Remember Jonathan Lipnicki, that cute little kid from Stuart Little, with spiky blonde hair and round glasses? You know who I’m talking about, he starred in many of our old-school movie favorites, including Jerry Maguire. Dr DoLittle and Like Mike. He is the kid who made me want a rodent for a sibling, and that my friend, requires talent!
Skip ahead a few good years, and he’s kept the same charming smile, lost the glasses, and packed on some muscle. His talent for acting is still keeping him as busy as ever, with various new releases this year, but in his free time he’s having epic adventures with us. Yup, you read that right. Jonathan recently went on a Birthright Israel trip run by Sachlav | IsraelontheHouse, and we had the chance to sit down with him and ask him a few questions.
As far as celebrities go, Lipnicki is far from what you would expect. Saying he’s “down-to-earth” would be an understatement. He was extremely personable, fun, outgoing, and definitely an awesome travel buddy for the rest of his group. He could have come to Israel on a private tour and received a bit more VIP treatment, but he felt it was far more important to share the experience with a diverse group of 20-somethings, and to get an authentic taste of the Birthright Israel and Sachlav experience.
Here’s what he had to say about his trip:
Q: Is this your first time in Israel?
Q: Has this trip met/exceeded your expectations?
A:I have very high expectations because of what my sister said about Birthright, and it still has exceeded them. I mean I don’t really think you can prepare yourself fully for something like this. You know coming from a Jewish family, on both sides, you hear about these places all your life, and then finally being there, it’s definitely a really emotional experience.
Q:Why did you decide to come with Birthright Israel as opposed to your own private/family tour?
A:Uh, because I think it’s really important to be able to embrace your roots with other people who are your peers. And my sister went on this trip and she really inspired me, because she came back and said it changed her life. And she, you know, has been pushing me every year to do it. But she also told me you wait until you’re a bit older and on the later years [of eligibility] so I can really embrace it and I’m glad I did. I think I would have gotten a lot out of it at 18/19, but at 26, I really feel like I am getting a really great experience.
Q: What was your Jewish affiliation growing up?
A: Reform. My grandfather was Conservative. But I always grew up Reform. I had a Bar Mitzvah. I went to Hebrew School. And even some extra Hebrew School, because I missed some, making a movie in Germany. It’s been a huge part of my Jewish Identity. My family is very passionate about being Jewish and keeping traditions alive. We do Passover every year.
Q: Why did you choose Sachlav| Israel on the house?
A: I got a recommendation through a few of my friends who had done the Sachlav trips and really had a blast and so I decided to go with that.
Q: And what has been the best part of your Sachlav Birthright trip so far?
A: Uh, I think the most emotional experience so far for me was the Western Wall. Like, when I was talking about things you can’t prepare yourself for, I was really overcome with emotion going on shabbat and seeing so many people, you know, praying there. That was…. That was quite an experience.So I came with one of my best friends, and he didn’t grow up really culturally Jewish, but both sides are Jewish, and me and him just couldn’t stop from crying at the sight of the wall. Because I mean you just see, you really can’t prepare yourself for something like that. The beauty of it in the light of shabbat, the sun going down, the people praying, the people being joyous, there is a certain palpable energy there that I have never felt anywhere else in the world.
Q: Has your trip so far changed your perspective of Israel/ Israelis/ Jewish Culture etc?
A: I wouldn’t say it has changed it, I would say that it has expanded my view on Israeli culture and Israelis. I grew up in kind of the West Valley in Los Angeles so I knew a lot of Israelis growing up. And they all also told me I really needed to visit. I think it just expanded it and just made it feel so much closer to home.
Q: Did you have any reservations about coming to Israel per se or on Birthright?
A: No. I never really had any reservations. I think I am the type of person, that you know, the night before you get a little nervous before you travel anywhere in the world. I more just am the type that gets a bit stressed about traveling, and of course re-packing. Re-packing has been the hardest part of Birthright because you’re moving around so much! I’m all up for any tips on organizational skills I have clearly not learned them.
Q: And when you go home, the first thing people ask you is “How was your trip? How was your time in Israel?”; do you have your “go to” response prepared yet? What do you think you’ll say to your family and friends when you go back home and they ask about your experience?
A: Well my roommate is 25 and still hasn’t done Birthright, and I think he is the first person I am going to talk to and I am going to push him to go!
Q: Why didn’t he come with you this time?
A: He said he wanted to focus on work right now, but the night before I was leaving he told me he was definitely having a “Fear of Missing Out” moment. So I’m definitely going to tell him to go. And [to everyone] I am going to say, I have expanded my emotional connection to Israel. I think that will be what I will talk about most. For me, I’m a pretty emotional person, but this was the most, so far even- we still have a couple days to go- the most emotional connection I have ever had to any trip. And I am definitely going to stay in contact with so many of the people I met here on my trip.
Q: Do you plan on coming back to Israel ever?
A: Yes! I have already talked to the friend I came with, Keenan, we were talking about doing a different trip down the line. Because I wish I could extend, but I am going back and doing a movie right away.
Q: Would you recommend your friends come with Sachlav?
A: I think you guys know what you guys are doing, and I think you’re doing a really great job! I feel happy, you know talking to friends that have gone on other trips, I think for me, personally, going on the [“Israel Vibe”] classic trip like I did, really fit me the best.
Q: Would you change anything about your experience so far?
A: Uhh, I think I would have brought a bigger suitcase! I definitely underestimated the size of my suitcase! My sister helped me pack and she was a stickler on it. She was like “You’re going to need this! You’re going to want this! They may not say it, but you’ll definitely want this! You’re going to need it!”
Q: What’s your favorite view in Israel so far?
A: [Mount] Meron was pretty cool. I thought that was pretty intense and pretty incredible. I think that seeing onto the borders was pretty amazing. To see where the borders are and to see where different lands start and stop you kind of just feel like you’re on top of the world.
Q: What would you say the most fun part of your trip, has been so far?
A: I made so many great friends here that I can definitely, you know, I have plans to travel all over the United States to visit them. And I of course have told a bunch of my Israeli friends I would 100% host them if they come over. So I think that is one of the best things. Just connecting with other young Jewish people. And, living in LA, Los Angeles, doing what I do, I try to have a diverse group of friends in terms of people who have different careers and different interests but, going on a trip where I really don’t know anyone and everyone is doing something different [in their everyday lives]. I have had some amazing talks, and I really feel like I have learned a lot.
Q: Have you found that “Birthright Romance”, that happens so often on these trips?
A: No, I haven’t. You know what, I didn’t really come on a trip looking for that, to necessarily meet anyone. If that happens, that’s great. I think I have fallen in love with every Israeli woman I have seen though, so there’s that!
Q: What movie are you going back to film, straight away?
A: You wanna know the best part! The guy who is actually directing the film when I get back is on a different Birthright trip right now! He’s a young director, he’s 24/25 years old. And we’re shooting a psychological thriller. On the east coast, it’s called Break. It’s a psychological thriller about what people do to get famous. And I have another thing I’m producing and I’m writing a lot
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