Category Archives: Businesspeople

Jews in the World of Business

Jew of the Week: Max Azria

BCBG Max Azria 

Max Azria (Credit: David Shankbone)

Max Azria (b. 1949) was born in Tunisia to a traditional Jewish family, the youngest of six children. He grew up in France, where he was first drawn to the fashion industry. He spent eleven years working in French fashion before moving to Los Angeles and opening his first boutique, called Jess. After eight very successful years, Azria launched BCBG Max Azria in 1989. (The name comes from the French slang bon chic bon genre, “good style, good attitude”.) Known for its affordable designer fashion, the brand became extremely popular. It made headlines at New York Fashion Week in 1996, and put Azria on the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1998. That same year, he bought a French company, Hervé Léger, making history by being the first American designer to buy out a French one. Azira launched an exclusive celebrity line called Max Azria Atelier in 2004, and a youth store called BCBGeneration in 2008. Celebrities are particularly fond of his designs, and among his biggest fans are Angelina Jolie, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Halle Berry, and Beyoncé. Azria has also designed clothing for TV shows, including Friends and Seinfeld. In all, he owns twenty different brands and has nearly 600 stores around the world. Unfortunately, many of these locations will soon be closing, as BCBG filed for bankruptcy yesterday. Nonetheless, Azria has been hailed as “one of the most important and influential designers in the world”. Aside from fashion, he is the spokesperson for ‘Concept: Cure’, a charity that supports breast cancer research. His brother Serge, daughter Joyce, and wife Lubov are all successful fashion designers as well. The latter recently spoke of the large Shabbat meals that the couple hosts at their home: “Sometimes there’s only five people, sometimes a hundred.”

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Words of the Week

My relationship to the Jewish people has become my strongest human bond, ever since I became fully aware of our precarious situation among the nations of the world.
– Albert Einstein

Jew of the Week: Dan Bricklin

“Father of the Spreadsheet”

Daniel Singer Bricklin (b. 1951) was born in Philadelphia and studied at its Akiba Hebrew Academy. He graduated from MIT in 1973 with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science. His first job was working at a tech company called DEC, replacing typewriters with computers for newspaper companies. He then became DEC’s project leader on its development of the first word-processing software. After a few years, Bricklin moved on to work at FasFax, designing some of the first electronic cash registers for fast food companies. In 1979, he got an MBA from the Harvard Business School. During his studies there, fed up with repetitive and tedious calculations, Bricklin came up with an idea for an electronic spreadsheet. Teaming up with his friend, the two put together a new program called VisiCalc for the Apple II computer. This was the first spreadsheet software ever made, and the foundation for future spreadsheet programs like Excel. In fact, it was VisiCalc that transformed the computer from a mysterious device reserved for techies to a practical tool used by mainstream businesses and consumers. VisiCalc skyrocketed sales of the Apple II, leading Steve Jobs to admit that it “propelled the success of Apple… more than any other single event… If VisiCalc had been written for some other computer, you’d be interviewing somebody else right now.” A New York Times article at the time wrote humorously, but accurately: “All Hail VisiCalc.” For this, Bricklin was awarded the prestigious Grace Murray Hopper Award, among many others. Since then, Bricklin has started a number of other successful tech and software companies, and is currently the president of Software Garden, and the CTO of Alpha Software. He has also published a book, and has been featured in two documentaries. Watch Bricklin’s short and fascinating TED talk here.

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Words of the Week

In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence… Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors.
– Isaac Newton