Former Cornell Hillel student leader Lee Bienstock looks for his next move after leaving Trump Tower.
Lee Bienstock may have just missed out on being Donald Trump’s newest “Apprentice,” but his mature attitude and strong work ethic will serve him well in his post-reality-show career. A native New Yorker and 2005 graduate of Cornell University, he caught the attention of many viewers when he took time off from the show to attend High Holy Day services during its fall taping. Bienstock, a Jewish day school alumnus, credits his involvement at Cornell Hillel with helping him develop the professional skills that proved invaluable on the show and at his job at Accenture in New York City. Just days after the “Apprentice” finale, he spoke with Hillel Campus Report about the experience and his future as a businessman, author and sought-after speaker.
With a nickname like “The Politician,” one might expect “The Apprentice” finalist Lee Bienstock to be running for office. But while the Brooklyn native has been “moving at 100 miles per hour” since the show’s finale last week, he’s putting any ambitions for elected office on hold for the time being as he plans his move from Donald Trump’s boardroom to post-reality-show life.
“I’ve got so many things coming up – a meeting with Trump, meetings with task sponsors. I’m writing a book, and I’ve got a ton of speaking engagements,” he said.
After the frantic pace of being a contestant on NBC’s hit show, Bienstock is more than accustomed to a jam-packed schedule. However, the Cornell University graduate also credits his experience as a Cornell Hillel student board member in helping him develop the skills that impressed both Trump and the show’s viewers throughout the season.
“When you’re on the show, it is very similar to real life on the Hillel board: You have a budget, you have to plan an event, you have to work on a team,” he said. “I really learned a lot there.”
Bienstock’s teammates learned a lot from him along the way, too – both about business strategy and Judaism. A graduate of Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway, he was one of two Orthodox Jews competing to be “The Apprentice” this season. While remaining observant proved to be challenging during the taping – Bienstock lost 20 pounds because kosher food often wasn’t available during his tasks – he was committed to upholding his practices and asking his fellow candidates’ questions about kashrut and other Jewish traditions. When he took time off from the show to attend synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, though, he received flack from some of his teammates for sitting out on the assigned tasks for those days. But Trump backed him up in the boardroom, and Bienstock appreciated his understanding.
“He could have gone the other way. It was really a nice touch,” he said. “And I’ve heard from many religious leaders that it was so inspiring for them to see a young guy standing up for those beliefs.”
The youngest contestant this season, Bienstock, 23, auditioned for the show right after his 2005 graduation from Cornell with a degree in policy analysis and management. Though much was made of the youth of previous “Apprentice” also-rans, he said his age was never a big issue in his experience on the show. In fact, Bienstock found his youthful stamina and outside-the-box thinking to work to his advantage.
“This show is made for the young. They’re the ones who bring new ideas in. They’re the ones who are innovative,” he said.
Bienstock is now sharing those original ideas with audiences around the country, especially college students who relate to his eagerness to succeed. To learn more about Bienstock and his availability for speaking engagements, visit his Web site at www.leebienstock.com.