Monday, June 12, 2006

Lee Bienstock did a good $%@#$% job

Lee Bienstock: First off, I would like to thank everyone for their amazing support from day one. It has been incredible how many people got behind me through this whole thing. I am grateful for everything.

OA: What were you and Mr. Trump chatting about after he fired you Monday evening?
It is remarkable how many people picked up on this. Right after the show, Mr. Trump asked me to come over, and he told me to give him a call this week so we can meet up and talk about "being hired" by the Trump Organization. It feels great for my work to be validated by Mr. Trump. I started this whole thing so that I could learn from Mr. Trump and further my career. Even though I was the runner up, my goal can still be accomplished.

If you could get one do-over throughout the 14-week job interview, what would you have done differently?
I know it sounds unbelievably cliche, but I wouldn't change one thing. It seems like so many of my castmates look back and say, "I should have done this, or that". I make sure I don't get caught up in that, for my mental health. Certainly I made made mistakes, everyone does. I think I approached the whole process pretty flawlessly, I must have, to be the youngest contestant a make it all the way to the finals. There were so many times where my actions were misinterpreted, and I can't control that. The "Apprentice" has given me an great deal of experience in such a short period of time. I learned from everything and everyone; I wish I could do it again.

You were living in a suite in Manhattan. You worked on tasks in Manhattan, and in Queens and Long Island, not far from your hometown. Did you run into anyone you know?
I don't know how it happened, but I never ran into anyone where it became an issue. There were a couple of close calls though, I'll tell you that. One time we where shopping in Bloomingdale's in the middle of the day, and one of my mother's friends saw me with all the cameras swirling. She asked my mom, "is your son in showbiz?" Of course she denied everything, but it was difficult. I didn't spend to much time at any of my hot spots, like the kosher restaurants, bars, pizza shops around the city. I didn't see my friends and family for a while. When we do a task in the bowels of New Jersey at a Wal-Mart, we don't leave for days.

How did you prepare your teammates for the Jewish holidays? How did you explain kashrut?
It was challenging, because we had to be sensitive to how it would come out to the rest of America. I have had this conversation many times before, so I was used to it. I had non-Jewish roommates in college, and non-Jewish co-workers before. There was a lot of conversation centered around what makes something kosher, and what the Jewish holidays are all about. There were plenty of misconceptions out there like, " a rabbi needs to bless something, and then it becomes kosher."

Did you know the Holidays could create conflicts when you were selected for the cast? Did you expect production to stop for Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur? Was there any consideration of deferring your participation to a future season?
I certainly had an idea the holidays might be an issue, especially around the time we were taping. It made for television gold when it did come up. The 18 of us are like a family, we fight all the time but we love each other. I would like to absolve Lenny from some of the bashing he has been getting for the public's "perceived" view that he was not accommodating around the holidays. I didn't see it like that when we were living in the suite, and in fact he came to shul with me on Yom Kippur. Lenny even went as far as telling Mr. Trump in the boardroom that, "you know...Lee he talks to the g-d, I saw it." We all have something to learn, and it was great for Lenny and I to experience that together.

From the start of the season, many
Modern Orthodox young professionals viewed you and Dan as role models. Were you surprised by that reaction and the level of excitement in the Jewish community? Do you view yourself as a role model?
I never realized that we would become role models. The reaction in the Jewish community has been crazy, its fantastic. It makes the whole process so rewarding. I get emails from people of all religions including pastors and rabbis, that tell me they love what I am doing. They want me to come talk to their congregations and community youth about principles and my experiences. It is kind of hard NOT to view myself as a role model.

Who do you stay in touch with from the show?
I stay in touch with the majority of the cast. I am very close with Allie, Roxanne, Summer, Stacey, Michael, Pepi, and of course, Lenny. Now that would be a monster team!! I speak to Brent from time to time and I think he was misunderstood on TV; he is a very caring and energetic person. It is amazing how close we all get in such a short period of time.

You knew for seven months that you were a finalist. How did you deal with the suspense? Who else knew? Your parents? Girlfriend?
My mom can't keep a secret for the life of her, let alone one worth millions of dollars. Nobody knew!!! It was so hard keeping it in, but I know it was for the best.

Last Monday night's live boardroom was a letdown. Trump only asked a couple questions. How much time did you spend preparing for the final boardroom? Did you and Lenny prepare a cheatsheet?
I never prepare for the boardroom. I like to shoot from the hip, and I never want my answers to sound rehearsed. I attribute a lot of my success in the boardroom to this strategy. We had a really long boardroom, that they only showed briefly. They did manage to ask, Tarek, Charmaine and Tammy what they felt though.....

