NOVEMBER 22, 2018 – NAME: Jonah Weinstein
CURRENTLY LIVING IN: New York City
ALMA MATERS: Marblehead High School ‘13, Ithaca College ‘17
JOB: Associate product manager, MediaMath
FAVORITE FOOD: I love Mediterranean food and I love Italian food
FAVORITE MUSIC: I like blues, I like rock, I like hip-hop
FAVORITE BOOK: “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene
FAVORITE MOVIE: “Good Will Hunting”
FAVORITE TV SHOW: I like watching the Patriots.
FAVORITE TRAVEL DESTINATION: I had a really great experience in Chile. I’ve been to Israel, and I’ll always have a strong calling to go back to Israel … Israel will be home. In terms of a place I’d like to go next … France, Portugal, Colombia, Brazil, Japan, Thailand
FAVORITE JEWISH PEOPLE: Rabbi Yossi Lipsker and Rabbi Shmaya Friedman
WHAT WAS YOUR JEWISH BACKGROUND GROWING UP?
On Saturdays, I’d walk to Chabad with my dad. My brothers would come along, and my mother at times. That’s I’d say the spark of my Jewish life. I went to Cohen Hillel Academy for a few years, and so that played a role at well. Generally speaking, I think my parents made sure that the environments I was a part of growing up were Jewish environments and I kind of developed a strong Jewish identity. And of course, now I’m tremendously glad that they did that – I had a bar mitzvah, I went on Birthright, and so growing up, I think it was the shul, it was Shabbat dinners with other families, I went to Jewish day school – those were important.
WHAT IS YOUR JEWISH IDENTITY NOW?
What is it to be Jewish? Jews are an ethnoreligious group, so there’s an aspect of ethnicity and there’s an aspect of culture. I wouldn’t say I’m religious – I’m a pretty technical thinker – I have far more reason to believe there is no Hashem than reason to believe there is – but to me, it’s a really strong cultural identity, it’s a really strong ethnic background, and it’s a really important foundation educationally – coming to understand what does it mean to live a Jewish life if I take that perspective. What is it to observe religion when it’s a cultural identity, not a religious belief? It’s to pursue education, it’s to be kind and communal, it’s to be supportive, to reach out to people in need, it’s tikkun olam. Like one day, you leave this earth, and I don’t know where you go afterward, if it’s some kingdom with Hashem, but whatever we’re taught along the way – Judaism teaches you can leave the world better off, so that at the end of the journey, you feel like maybe I left it better than I came into it, maybe my effect was net positive. That’s kind of my Jewish identity and how I live my Jewish life.
DO YOU PLAN TO MARRY AND RAISE YOUR KIDS JEWISH?
Yes, absolutely. One thousand percent. I heard this one phrase growing up: ‘For thousands and thousands of years, everyone’s married Jewish, and what gives you the right to break that chain?’ And quite honestly, that didn’t resonate with me, because it just felt a bit like some top-down policy that I’m obligated to fulfill now. And as I’ve grown and realized how proud and grateful [I am to have] my Jewish identity, I’ve realized the continuation of that is something that I want, and I would be proud to continue, and, even before you get to the kids, to prepare a life with someone, to have a wife – I don’t think I’d be able to spend that many hours of my life with someone I don’t share that identity with.
I think there are so many people in our Jewish community that are just naturally drawn to each other, and I don’t know what it is, whether it’s an energy, but if I have nine really close friends, eight and a half of them are Jewish. Whether or not you’ve made that conscious decision, I think the trend is, in my experience, we have a strong Jewish community, and I think the millennials are proud to carry that on.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR CAREER?
I work at a tech company [called MediaMath] in Manhattan. I’m a product manager, so that is understanding the business requirements, owning the management of a product, understanding the business of that product, and then mapping that and communicating back to our engineers what that looks like technically. So we go through that development process – me understanding this is what we need to build, them saying this is how we’re going to build it, and we climb those mountains together.
THIS THANKSGIVING, WHAT ARE YOU GRATEFUL FOR?
Every day, I stand up straight, open my eyes, and breathe a deep breath, and that’s what I’m grateful for.
– Michael Wittner