“I always wonder why birds choose to stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth, then I ask myself the same question,” goes the quote from Harun Yahya. Not everyone can say that they’ve flown to distant countries and acquired achievements in their travels. But Captain Yoni Goldstein is someone who can.
In 1997, Yoni Goldstein was a 5th grader in Dallas just beginning to get involved with NCSY with Rabbi Lashak. When he started high school at Yavneh Academy of Dallas, there were only 50 students. 18 years and plenty of missions in over 40 countries later, that young man has risen to the rank of Captain in the United States Air Force.
No matter where Captain Goldstein finds himself, he doesn’t forget his Jewish community, his upbringing, or his involvement with NCSY. In his teenage years, he served on both the regional and national boards. “During that time I had a lot of opportunities. I was constantly thinking of things to do for people.” Sometimes he accomplished the things he was reaching for and sometimes he was reaching for the stars without keeping his feet on the ground. “It was a great crucible for me. Having these great theories, thinking you can do everything and then realizing you can’t and having to take it a little smaller.” But this only taught him to keep moving and keep pushing forward toward his larger goals.
In 2003, he stepped out of his comfort zone and went on a Volunteers for Israel mission. “It’s the most poignant and favorite NCSY memory I have,” says Captain Goldstein. “I’m still in touch with some of the friends from that program. One of them is a fellow serviceman in the Marines. We gave our time to help the IDF with some basic functions and we forged crucial relationships with each other.”
After attending Johns Hopkins University where he majored in Political Science, he was selected to go to pilot training and became a pilot. He now commands the C-17A Globemaster, a plane he’s flown in over 40 countries including Iraq and Afghanistan. Captain Goldstein just recently returned from a 6-month deployment, his fourth overseas deployment in as many years, from July 2014 to January 2015.
Though he has professional goals, his family and the Jewish community are still of paramount importance to him. “We don’t stay in one place for too long,” says Captain Goldstein. Soon he’ll be moving to the East Coast. Before that, he, his wife, and three children (5, 3, and 1) lived in the Pacific Northwest and Enid, Oklahoma. He gets a list of potential Air Force and Joint Military Bases each time he comes due for a move and from that list, he and his family prioritize locations with strong Jewish communities. “Personally, I also want to finish the Daf Yomi cycle,” he says, “and continue learning with my family.”
Captain Goldstein is responsible for the flight and ground safety of his squadron comprising over 100 personnel, and he has advice for those looking to succeed and overcome the challenges that life presents. “Don’t stop for a minute, personally or professionally,” he urges. “Keep on learning, stay engaged, and at the same time find some constructive hobbies to channel your creativity. Even as adults, I’ve found that ‘play’ is just as important as it was when we were kids. Find your activity where you lose all sense of time and can continue doing that activity for a long period. That’s your ‘play.’ Once in a while, that particular activity can act restoratively and help you maintain a positive balance in life. Work hard, yes, but keep perspective on family, your relationship with the Almighty, and your own enjoyment of life.”