Posted Thursday, May 18, 2017 – 6:40 PM
By Laura Coleman
Since assuming the role of Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles in late August, Sam Grundwerg has been non-stop busy working to represent the interests of the Middle East’s only democracy and promoting business and trade throughout the Southwestern U.S.
In the middle of back-to-back meetings, Grundwerg took time from his hectic schedule to meet with the Courier recently to share a little about his experience thus far.
Below is the exclusive interview:
The Beverly Hills Courier: How has your reception been?
Sam Grundwerg: The communities have been so welcoming and accepting and supportive. When it comes to Israel, people want to be connected. And I’ve found that all the people I’ve talked to, inside the Jewish community, outside the Jewish community, they all want to have something to do with us, something to do with me, and want to help be supportive in any way that they can.
BHC: What does Israel mean to you?
Grundwerg: It means my homeland and my tradition. It means a multicultural mosaic of different folks of different backgrounds where you can say what you believe. And to be able to express yourself and be free.
BHC: What is the greatest challenge?
Grundwerg: The biggest challenge, even without anybody telling me, is being connected and keeping the younger generation connected. I think it’s a challenge in general, not only for the State of Israel, but for the Jewish community. With respect to Jewish education, Jewish identity … people relate to Judaism and the state of Israel today in a different way than previous generations did. So I think the biggest challenge is having Israel and Judaism remain relevant in the lives of young people.
BHC: What strategy are you using to connect to the younger generation?
Grundwerg: I always say, there’s no one size fits all approach. Israel has so much to offer in so many areas, whether it’s art, culture, technology, medical innovation, so depending on who we’re trying to reach out, we try to identify where there’s need in the community to bring Israeli expertise and knowledge to address a real need. It’s the same thing for young people. The idea is to bring the different aspects of true Israel in a way that people can relate to and connect to.
BHC: Today, the modern State of Israel is 70, can you touch on some of how it has changed?
Grundwerg: Israel has become more of a world state, it’s become more of a world power, less of an underdog, in terms of the way it’s viewed in the world. Today’s generation is not familiar with the fact that we were fighting for our lives to exist. People of the younger generation only know of Israel today, which is becoming more of a global world power leader in so many different areas. It’s important to continue to educate and connect so that the relationship will be a real one.
BHC: What is Israel’s greatest strength?
Grundwerg: Technology is definitely the greatest export. It’s important to understand that technology is in every aspect of the industry. Israel makes up something like .02 percent of the world’s population, yet 20 percent of worldwide investment in cyber security is in Israel. It’s punching above its weight something like 200 percent.
BHC: Can you share a little bit about your own path to becoming Consul General
Grundwerg: I was born in Miami Beach, Florida. And I moved to Israel on my own at the age of 17 right after high school and decided to stay. I grew up in a v. zionist home and a Modern Orthodox community and school and at some point i made the decision that I wanted to be part of the State of Israel. I joined the Army was I was 19 and I served as a lone soldier combat tank gunner. Then I did my undergraduate studies in Israel and studied logistics. Then I worked in finance for a couple of years there. Then I ended up coming back to Florida and ended up staying for 11 years. I did an MBA at the University of Miami and continued to work in finance. And then I changed directions and I studied law at the university of Miami, then I worked for a large law firm in Miami doing transactional real estate law for five years. Then, the plan was always to be in Israel, so I went back to Israel, and changed directions again professionally and I was brought into the World Jewish Congress. A little bit over a year ago I was approached by the Prime Minister in his capacity as Foreign Minister and was appointed. And this is my first political appointment.