By Aaron Ganz
I am very excited that at the end of this month, I, along with a group of 17 other young professionals, will be embarking on a perspective-altering trip to Nepal. We are going as a community…to be part of a community. The cross-cultural immersion, the exploration of a new country and the making of new friendships while exploring my Jewish identity through a new lens is a fabulous opportunity.
Ever since I was young, I have had a profound love of traveling and have been extremely fortunate to be able to have traveled to places all over the world. Eating local cuisines, studying local history, learning the languages (at least a few words to get by) and experiencing the local art and cultural expressions have been some of the most enlivening experiences I have ever had.
I inherited a philosophy from my mom to fully immerse myself in an environment when I travel or leap into foreign experiences, which to date has served me extremely well. An adage she raised us with was, “Something is only foreign because it isn’t familiar. Once it is familiar, it is no longer foreign” (from “Finding Peace at the Center of the Storm” by Nancy Ganz). Come with an open mind, explore the unknown and say yes to life, and the list of “foreign” things greatly diminishes while the range of your comfort zone expands.
Through my Jewish engagement and study, I was aware that Israel had an extended reach trying to make the world a better place by embodying the Jewish principle of tikkun olam. Yet prior to engaging with CJP’s Project Inspire community, I wasn’t aware that Israel has provided help to over 140 countries throughout the world by providing innovation and technology, sending Israeli citizens to those countries to implement change and paying for individuals to come to Israel for professional training and development in order to return to their countries with new skills. Israel is empowering local communities by teaching them how to address their particular issues and grow their economies.
Given that Nepal is a beautiful yet landlocked country bordering both India and China, with a vast (and often tumultuous) history and a kaleidoscope of languages and ethnic backgrounds, I am so excited to go, to learn, to explore and to engage. More specifically about Israel’s connection to Nepal, organizations like IsraAid and Tevel B’Tzedek are revolutionizing the farming industry, improving infrastructure, training teachers and education administers to transform the education system and were one of the first nations on the scene after the devastating earthquake, all while preserving local customs and respecting the cultural framework that makes Nepal so unique.
Finally, I also cannot be more impressed by the CJP Project Inspire team. Leaving no stone unturned, they have planned this trip with such precision and care of how to ethically engage in developing communities, and how to structure the itinerary to have a fantastic blend of visiting and partnering with NGOs and meeting government officials while allowing us the space to be tourists exploring a new land. Not to end on a corny note, but I am truly “inspired” to be traveling with CJP’s Project Inspire.
Aaron Ganz is currently serving as the head of financial planning for Vantage Deluxe World Travel in Boston. He is serving as member of the board of directors and is president of the Temple Emanuel young adult group (Yisod). With CJP, he was a participant in LEADS, Kadimah and a mission trip to Israel. Aaron received his master’s in management from London Business School and his bachelor’s in political science from University of Chicago.