There was no discussion of the final tasks during the live finale. Do you know how much money your event raised for the firefighters?
I raised over $85,000 during our event, which is why Lys was so happy. I was auctioning off everything but the kitchen sink during the final task. I auctioned a chance to play in the game, called "play with the stars", I auctioned off thousands of dollars worth of sports memorabilia, as well as other items like sitting on the bench with the players, the shirts off of every player's back (Michael J. Fox's alone got $4,500), and of course the cars. All during a span of two hours. I auctioned both cars for more than they were worth. They showed my lowest bid for a car, and [Synergy's] highest. The best part of the final task was when Dennis Leary said, "You did a good $%@#$% job". I might have been shortchanged, but the Leary Firefighters Foundation definitely was not....

How does it feel to be a celebrity?
I am not a celebrity. I am more of a recognizable figure. I will be candid with you though, it feels nice to be recognized for my talents. It feels great to get an email from a 19 year old who says I have inspired him/her.

Before The Apprentice, did anyone ever call you a politician? Any interest in politics?
Mr. Trump is pretty perceptive. All throughout school I always held student government positions, and I did study Public Policy at Cornell. Who knows, maybe I'll run for Senate one day.

What's next for Lee Bienstock?
There is so much on my horizon. I will be going on the speaking circuit, and my calendar is filling up pretty quickly. So many people are interested in hearing about my experience and what I have learned. Maybe a job at the Trump Organization, and I have been offered a number of career opportunities from various sponsors of the tasks, as well as others. I update my website very frequently and it has everything I will be up to, and people can book me to speak at

Is there anything else you'd like to share with your fans?
Thank you all for sharing this ride with me!!!


At 6/13/2006 10:53 AM, Blogger Rob said...

Thanks for sharing this great interview with Lee!

At 6/13/2006 11:30 AM, Anonymous anythingbutanonymous said...

I am very frustrated. Does anyone else out there share my feelings that there is a cover-up going on? Touting Lee as a frum hero has become a very exciting exercise for HAFTR and for Lee's shul in Lawrence, not to mention, many Jewish newspapers. Here is our guy who endangered his career for his religious principles and came out on top. Great motivational message.

But, there are the nagging concerns that our frum hero was not all that frum, in which case he is also not a hero. Yet, everyone with access to him seems to be avoiding leaking that information.

Steve (from the Canonist) did an interview with Lee and now OA had done one as well. Neither was willing to ask the crunchers: did Lee come across situations in which the religious issues were insurmountable? What happened on Shabbos and Sukkos? We know that he came through for our team on Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur and in observing kashrus, so why are those the only religious questions that are brought up in the interviews? Why not bring up the issues that might give us a real insight into the kind of conflicts Lee faced?

I am not bringing this up because I want to make Lee look bad. I simply want to know the truth. I don't like being fooled or fooling others. I would like to believe that Lee is the hero he is touted to be and I am frustrated that there seems to be this conspiracy to prevent certain information from seeing the light of day.

At 6/13/2006 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee spoke at my shul last shabbos. He mentioned that no task was held on Succot or Shabbos.

At 6/13/2006 4:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that cannot possibly be true. the rutgers game was on shabbos, and he was seen handling money.

At 6/13/2006 4:22 PM, Blogger Wallyhorse said...


Great interview, but there were three questions I would have asked:

1. Did Lee think a task had been lost somewhere along the way due to severe weather?

2. Did Lee think the interviews were canceled due to losing an earlier task due to weather.

3. Did Lee think had there been interviews, the executives handling them would have questions because of his age.

I ask the first two because of what I previously wrote on weather issues, the latter because I truly think if there had been interviews, Roxanne would have faced Sean in the final task instead of Lee.


At 6/13/2006 4:37 PM, Anonymous Wally World said...

1. Who cares?

2. Who cares?

[what's the purpose of those 2 questions other than to say you were right or you were wrong?]

3. How could anyone know what would happen in an interview that never took place?

At 6/13/2006 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a BAD interview. We wanted to know all the questions and obviously it was not addressed. Or maybe it was a condition not to ask as to get the interview. Then you should not have done this interview. After all season and discussions, this is what you have to offer? WOW, what a real let down.

