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The group of 8 Winnipeg Jewish srtudents who went on the trip to New York

Ashley Faintuch

Jewish business students on the trip

Aish Rabbi Yitzhak Feldheim and Maxim Berent


by Ashley Faintuch, May 17, 2011

I and seven other Jewish students from the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg (Maria Konikov ,Maxim Berent, Seth Morris, Igor Golinkin, Sara Stras,Dalit Leitman, Yuliana Evseev) just returned from an 8-day trip to New York organized through the Jewish Business Network in conjunction with Aish Connections. The Winnipeg students were joined by a delegation of just over 20 students from York University, Ryerson University, University of Toronto and Wilfred Laurier University.
The trip was fun, inspiring, educational, and provided opportunities for participants to network with each other. We were able to meet with top Jewish business executives to learn how Jewish wisdom helps make them more successful in every area of life while making the world a better place.
“The New York trip is an essential pillar of the JBN’s strategy in inspiring a network of Jewish business students to want to learn more about their Judaism and become future global leaders that can make a positive impact on the world”, said Matan Hazanov, the national director of the JBN. Every day was action packed with a good balance of Judaism, business and fun.


For me, the most fascinating business speaker we heard from was Ari Schonbrun, Director, Debt Capital Markets at Cantor Fitzgerald, who  was on the 78th floor of one of the Twin Towers during the 9/11 attacks  and  miraculously escaped  scratch free.

Schonbrun, who lost 658 co-workers that day was on the 78th floor of tower one in the midst of switching elevators when the plane hit. He was knocked off his feet, surrounded by smoke, and assumed a bomb had exploded. The shaking building caused wires to spark in the elevator he was supposed to be on, and started a fire. Three people jumped through the fire to get out on the 78th floor, each with various degrees of burn.
Schonbrun led the burned trio as well as two other people on a security personnel and the floor fire warden down the stairs to escape the building. Once on the ground floor, Schonbrun was attempting to exit through the underground parkade, when someone stopped him and insisted he exit on the ground floor. Had Schonbrun gone to the parkade, he would have been trapped in and under the building when it collapsed.
Once outside the building Schonbrun  led a co-worker Virginia who had third degree burns to an ambulance to be transported to the hospital; Virginia insisted he come with her—at first  he objected but gave in eventually, which turned out to be a decision that help save his life. Shortly after the ambulance left the site, the building collapsed. 
Schonbrun explained to us that this tragic day changed his outlook on life and made him re-prioritize his life. He spends more time with his family, gives back more than before and has strengthened his faith, while inspiring others to reprioritize as well.
Since the attacks, Schonbrun has worked hard to rebuild the financial industry. He spoke to us in the Bloomberg Building in Midtown Manhattan, which we toured after he spoke to us . Bloomberg started out with the intent of bringing transparency to capital markets through access to information—with the idea that that would produce economic growth and reduce costs. Today Bloomberg still follows these principles--the building design, management style and practices reflect this.
The entire Bloomberg building is very transparent and  has an open concept, with glass walls and open office. Additionally the building is in horseshoe configuration which allows you to see into the opposite side of the building. Employees are also encouraged to move around and interact with others, and these opportunities are provided through snack bars and company activities (including fitness, cultural, and personal development themes).
At the conference a number of Rabbis also spoke with us about how Jewish values can help us maximize our potential in every area of life. These sessions were engaging and inspirational.
Rabbi Yitzhak Feldheim led a two-part session on men and women in Judaism. He spoke about building confidence and promoting self-respect; a teaching that every Jew should hear despite their level of Jewish knowledge.
Another phenomenal Rabbi we heard from was Eliyahu Bergstein, who spoke on Discovery. This Discovery seminar was condensed down to three hours, but normally would be presented over the course of a week. Discovery talks about wisdom and relevance of Jewish values and uses them to make the case for Judaism, such as hidden codes of the Torah. One fascinating fact was the relationship between the Megillah and Nuremberg Trials. In addition to these sessions, Rabbi Erez Farkas from Aish Campus Toronto led the group, taught some great sessions and was always available for questions and stimulating discussion.
The trip also gave us ample free time for shopping and sightseeing. We kicked off the event with a visit to the top of the Empire State Building.The view was phenomenal and really created the “Empire State of Mind” for the 30 business students. In true New York fashion, we also enjoyed a Mets game, although I think we cheered for the Giants more. We also went bowling, go carting and wall climbing. One evening we had a private comedy show “Chicago City Limits”; the show was done “Whose Line is it Anyway” style, and retold some funny stories based on our suggestions. Highlights included Igor’s Wedding and Avi and Gabe follow crack addicts around Times Square.
Through relevant and business-focused educational content of Jewish values and principles, the JBN aims to build and inspire a strong network of Jewish business students. The JBN will challenge the moral character and business acumen of its members so that they may better identify as Jews and develop them into global business leaders that can impact in the world. 
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