Ariel Goldstein and his wife, Lisa Hepps, are passionate about travel. They’ve both built careers organizing and leading educational tours that build cross-cultural connections around the world. But now is a hard time to be in the travel industry.

Ariel founded his business, Tiyul Jewish Journeys, in 2017 to provide travel experiences that explore the Jewish past and present in a wide variety of countries. In addition to visiting traditional sites, travelers meet with members of local Jewish communities and hear their stories. Before Tiyul, Ariel started and led the travel program at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco for 10 years. Lisa manages travel/study programs at Stanford University.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic shut down almost all international travel, Ariel and Lisa have faced financial challenges. Lisa’s hours and salary were reduced at Stanford, and Ariel had to postpone all his scheduled trips until late 2021 or even 2022. He needed to put everything on hold, issue refunds to his clients, and stop paying his own salary. Now he’s in a holding pattern, waiting for the world to reopen. Hebrew Free Loan is helping the couple get through the wait.

“Securing an interest-free loan from Hebrew Free Loan was huge for us. We’re immensely relieved and look forward to paying it back so others can benefit.”

Ariel received an interest-free Coronavirus Impact loan to supplement his unemployment benefits and Lisa’s reduced salary. They can now cover their living expenses and Ariel can manage the costs of keeping Tiyul Jewish Journeys up and running. Even though travel isn’t happening at the moment, there are still future trips to plan and market. Trips are in the works to Chile and Argentina, Israel, Germany, and Eastern Europe.

It’s particularly meaningful for Ariel to receive this support from the Jewish community, since Judaism is central to his life and business. He grew up in Uruguay, but lived in Israel in his 20s, which is where he first became a tour guide. When Ariel had to shutter Tiyul Jewish Journeys, he began lecturing on Jewish communities around the world at the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living, via Zoom. He also turned his hand to learning to bake challah, making surprise challah deliveries each Friday to connect with some of his clients who were locked down and isolated.

For now, Ariel and Lisa are continuing to lay the groundwork for educational tours in the future. Both remain confident that the time will come when it will be safe to invite people to travel the world once again. And they’re grateful for Hebrew Free Loan’s assistance in making it possible for them to be there when that time comes, ready to lead the way.

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