to Israel, and I am so incredibly glad that I went. The trip included sightseeing, visits to Israeli companies, meeting with Israeli students and military, GREAT FOOD, and meaningful conversations about Judaism. I am so grateful that I took advantage of this opportunity to learn about history, world news, international economy, and my own heritage. If you’re reading this because you’re deciding whether to apply to the JGSI trip, then stop reading and just go ahead and do it already!

-Laura Strauss, UCLA Anderson ’16

I thoroughly enjoyed the JGSI trip to Austria and Israel last month. In Austria, I will never forget the visit to Mauthausen and trying to understand how such barbarity had been done to humanity in such a place. In Israel, our experience was varied and impactful. Visiting companies gave me an insight not only into the economy but into the culture and society. Seeing the sun set from the picturesque rooftops of Safed was a moment I will never forget. Walking the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City was a chance to see a place that has existed for so long yet retained its character and importance. All in all, it was a truly memorable two week journey that I’m deeply grateful to have been part of.

-Michael Hirshman, UCLA Anderson ’15

The MBA Mission to Israel was absolutely a trip of a lifetime. We all take for granted how busy our lives have become, and to have the opportunity to travel to Israel with fellow Jewish business school students was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. The mission not only helped me strengthen my connection to Israel, but through listening to incredible speakers, philanthropists, and visiting local business and communities, it also helped me reflect on my life goals as well as the importance of developing ties and becoming involved in my own community. My single biggest take away from the trip is that I plan to incorporate into my life going forward the importance of giving back, however possible.

-Brad Rosenblatt, UCLA Anderson ’11

Going to Israel was one of the most memorable opportunities I have been afforded while at UCLA Anderson. It was a highly unique combination of meeting with leaders of innovative companies and non-profit organizations, traveling for historical expeditions and cultural experiences. While I had studied abroad in Israel on an undergraduate archaeological expedition years ago, the perspective I had as an MBA student was much more edifying. Upon reflection, I am amazed by the multitude of experiences we had. I would never have had this once in a lifetime experience without the JGSI mission
to Israel.

-Jody Menerey, UCLA Anderson ’11

The JGSI Prague / Israel Trip was an absolutely amazing opportunity to learn about my Jewish heritage. Standing in the Czech Terezin Ghetto one day, and celebrating Shabbat at the Western Wall only days later, provided an incredible contrast that affirms the strength and vibrancy of our Jewish spirit. The trip through Sderot, standing on a hill top overlooking Gaza and nearby Ashkelon, emphasized to me the importance of Israeli security measures. Hearing about experiences from some of the most successful business leaders in the country, underscored the dynamic entrepreneurial nature of the Israeli business culture. Finally, I feel that it has brought
me closer into the Jewish community here in LA, as I met and became good friends with the other students on the trip. Whether someone wanted to join the trip for a religious experience, for a chance to connect with the land and people of Israel, or as an MBA student looking to learn about Israeli businesses, I feel that it was a powerful event for everyone.

-Jason Wakizaka, UCLA Anderson ’12

The JGSI MBA mission opened my eyes to the history and future of Judaism and how important it is to be involved in the Jewish community.

-Mike Kaufman, UCLA Anderson ’12

The JGSI MBA mission was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Meeting people from similar, yet different backgrounds and learning about thousands of years of culture through the context of a young 60-year-old nation surrounded by hostile states was an unbelievable opportunity and it will shape how I think about the world and my place in it going forward.

-Josh Brinkenhoff, UCLA Anderson ’11

The Israel mission was a great opportunity to explore and discuss many different perspectives of Judaism, and how it affects everyday life and business in Israel. The trip was extremely thought-provoking and a lot of fun!

-Sarah Cooper, Berkeley Haas ’11

The JGSI MBA mission was an experience of a lifetime. Learning of Jewish history and culture with a group of like-minded business school students provided a new perspective of Israel that I wouldn’t expect to see on other organized trips. The friendships and bonds created on this trip are sure to last a very long time. Plus, Sorani rocks.

-Craig Rosen, USC Marshall ’12

The program gave me one last chance, as a student, to connect with Israel and my Jewish identity. Since returning to California from the Mission, I’ve become more involved with the Jewish community, and there is no question that this trip shifted the direction of my life and pointed it more towards Judaism. Rabbi Sorani is amazing, the perfect person to run a program like this. He’s approachable and funny and puts everyone at ease. He does a great job creating a comfortable atmosphere in which to discuss important issues related to being Jewish. In particular, I know the trip affected a lot of people’s views towards intermarriage.

-Mitch Gordon, Berkeley Haas ’12

Without the generous support from the MBA mission’s donors, I wouldn’t have had the most inspiring, most eye opening, most life changing, and most fun experience of my life.

-Ross Barasch, USC Marshall ’11

Last year we took an epic trip through Israel and Zurich that combined spiritual and business exploration with fun, food and friends. The trip was an incredible opportunity to get a pulse on the Israeli business landscape while mixing in visits to some of Israel’s coolest sites.

-Ari Zandman-Zeman, UCLA Anderson ’14

I had the pleasure of going on the JGSI trip to Zurich and Israel in December of 2012. As someone who had “lost” his religion after his Bar Mitzvah, avoided birthright, and was just not in touch with Jewish culture, Rabbi Sorani’s trip turned out to be a turning point for me. The JGSI enabled me to not only explore new countries and cultures, but also put me back in touch with my Jewish roots in a safe environment surrounded by folks who will now be friends for life. Through a good mix of religious, cultural, and professional-centric events, the JGSI trip opened up my eyes to what it really means to be Jewish and all the opportunities out there as a result. I want to thank Rabbi Sorani and the JGSI for the amazing trip and for the continued support the JGSI and its benefactors provide to the UCLA Anderson Jewish students.

-Scott Cooper, UCLA Anderson ’14