Tag Archives: Houston

Jew of the Week: Michael Dell

Michael Saul Dell (b. 1965) was born in Houston, Texas to a Jewish family of German ancestry. He had a mind for business from a very young age, applying to take a high school equivalency exam at just 8 years of age, working in a restaurant by 12, and earning money from stocks throughout his teen years. At 15, he earned $18,000 (more than his high school teachers) by selling newspaper subscriptions to a specific demographic he had targeted by looking through public court records. It was during his first year of university studies that Dell started to put together personal computers in his dorm room. Shortly after, he founded his company, PC’s Limited, and quickly sold some $80,000 in upgraded computers, before incorporating as Dell Computer. By the time he was just 27, Dell’s company was already among the Fortune 500 world’s largest corporations, making him the youngest ever CEO on the list. In 1996, Dell Inc. was one of the first companies to sell computers over the web, and was soon making $1 million a day in online sales. Just five years later, it had become the world’s largest maker of personal computers. Today, it has 138,000 employees, and remains one of the top tech firms and computer manufacturers. Last year, Dell Inc. completed its acquisition of EMC Corporation in a deal worth a record-breaking $67 billion. Michael Dell is still the company’s CEO, and is also on the boards of the World Economic Forum, and three international business schools. He has been voted CEO of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year. In 1999, he and his wife founded the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, which has since donated an astounding $1.23 billion to various causes around the world, including schools and medical institutions, charities in India, Africa, and across America, as well as the IDF. Most recently, Dell pledged $36 million to his hometown of Houston for its relief efforts following Hurricane Harvey.

Words of the Week

There may be food, there may be drink, but if there is no peace, there is nothing.
– Rabbi Shlomo ben Itzchak (“Rashi”, 1040-1105)

Jews of the Week: Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin

Levin and Feinberg

Mike Feinberg (b. 1969) graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991, while Dave Levin (b. 1970) graduated from Yale the following year. The two met in a Houston school where they were both teachers. Despite each having just two years of teaching experience, they started a new education program called KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) in 1994. The program was geared towards children living in poverty, and aimed to increase the number of such students that graduate and go on to college. Students would go to school six days a week, with longer days and shorter summer breaks. There was a lot of homework, but also a lot of teamwork; strict discipline, combined with music and travel. The result was spectacular. Impoverished students were succeeding at unprecedented levels, and enjoying it, too. Feinberg and Levin won ‘Teacher of the Year’ awards, then opened two official KIPP schools, one in Houston, and one in the Bronx. By 1999, these were among the best schools in their regions. In 2000, KIPP got a $15 million donation from Don and Doris Fisher (the founders of GAP, and former Jews of the Week), to expand KIPP into a national network. Today, KIPP has 200 schools across America with over 80,000 students. It is the largest and most successful charter school system in the US. About 96% of students are either black or Hispanic, and 87% from struggling households. 90% go on to graduate high school (compared to the national average of 80%, and 69% for black students), and 45% get college degrees (compared to the 9% national average for impoverished students). So many people want to get into KIPP schools that students are selected through a lottery. Feinberg and Levin have won multiple awards and honourary degrees for their work, including the prestigious Charles Bronfman Prize, for “Paradigm-Shifting Vision in Education”, and the National Jefferson Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen. Their story is told in the bestselling book Work Hard, Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created America’s Most Promising Schools.

Words of the Week

The Torah commands: “Six days shall you labor, and do all your work.” But is it possible for a person to do “all their work” in six days? Rather, [it means to say] rest on Shabbat as if all your work is done.
– Mekhilta