Winning the Jewish Lottery

September 11, 2013


Ask him about his year spent traveling the world as a Ralph I. Goldman Fellow in International Service with JDC Entwine, and Shaun Goldstone is liable to speak in superlatives.

“I had a golden year,” the 26-year-old San Diego native said. “I like to say that I won the Jewish lottery.”

In a way, he did—beating out nearly 100 applicants to win the chance to travel to Russia, China, Israel, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Poland, Hungary, and the United Kingdom to learn about JDC’s important work with the Jewish communities there.

A 2010 molecular biology graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara, Goldstone decided to take a gap year before embarking on a career in medicine. After meeting JDC’s medical director Dr. Rick Hodes, he spent 13 months volunteering in Ethiopia as a member of JDC Entwine’s Global Jewish Service Corps.

When he learned about the Ralph I. Goldman fellowship, he was inspired to continue his work with JDC, an organization he views as the “9-1-1 of the Jewish people.”

“I truly think JDC is the crown jewel of the Jewish world,” he said. “One of the biggest assets of JDC is the expertise that it’s able to leverage throughout the world, from supplying funds to build the first Jewish kindergarten in Estonia to bringing in experts on the ground after the devastating earthquake in Haiti.”

Goldstone said he was inspired by JDC’s work with impoverished Jews in the remote town of Syktyvkar, Russia, and was moved to meet with two women in Shanghai who were born in the Hongkou ghetto and have received JDC aid for years.

“I was able to see how when there is a Jew in need, JDC is there,” he said.

Though “every place truly surprised me in some way,” Goldstone said he was particularly struck by seeing the global Jewish revival in action during his visit to St. Petersburg, Russia.

“The community center of St. Petersburg, the JCC Yesod, is more beautiful than the one in San Diego. From the get-go, I was shocked by the beauty of the community and how flourishing it was,” he said. “There’s such vibrant Jewish life. Everyone said, ‘Oh, you’re going to visit such depressing communities.’ To the contrary—there’s such a resurgence in Jewish life in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.”

Goldstone was also instrumental in planning Destination Shanghai, the four-day, JDC-organized Limmud experience held in China earlier this year.

The fellowship, during which he was able to meet Goldman, 99, in Israel, was a chance to “see a holistic view of JDC’s work around the world,” Goldstone said.

“I got to see the challenges and the opportunities facing Jewish communities throughout the world, from Tallinn, Estonia, where you have children going home to teach their parents about Judaism to the expat communities of China … where by virtue of being in such a foreign place, they long for their Judaism and, as such, there’s a rediscovery of Jewish identity.”

Goldstone said he strongly encourages any recent college graduate to get involved with JDC Entwine and apply for either the Global Jewish Service Corps or the Ralph I. Goldman fellowship.

“If you’re lucky enough to be accepted as a fellow in either program, it’s a life-changer,” he said. “To be able to see JDC from the inside and to live abroad … it’s an unparalleled opportunity.”

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