Most of my columns have focused on my Israel-related experiences. Last year, however, I wrote about how Israel served as a springboard to participate in an incredible trip to China, where I led a program for business-minded young Jewish men. (My Jewish Voice article about the Golden Leaves program appeared on Nov. 24, 2017.)
This year I once again had the opportunity to help lead the program and had even more experiences than the last time.
One experience in particular I had this year that directly connects back to Israel was when the participants, group leader and I met with young Chinese professionals to discuss how Israel does business differently and how we, as Jews, see the world. David Gedallovich, my Colombian friend and roommate in Israel, and the director of the Golden Leaves program that I helped lead, coordinated the event with his colleague, Rafa. (Short for “Rafael,” since Rafa is easier for the Chinese to pronounce.)
Rafa, a native Israeli, came to China to help bring various Israeli and Jewish approaches and attitudes to China. One thing he focuses on is teaching about a different business style, such as the concept of never giving up. He also focuses on Jewish culture. Rafa has published a book – “Distinctive Mindset” – which details all of this and is written in Chinese, Hebrew and English.
He often uses the motto, “Try to fail.” He encourages his Chinese protégés to do something as simple as calling their parents to say, “I love you.” While that simple gesture might seem basic to some, it doesn’t come naturally to those who were raised in a stricter, more regimented home. This “try to fail” challenge encourages them to expand their comfort zones, even if success isn’t guaranteed. He emphasizes the attempt over worrying about the outcome.
On the day we went to Rafa’s workplace, he first sat with the Golden Leaves participants to explain what he does and how he does it. Because the participants are interested in building business connections with China, they had the opportunity to ask him questions about his experiences in China and his insights into how the Chinese interact with foreigners.
Later we met in a hall that soon became packed with hundreds of young Chinese professionals interested in hearing about different approaches to life and business as expressed by our non-Chinese participants. Following presentations by several speakers, David and three of our participants (one American and two Venezuelans) joined a panel on stage, along with three Chinese business professionals.
Questions and statements posed in Chinese were translated into English for us to understand, and vice versa. David and our three participants answered questions ranging from perseverance in the business world to their personal definitions of happiness. One of our participants, Ariel Rabinovich, talked about how, unlike his parents’ generation, he grew up in Venezuela knowing that he had to plan to leave someday because of the economic situation, and how he kept his sights set on that. Currently a student at Northwestern University in Chicago, he told the Chinese audience that he had to learn to adapt to a country where the language and culture are different from his birth country.
Toward the end of this meeting, the seven other participants and I went on stage to share some Jewish songs with the audience. We sang “Am Yisrael Chai” (“The Nation of Israel Lives”) and “Oseh Shalom Bimromav” (“He Who Makes Peace”), followed by a song in Chinese that David created.
Afterward, everyone mingled. And in a demonstration of just how small the Jewish world is, one of the few non-Chinese in attendance came up to me and said, “We were in the Israeli army together.” He recognized me after David mentioned my name.
My trip to China was an amazing experience of cultural exchange and awareness for the participants in my group and the Chinese in attendance. This trip provided me with a peek into how, worldwide, we can all learn from one another. It goes to show that no matter where we find ourselves in the world, there is always something that we can teach to others who are thirsty for knowledge and there is always something that we ourselves can learn.
GOLDEN LEAVES will be holding its first women’s program Jan. 6-22, 2019. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about that and the men’s summer program.
DANIEL STIEGLITZ (email@example.com) is a certified Life Coach who lives in Jerusalem. His collection of short stories, Tavern of the Mind, is available for paperback and Kindle purchase on Amazon. www.amzn.to/2Izssrz.