Tag Archives: Giving Pledge

Jew of the Week: Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Elliot Zuckerberg (b. 1984) was born in White Plains, New York to a Jewish family with German, Austrian, and Polish ancestry. He excelled in high school, won multiple awards, and by the time he was ready to go to college, knew Hebrew, French, Latin, and Greek. Zuckerberg was first taught programming by his father, and later had a private tutor, who called him a “prodigy”. In his youth, he created an instant messaging app for his father’s dentistry (a year before AOL’s Instant Messenger came out), as well as a music player that learned its user’s listening preferences. Not surprisingly, Zuckerberg went to Harvard to study computer science and psychology. He was a member of the Jewish fraternity AEPi. During this time, he made a number of programs, including one to coordinate with friends to choose the same classes, and another to rank people’s appearance (called Facemash) which was so popular it quickly crashed Harvard’s servers. In early 2004, Zuckerberg launched “Thefacebook”, and soon dropped out of school to work on it. After recruiting some friends, he moved his team to Silicon Valley. It wasn’t long before he had offers to buy out Facebook, which was now sweeping college campuses across the country. Zuckerberg refused, not wanting to have people’s information controlled by “media corporations owned by conglomerates”. The company went public in 2012, valued at a record-setting $104 billion. Today, Facebook boasts 2 billion active users, and nearly $30 billion in revenue. The company also owns Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg has become a noted philanthropist. He donated over $100 million in 2010, before becoming America’s biggest charity donor in 2013 when, in a single act, he donated Facebook shares worth nearly $1 billion, making it the largest charitable gift ever. He has since pledged to donate 99% of his wealth. One of his main projects is to bring internet access to the billions of people that still do not have it. Zuckerberg has been ranked first in a list of the “Top 100 most influential people of the Information Age”. In recent years, he has taken a greater interest in both politics and religion. Last December, someone asked “Aren’t you an atheist?” to which he responded: “No. I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important.” In May, he gave a commencement speech at Harvard (which finally awarded him an honourary degree years after he dropped out) and concluded with a traditional Hebrew Mi Sheberach blessing, stating that he always recited it when faced with challenges. Zuckerberg is still the CEO of Facebook, with a salary of $1. There have been rumours that he is planning to run for president in 2020.

Words of the Week

Just as wisdom is not something you can feel with your hands, Godliness is not something you can grasp with your mind.
– Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi

Jew of the Week: Edgar Bronfman Sr.

Edgar Bronfman Sr.

Edgar Bronfman Sr.

Edgar Miles Bronfman (1929-2013) was born in Montreal to the Bronfman family (of Seagram fame), the eldest son of Samuel Bronfman and brother of Birthright co-founder Charles Bronfman. He was raised in a religious, kosher home, graduated from McGill University, and in 1957 took over the company’s American subsidiary. He greatly expanded its American business, and broadened the company internationally, too. When film-production company MGM bought into Seagram, Bronfman briefly served as MGM’s chairman. Having participated in the World Jewish Congress for several years, in 1981 he was officially elected as its new president, and used his skills to make the organization among the most important and influential in the Jewish world. Bronfman led many delegations to Moscow in a successful campaign to free Soviet Jews. He also exposed the hidden Nazi past of some notable figures, and brought greater compensation for Holocaust victims, particularly from Swiss banks. In 1982, he became the first leader of a Jewish organization to speak before the United Nations. He stepped down as president in 2007, and focused more of his efforts on philanthropy. He took on Bill & Melinda Gates’ Giving Pledge, a promise to donate the majority of one’s wealth to charity. Among many other awards, Edgar Bronfman Sr. received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton, and a French Legion of Honour. He also published several books, including The Bronfman Haggadah. Sadly, Bronfman past away on December 21st.

Words of the Week

When a day passes one should know what he has accomplished and what remains yet to be done… In general, one should always see to it that tomorrow should be much better than today.”
The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Hayom Yom, Iyar 1)