At 6/13/2006 6:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the rivalry between wally world and wallyhorse is the best thing on the website

At 6/14/2006 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He said the tailgate party wasn't on the same day as the game.

At 6/14/2006 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight...

You believe they scheduled tasks for rosh hashana and yom kippur but not for shabbos, sukkos and simchas torah?


At 6/14/2006 2:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe what he says. You should assume him of such things just because you speculate certain things. Now that is a true sign of "not being all that frum".

At 6/14/2006 3:10 PM, Anonymous anythingbutanonymous said...

I suppose it is possible that a task was scheduled for Shmini Atzeres and was cancelled because of the stormy weather and Lee did not have to take a stand. Wallyhorse is convinced that a task was cancelled so it just might be one that had been scheduled for a Yom Tov. Maybe Shabbos was an off day every week giving candidates the weekend.

But you would really think this is something that an interviewer with an interest in Orthodox Judaism would have asked Lee when given the opportunity. That they didn't makes me suspicious of a coverup as I wrote before.

At 6/14/2006 4:11 PM, Anonymous Not Anon said...

Why are people still hung up on this? What's the difference to you or me whether or not Lee is a perfect Orthodox Jew. I know I'm not perfect but I still consider myself to be Orthodox. None of my friends are perfect Jews, but I call them Orthodox. I know plenty of "Orthodox" Jews who ocassionally - and intentionally - violate kashrut, shabbat and others. Look at any chasidic neighborhood. You think they're perfect? Far from it. There's plenty of theft and adultery going on there, but they're still called (Ultra-)Orthodox.

Ask your Orthodox rabbi if it's halachically permissible to publicly embarass a fellow Jew by alleging (in a public forum) that he may have violated shabbos. That's not appropriate behavior for an Orthodox Jew.

Here's the bottom line: Maybe Lee worked on shabbos, maybe he didn't. He says he didn't so we should leave it at that.

At 6/14/2006 4:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not anon wrote:

"Look at any chasidic neighborhood. You think they're perfect? Far from it. There's plenty of theft and adultery going on there, but they're still called (Ultra-)Orthodox.

Ask your Orthodox rabbi if it's halachically permissible to publicly embarass a fellow Jew by alleging (in a public forum) that he may have violated shabbos. That's not appropriate behavior for an Orthodox Jew."

Now that is really something. In a message accusing someone of alleging in a public forum that one individual might have violated Shabbos you allege that an entire frum community is harboring thieves and adulterers. Talk about large scale lashon hara.

At 6/14/2006 4:45 PM, Anonymous anythingbutanonymous said...

I don't know about you, Anon, but my interest in Orthodox Apprentice is not because I find the show to be fascinating. I have no interest in who wins. My only interest in this season's offering (and I assume this is true for many if not most of the readers of this blog) is that two Orthodox Jews were contending.

Now, why should that fact catch my interest? Because I didn't believe that an Orthodox Jew could succeed in this business environment without major compromises of his religious standards.

You are telling me that one such Jew did succeed but I have no business wondering if there were compromises. I beg to differ. Once Lee put himself into the public eye for this game, he invited scrutiny.

So, tell me, Anon, why are you interested in this season of Apprentice?

At 6/14/2006 4:53 PM, Anonymous Not Anon said...

"Because I didn't believe that an Orthodox Jew could succeed in this business environment..."

Orthodox Jews are highly successful in all kinds of business environments. There are large, successful companies run by Orthodox CEOs, CFOs, etc. There are senior executives within the Trump organization who are Orthodox. This is news to you?

Maybe you meant to say "Because I didn't believe that an Orthodox Jew could succeed in this televised competition"?

Believe it or not, one just made it to the finals and another made it to the fifth "week".

Whether he performs all 613 or not is irrelevant. None of us are perfect, but that doesn't make us non-Orthodox. If your standard is perfection, no one is Orthodox. It's certainly clear to me that you're not a perfect Jew.

At 6/14/2006 4:59 PM, Anonymous Not Anon said...

"Once Lee put himself into the public eye for this game, he invited scrutiny."

Must disagree with this too. Lee did NOT put himself into the public eye as an Orthodox Jew. Never on the show did we see him say "I'm Orthodox." Nowhere on his website does it say "I'm Orthodox."

He did not go on the show saying "I'm gonna show the world what an Orthodox Jew is all about!" He went on the show as Lee. Not Rabbi Bienstock. Not Orthodox Bienstock. Not even Bienstock. Just Lee.

