BARUKH HASHEM from Lenny
After returning home from his Norwegian Cruise Line vacation, Lenny Veltman ("The Russian") answered questions from Orthodox Apprentice.
First, could you settle something for us. Val or Veltman? What's the story behind that?
Originally I am actually Veltman (translation men of the world,Velt+man), after an article in the HNT I became “Val,” which I don't care about much. The girl who did the interview made a mistake that's it, there’s no mystery there.
And what's LENSA all about?
It's just a joke, if Mensa exists why can't I create and name my own club LENSA similarly to Mensa. Some people are very proud to be members of LENSA, did I repeat LENSA too many times? LENSA can offer you the same benefits, except the fact it’s free as opposed to $50. Our members don't get advice, they just interact with one another. “A word to the wise ain't necessary - it's the stupid ones that need the advice,” said Bill Cosby.
In your final episode, Gold Rush's meeting with the Ace Hardware executives didn't look good on TV. Was it really that bad? Why wasn't your team prepared with questions?
I agree, it looked funny. I wouldn’t say it didn't look good, simply because it’s a show and for the show it looked great, i couldn’t stop laughing. It looked like I was completely oblivious to the meeting, which isn‘t true. We asked enough questions to get an idea for the project. We asked very few direct questions and they didn't answer us, simply because it was too direct and they weren’t allowed to give us a lead answer. Like I already posted on my LENSA site. We had a meeting with the lady who has been running this place for twenty years. Her objectives were that they have a program, teaching kids piano, but complete lack of instruments. Not to mention 95% of the kids are Hispanic or African-American, who love to play instruments and absolutely can't live without music. By saying not everyone loves music is completely incorrect and a misleading statement.
What lessons did you learn from competing on the show?
To be honest I did not learn anything I didn‘t already know. I did learn, however; a lot new words. My English now is 100 times better than it was before I went on the show, thanks to Lee's (cheat sheet ha-ha).
How did your friendship with Lee develop? Early on we saw you criticizing him for not working on Rosh HaShanah. Then we saw you wish him well on Yom Kippur. Next thing we know, you're best friends. How did this happen?
Lee and myself became friends at the first hand shake, which happened in the airport (first episode). He gave me a warm welcome and that’s how it all started. I didn't bash Lee for taking a Rosh HaShanah off, i actually warned him, "you will be blamed if we lose." Of course not by me, I just was the voice of the team. I believe anti-Semitism is still a big issue in America, I have nothing to do with this, trust me. On Yom Kippur I went to Shoul with Lee, if you were watching you would see, only me and Lee were dressed up, we had just come back from the Synagogue. I also was fasting throughout the entire task. Being Jewish has never been easy, but I’m proud to be it.
Did Lee invite you to his house for the Passover seder? How close are you guys now?
Lee went to Florida for Passover and I had nice seder with my family. We are very close, in all good ways possible of course. I admire Lee for all his great qualities. He's a VERY Honorable man and he is a great friend, I mean a REAL friend. His Parents are very lucky people, and they are also very nice people as well.
Are you in touch with anyone else from the show?
Summer is most amazing women I ever met, we are also very good friends. I wish she would have stayed longer. I also told her I wish she was a Jewish too. She is very lovely, very honest and has an extra large heart. I keep in contact with a few others but not to often.
Could you tell us about your religious background? We know it was difficult (nearly impossible) for anyone to practice Judaism in the USSR. Have you been involved with any Jewish organizations since coming to the USA?
Religion was obsolete in the USSR, but because I had Jewish parents, who also had Jewish parents, who also had Jewish parents, I practiced Judaism. It was just like you said before, nearly impossible, or just impossible. But my Briss was performed by Rabbi, although I'm not sure if he was a real one. I never had a Bar-Mitzvah, but my Son had one, he's more lucky than I am, he has a nice father (kidding),but definitely a nice mother, and I'm very lucky guy. I haven't been involved with any Jewish organizations directly. I’ve only helped with job placements for people from the JFVS of Middlesex county in NJ. I offered to cater their parties, but my restaurant wasn't kosher, so they kindly declined my offer.
Are Lee and Dan the first Orthodox Jews that you've met? Were you familiar at all with their practices (kosher food, Shabbat, holidays, etc.) before you moved into the suite?
Of course not, remember I am a Jew myself. Strangely enough, it was hard to guess that they were orthodox Jews. I knew for sure Lee was a Jew from the get go, and I also knew he was kosher. In my understanding, being orthodox means you have very strict rules which were impossible in the Suite environment. The whole setting was very inappropriate for the strict rules of Judaism. However, Lee told me he was a modern day orthodox, but observant Jew. To be honest, I couldn't even imagine that my religion was so divided. I know exactly what Kosher food is and the whole idea about it. I also know what Shabbat and the important Holidays like Passover are. It's obvious to me what they are, even though I was portrayed in a different way in one of the episodes.
