“You must go on the men’s trip!” were the first words Steven Arenzon’s wife, Robin, said when she returned home from her MoMOMentum Trip to Israel. Steven’s MoMENtum Men’s Trip – which included experiences like celebrating a Bar Mitzvah atop Masada to applying ethical Jewish questions during a visit to the market, led Steven to make Jewish study a greater part of his life, introduced him to a close group of friends, and moved him to become more philanthropic in his community.
In our conversation, Steven shares the highlights of his MoMENtum Men’s Trip, the moments that touched his heart, and his group’s hilarious modern-day Jewish debate over a few left-over falafels.
What was a highlight from your journey in Israel?
There were so many incredible experiences during my trip, but two moments stand out above the rest. The first was at Yad Vashem. One of my “Milwaukee Brothers” on the trip was the child of Holocaust survivors. Seeing this experience through his eyes was incredibly moving and emotional and left a permanent impact on my heart. The second moment was celebrating another guy’s Bar Mitzvah at the top of Masada.
What is a piece of Jewish wisdom you learned on your MoMENtum Men’s Journey?
No matter where we come from, we Jews are a family. Our home is in Israel and we must remember to be proud of our heritage and support one another.
What’s one way you have applied the wisdom you gained during your journey with us?
One evening, while studying Jewish texts, we came across a “What if” question in the Gemara. If you see half a bottle of wine left at another table, can you take it for yourself? Is this considered stealing?
The next day, a few of us visited the shuk (market) for what turned out to be the best falafel sandwiches we had ever eaten. Sure enough, at the table next to us, was a plate of beautiful, untouched falafel balls. We all just looked at each other, started laughing, and then spent the next half hour debating whether or not to take the falafels, all because of the learning that took place the day before. Don’t worry – we didn’t take them!
How did the MoMENtum Men’s Journey impact your life?
When I returned home, the journey continued at home. The Milwaukee guys have stayed close and keep in touch with almost daily communication! We celebrate our families’ milestones and are there for each other during difficult times as well. My wife, Robin, began working at our local Jewish Federation. I study with my Community Leader, Rabbi Hillel Brody. This experience has made me more willing to learn, grow, and appreciate my family.
As the owner of a textile company, Wisconsin Knitwear, I began donating ten times more knit hats to my community, and have made an effort to be more generous with my employees and customers.
If you could tell your pre-trip self anything, what would you share with him?
Buy the artwork in Tzfat! It is the best and most beautiful you will find. But, seriously, get ready to open your mind to the many opportunities you have to grow as a human being. Just enjoy the journey and see where it takes you. My Momentum experience was extraordinary and I hope that generations of men can be part of it.
I’d like to thank Harry Rothenberg who made a huge impact on my life, and Rabbi Hillel Brody with Yes Connections for taking me on this journey. Most importantly, thank you to the most “Cheese Awesome” (because we are from Wisconsin) group I know: Leo Kleiner, Jim Salinsky, Nat Stein, David Kazan, and Jeff Biskowitz.