Tag Archives: Russian Jews

Jew of the Week: Sol Price

Sol Price (1916-2009) was born in New York City to Jewish-Russian immigrants from Belarus. He grew up in San Diego, where he earned a philosophy degree at San Diego State University before getting a law degree from the University of Southern California. Price was admitted to the bar in 1938. After over a dozen years as a business lawyer, Price had an idea to open a new kind of department store, offering wholesale prices on quality goods sold in bulk. Price opened his first store, called FedMart, in an old airport hangar in 1954. He charged a small membership fee ($2 per family) and kept prices even lower by avoiding advertising, major credit cards, and expensive real estate, and maintaining a small inventory. The model was a great success, and Price expanded rapidly. He pioneered many innovations in retail, including being the first to sell gasoline at wholesale prices, and being the first to have an in-store pharmacy and opticianry. By 1974, FedMart had 45 stores and over $300 million in sales. The following year, FedMart was bought out by a German retailer, and Price was soon kicked out of the company. He then started a new chain, Price Club, in an old factory once owned by Howard Hughes. Price Club expanded quickly, too, and went public in 1980. A few years later, one of Price Club’s employees teamed up with a wealthy lawyer (whose own Jewish family was successful in retail) to start a competing wholesaler, called Costco. In 1993. Price Club merged with Costco to form PriceCostco, together having 206 locations and $16 billion in sales. By 1997, Costco became the official company name, and today, Costco has over 700 locations around the world, with 85 million members, and 174,000 employees. It is the second largest retailer, and the 18th richest company in the world, with $120 billion in revenue. Costco is second only to Wal-Mart. Ironically, Sam Walton wrote in his book that he “borrowed” most of his ideas from Sol Price, and called his store “Wal-Mart” because he liked Sol Price’s FedMart! Not surprisingly, Price is often called the “father of the wholesale retail industry”. He was also a generous philanthropist, having donated tens of millions to various causes, especially in his hometown of San Diego.

Passover Starts Monday Evening!

Words of the Week

On his birthday, a person should meditate, recall and contemplate his past, and correct and repent that which requires correction and repentance.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Jew of the Week: Hermann Schapira

Founder of the Jewish National Fund

Zvi Hermann Hirsch Schapira (1840-1898) was born to a religious Russian-Jewish family in a small Lithuanian village. He studied to become a rabbi and at age 24 was appointed to his first post. However, he soon decided to pursue his passion for the sciences and ended up studying at a Berlin academy. Three years later, he settled in Odessa and worked for several years as a merchant. In 1878, Schapira moved to Heidelburg and spent another four years studying math and physics, during which time he earned his doctorate. He became a math professor at the University of Heidelburg, and published several important papers. Throughout this time, he continued studying Jewish literature, and contributed to three Hebrew periodicals. By 1884, Shapira was a vocal Zionist, and suggested the establishment of a Jewish National Fund which would buy land in Israel and help settle Jews there. He formally proposed the idea to the First Zionist Congress in 1897, where he also suggested the establishment of a Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Tragically, Schapira died the following year from pneumonia. The Jewish National Fund would finally be launched three years later, and it would take another two decades before the Hebrew University would open its doors. The JNF would go on to become one of the most important organizations in Israel’s history, and instrumental in the nascent state’s success. It purchased over 50% of Israel’s landmass, developed over 250,000 acres of its land, planted some 260 million trees, built nearly 200 dams and reservoirs, and established over 1000 parks. The JNF also played a key role in the founding of Tel Aviv in 1909, and in running Israel’s first postal service. It still owns about 13% of Israel’s land, and in the past decade alone, helped Israel expand its water capacity by 7%. The JNF is perhaps most famous for its Tu b’Shevat tree-planting drive, which over a million Jews participate in every year.

Tu b’Shevat is this Saturday. Chag sameach!

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Words of the Week

When God created the first man, He showed him all the trees of the Garden of Eden, and said to him: “See My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are. And everything that I created, I created it for you. Be careful not to spoil or destroy My world, for if you do, there will be nobody after you to repair it.”
– Midrash Kohelet Rabbah 7:13