By MYRON LOVE Like many people, Zev Faintuch has hit a Covid detour in his career path. The native Winnipegger and former Israel Defense Forces soldier returned home in 2019 after a year-long internship in Washington D.C. with an international security firm called Global Guardian.
The plan was that he would be in Winnipeg just until he could get his green card to work for the company full time in Washington.
Then Covid hit.
Eighteen months later, he is still here waiting for normal life to resume.
Faintuch, however, has not been sitting idle during this time. He continues to do what he was doing for Global Guardian on a contract basis, providing risk assessment for clients around the world.
Over the past six months, he reports, he provided a risk assessment for an energy conglomerate looking into investing in a solar project in the war-torn northern African country of Chad. He also provided a client with a macroeconomic overview of Lebanon. He has also written reports on Iran, Myanmar after the coup, rising crime rates in the United States, Russia’s military build-up in eastern Ukraine and, most recently, the reported nuclear leak in China.
“I have also been spending a lot of my time for clients working around Covid travel restrictions,” he says.
Faintuch, who is just in his late 20s, has already led a more adventurous life than most people his age. The son of Shelley Faintuch (the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s former Community Relations Director) was imbued with a strong sense of Zionism from a young age. As a Gray Academy student, he participated in the March of the Living (which takes high school students first to the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland, then to Israel) and the Gray Academy’s P2G program (which involves exchange programs between Gray Academy students and teachers and their counterparts at Danciger Regional High school in Kiryat Shemona in northern Israel).
After graduating from high school, he volunteered to serve in the IDF and enlisted for 18 months, in 2011-2012. He was a member of Nahal brigade, serving in an infantry battalion. Throughout that time, he was stationed in southern Israel near Sderot, which is just across the border from Hamas-ruled Gaza.
“Fortunately, it was a quiet time,” he recalled during a presentation four years ago for the Winnipeg Friends of Israel. “I didn’t participate in any serious military operations during that period.”
After his time in the IDF, he enrolled in John Hopkins University in Georgetown (a suburb of Washington, D.C.) in the university’s Advanced International Studies program. The program allowed him to spend a year in Bologna, Italy, at John Hopkins’ satellite campus there. He graduated with a Master’s Degree in Art and Global Risk.
“We had an option as part of our program of writing a thesis or doing an internship,” he says. “I opted for an internship with Global Guardian.”
Global Guardian, he explains, provides both corporate and family clients with an integrated suite of security, medical, and emergency response solutions. “Some of our big clients are Fortune 500 companies that you’ve probably heard of,” he notes.
“My experience as a former IDF soldier was certainly a factor in getting my internship,” he says. “Most employees of international security firms are ex-military or former law enforcement.”
Faintuch says that he loved living in D.C. “There is no place in the world where there are more well-educated and ambitious people in my demographic,” he observes. “You go out to any restaurant or bar and you run into so many interesting people. There are also so many interesting events and think tank panels and most of them are free.
“The only place that I like more is Tel Aviv.” Now, it’s not that Faintuch is unhappy being back in Winnipeg. “It’s been great being able to spend this time with my mother,” he says. “I was especially appreciative that I was on hand in the early months of this pandemic to help keep her safe.”
Faintuch spends his days – as one would expect – doing research online into the state of the world. “There is a lot of noise out there, sensationalized reporting and fake news,” he notes. “It takes someone with expertise to separate the truth from the fiction.”
I asked the international intelligence analyst what he expects from the new Israeli government. He responds that he is taking a “wait and see” approach. Passing the first budget since 2018 will be very important, he observes.
He suggests that perhaps the Bennett government will bring in reforms to do with civil marriage and other issues of religion and state but it will have to tread carefully so as not to alienate its religious constituents.
And, while Faintuch is eager to get back to Washington, he adds that he is also thinking about eventually making aliyah. “Israel remains in my heart and my mind,” he says. “That is where I would want to raise a family.”