World-class entrepreneurs: (clockwise from top left) Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, and Walt Disney’s Bob Iger
Collage by Scott Garceau
What we can learn from Jewish struggles & success
BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores (The Philippine Star) - May 14, 2018 - 12:00am

This month marks the 70th anniversary of the independence of the remarkable state of Israel, a modern-day miracle that was created after the horrific, racist Holocaust murdered six million Jews in Europe. And this was after over 2,000 years of exile, as ethnic minorities scattered worldwide.  

Today, despite continuing military, terrorist and other threats against the survival of Israel, it continues to flourish as the only genuine democracy in the Middle East and a thriving, high-tech economy.

Across the world, Jews continue to overcome and prosper as entrepreneurial minorities with a lot of achievers in different professions through the centuries.

Among the large number of world-class entrepreneurs are Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, former New York City mayor and self-made billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Sands casino billionaire and Israel advocate Sheldon Adelson, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, global investor and activist tycoon George Soros, investor Carl Icahn,  computer mogul Michael Dell, Walt Disney Company CEO Robert “Bob” Iger and Starbucks executive chairman Howard Schultz.

What are the secrets to their enduring success and endurance? What can we learn from them, especially from their astounding accomplishments in business and entrepreneurship?

Apart from the usual factors such as a great emphasis on education, strong family values and others, I recently came across an article by Joey Katona who cited three entrepreneurial lessons from their Jewish experience. Here are the lessons, plus my comments:

Tzedakah and tikkun olam: I am fascinated that this person chose to highlight first the importance of philanthropy, which is expressed by these two Jewish phrases — two hallmarks of the Jewish experience through the ages, respectively meaning “charity” and “healing the world.” 

For Jews who have not lost or forsaken their cultural heritage and ethnic identity, these are not mere pious buzzwords.  The writer shared that while growing up as a young girl in Baltimore, Maryland, Senator Barbara Mikulski felt that “tzedakah” was what she witnessed in the value and trust of her father’s handshakes with other local small entrepreneurs, where empathy and profit-sharing commitments were real.  The author described this as  a sense of  “push-cart capitalism.” 

Worldwide, many Jews fulfill their sense of “tikkun olam” by volunteering in their societies or overseas, which has become a fundamental part of  their Jewish identity.  Katona wrote: “Part of being Jewish is to seek opportunities to serve; doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do.”

Be acutely aware of privilege. This No. 2 lesson is very interesting, and unique, because it speaks of the keen awareness of Jews about their fragile existence on this earth and their vulnerable situation.

For those who still hold on to their culture and identity, to be Jewish is to know their people’s history of persecution, struggles and renewal.  Due to this awareness, many Jews feel an obligation to take care of one another.

Six years ago when Katona wrote his piece, he said, “Jews also recognize that we are but a mere 13.4 million in a world of 6.9 billion, less than a rounding error in the census of China.”

Keep dreaming. I agree that one of the reasons for the inspiring accomplishments of Jewish entrepreneurs, professionals, revolutionaries, activists and the Jewish people as a whole is their uncommon ability to keep dreaming.

Even in non-entrepreneurial fields, Jews have been some of the world’s most daring dreamers.  The German-Jewish revolutionary thinker Karl Marx dreamt of a more just world, while the German Jewish scientist Albert Einstein dreamt of advancing human progress through physics and also campaigned for the revival of the state of Israel as a Zionist.  

Many members of the Jewish diaspora and also those of the Jewish nation in Israel sincerely believe in working for their dreams of justice and, in the words of Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, “maintain the audacity of our imagination.”

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Thanks for your feedback! Email or Follow @wilsonleeflores on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, read my blog My column “Kuwentong Panadero”also comes out every Friday in Philstar’s Filipino-language tabloid Pilipino Star Ngayon.

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