It's not fair for any of us to scrutinize anything that he did. Not only is it not fair, but it's certainly assur.

At 6/14/2006 5:42 PM, Anonymous anythingbutanonymous said...

"Never on the show did we see him say "I'm Orthodox." Nowhere on his website does it say "I'm Orthodox."

Although I never saw it, I am told that Lee wore a discernible yarmulke during his interview for Apprentice which is available on line for viewing.

Perhaps it is assur to say that X was mechallel Shabbos befarhesia (although if it was befarhesia then it probably ceases to be lashon hara) but to say that one wonders if X was mechalel you know for a fact that is assur or are you paskening from what you think the halacha should be?

At 6/14/2006 5:55 PM, Anonymous Not Anon said...

1) If no one but the person himself knows if it happened, then how could it be befarhesia?

2) You could say that you wonder if he was mechalel shabbos. I don't have a problem with that. But aren't you saying that Lee needs to directly address this issue and say whether he was or not? IF he was (and I don't know if he was or not) mechalel shabbos, why does he need to tell us?

3) I don't pasken. Just my opinions. I could certainly be wrong and I don't profess to be perfect.

At 6/14/2006 6:04 PM, Anonymous anythingbutanonymous said...

Not Anon: I simply don't buy your definition of Orthodoxy. You seem to be saying that completely regardless of observance one can call oneself Orthodox. I used to call people who drive to an Orthodox shul "non-observant Orthodox." True some people are Orthodox only because of affiliation with an Orthodox congregation, but I don't think that is the definition most people would use. And even if most people can accept "Modern Orthodox" standards which allow for eating without a yarmulke or without a Sukkah, even they draw the line at chillul Shabbos.

I have never said that Lee was mechallel Shabbos or Yom Tov. I was curious as to whether he had a problem with Shabbos or Yom Tov. I also was frustrated by the interviewers who asked him about Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur when we already knew that he did not participate in tasks on those days but studiously avoided asking him about the Sukkos and Shmini Atzeres tasks (if there were any.)

At 6/14/2006 6:08 PM, Anonymous anythingbutanonymous said...

"1) If no one but the person himself knows if it happened, then how could it be befarhesia?"

Now, that is interesting because although I have heard that Lee says the tailgate party was not held on the day of the actual Rutgers game, everyone who knows college game schedules is assuming that it was on Shabbos. So, here we have a reverse situation. Lee actually was not mechallel Shabbos but the impression given to the public is that he was.

At 6/15/2006 9:12 AM, Anonymous Not Anon said...

nothingbutanon- What is the definition of Orthodoxy? Is it the (attempted) observance of all mitzvos? I don't believe shabbos and kashrus should be the only determining factors. If someone is strict about shabbos and kashrus, but commits adultery or steals from the government, they shouldn't be considered Orthodox.

At 6/15/2006 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are so curious why don't you just email Lee yourself and ask?

At 6/19/2006 9:56 AM, Anonymous Just An Observation said...

I don't think Lee needs to verify whether or not he is Orthodox. But as someone said before, he should address some of the tougher questions...Lee's popularity stems from his affiliation with his faith. And has become a role model in the Jewish community and for anyone who tries to uphold their religious beliefs in a society that ridicules people not willing to compromise their values.

He admits that he views himself as a role model and in doing so, I feel that he has a responsibility to address the tough questions if he really wants to have an impact on people. That's what a role model does.

Someone eating his kosher bagels is sad and disrespectful, but come on...Tell us how you handled the truly hard issues in being a religious person in business. That status helped his popularity.'s time to step up and be a true role model and not just a poster boy for kosher food! Lee has an opportunity to have a positive impact on Jewish people (and of all faiths for that matter). He shined as an unsecular star on an secular show. Lee, tell us how you handled this obstacle? What advice would you give a rising star in the same position? Etc. etc. etc.

At 6/19/2006 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you want those answers - you'll have to buy his (future) book... or pay to hear him speak somewhere...

At 6/20/2006 11:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So he's willing to be a role model...for the right price.

Now I'm convinced that he really should have won.

At 6/21/2006 11:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you want him to give advice on how to succeed in business? he just graduated college!

At 6/22/2006 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No. Not advice on business.

On observing Jewish pratices while on the apprentice.

Maybe not even advice at all. Just what his experience was like and did he have obstacles, if so, what were they and how did he handle them?

Sheesh. I don't think anyone is ready for his published Rules of Business Success yet.

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