What's your opinion on the remaining candidates? Who can make it to the finals?
You all know my opinion of Lee, I just love this guy for being honest, smart and funny. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for someone, He did exactly that in the first episode. Like I already said somewhere, it had nothing to do with Lee it was about Summer (lovely girl, i wish she was Jewish, just kidding) and me. He was the only one who didn’t lie and told the truth, straight from his big heart. If until that moment I had any doubts about his dignity and integrity, it all disappeared. Additionally, Roxanne has individual qualities that are great. I also like Michael, but the only problem is that he doesn’t have enough life experience. On another hand, Lee is 22 and unbelievably mature. I wish I could tell you more, as I can see you guys have a very nice investigation department, you even found my outdated ad on Allibaba, that cement already sold, a simple transaction for almost 1/2 bill dollars.
What do you think of Donald Trump? Is there anyone like him in the USSR?
He is one of the best businessmen I’ve ever met, and I met quite a few. There are 33 “Donald Trumps” in Russia now, (according to "forbes") not in the USSR since individual ownership was prohibited. The funny part is, I’ll tell you the inside story "you hear this first here". Some of contestants, can't tell you the names, I can only tell you it was a him, said I'm from a third world country and didn't say it to me, he said it to a bunch of other people, that I know. You know what he's absolutely right, Russia’s #3 on the list of “number of billionaires“ (according to Forbes American magazine) which makes Russia the third country. Everyone on that show claims that they have a great education (except Lee) who actually has a stupendous education. I would recheck all the resumes once again. Some of the contestants said stuff that is hard to imagine for a normal person to say, or at least one who has an education.
Sean talked about living the American dream after immigrating to this country and competing on The Apprentice. Do you think you are living the American dream?
What is the American dream for Sean, did he come from a “third world country”, or from a Soviet dictatorship, of course not. He came from a very nice country actually, and I don't see what the change was for him. The language is even the same, except for me it's very hard to understand what he talking about, that accent sometimes makes me think he’s speaking broken Russian, other then that he's an ok guy. For me it's dream a come true. "Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together." Eugene Ionesco
What's next for Lenny?
Family is always first, business (cement,trading etc), friends and a whole lot of new things are next. It's always new for me, I believe our lives are undeveloped until you stop working. I try every minute of my life to find something new and exciting, otherwise life becomes boring. Thank you for your support and love, thank you for giving me a chance to express myself. BARUKH HASHEM!!!
Eugene Veltman, Lenny's teenage son, also talked with Orthodox Apprentice.
What are the most important lessons in life that you've learned from your father?
I've learned from my father, that in life, you should be yourself not who other want you to be. Also, I learned that education is the most important thing possible in life, with an education you have a great future ahead. Additionally, he has taught me to be strong, even though life has its ups and down, he's taught me to withstand those tough times and get through them with his help. He has created in me a great person. I am proud to be his son.
How has life changed for you since this season of The Apprentice started airing?
Well, it's been an exciting change. I have people coming up to me in school and talking to me non-stop about how great my father is. That's pretty much it besides the fact that I get to see my father on National Television every Monday.
What does Judaism mean to you?
Judaism to me is not only a religion but a way of life. Certain people treat this religion as their life and abide by its rules, and I totally agree with their views. However, in my opinion, one must live their own life, and yes he or she can follow the religion but they don't have to. It's not required to be religious, like me for example, I'm sort of religious. I had a bar-mitzvah at the age of 13. I celebrate all the Jewish holidays like Yum-Kippur, Rosh-Hashanah, Chanukah, and Passover. Judaism is a great thing, and I'm proud to be a Jew.
Has your impression of the religion changed at all since watching Lee and Dan skip the tasks to observe the holidays?
Not really, 99% of my friends are Jewish and they observe these holidays as well. But I didn't see them leaving school to go to Temple, but it's the persons choice. My impression is still the same, you choose to observe the holiday or you don't, but in the end you're still Jewish.
While watching the show, were there any moments when you were embarrassed by something that your father did?
I'm never embarrassed of my father. Yes he does humorous things, but it just makes me laugh not be embarrassed of him. He is without any doubt the greatest father in the world, and I love him with all my heart. He gave me everything, and I am so grateful.
THANK YOU to Lenny and Eugene Veltman for sharing your thoughts with us!