Tag Archives: Technion

Jew of the Week: Danny Lewin

The ‘Fighting Genius’ of 9/11

Danny Lewin

Danny Lewin

Daniel Mark Lewin (1970-2001) was born in Denver, Colorado. He spent his early childhood there, playing sports and the violin, and programming his first Apple II computer when he was just nine years old. His family made aliyah to Israel when he was 14. Living near Jerusalem, Lewin found school of little challenge and often skipped class to work out at a gym. It wasn’t long before he won the Mr. Teenage Israel bodybuilding competition. Not surprisingly, he joined the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit. After four years as an officer – attaining the rank of captain – Lewin went to study at Technion, while also working for IBM. From there, he got a full scholarship to MIT and studied towards a PhD in computer science. During this time, he came up with a new algorithm that had the potential to revolutionize the nascent internet. Others didn’t see it that way, and felt his concept wouldn’t go very far. Despite the opposition, he teamed up with one of his professors and started a new company, Akamai Technologies. In March of 1999, a series of events caused a surge in internet activity that crashed many websites. It appeared that only the sites served by Akamai had survived. Akamai Technologies became an overnight sensation. A successful IPO shortly after made Lewin a billionaire. On September 11, 2001, Lewin boarded American Airlines flight 11. According to air traffic control recordings, Lewin attacked two of the terrorists on board, but was surprised by a third knife-wielding terrorist from behind. He was killed about 30 minutes before the plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Lewin therefore carries the tragic distinction of being the first victim of 9/11. He left behind a wife and two small children. At just 31 years of age, he was expected to make big waves, with some predicting he could have become an Israeli prime minister (like fellow Sayeret Matkal graduates Barak and Netanyahu), or one of the world’s true tech titans. His Akamai Technologies is still a multi-billion dollar internet giant today. In his honour, Cambridge, Massachusetts has a Danny Lewin Square and Park, and the annual award for best student paper on computing is named after him, too.

Words of the Week

Long after we have forgiven you for killing our sons, we will be working to forgive you for turning our sons into killers.
– Golda Meir

Jew of the Week: Shaul Ladany

The Ultimate Survivor

Shaul Ladany

Shaul Ladany

Shaul Paul Ladany (b. 1936) was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. When he was 5, the Nazis bombed his hometown and his family fled to Hungary. A few years later, with nowhere else to turn, his parents hid him in a monastery. The plan failed and the whole family was caught and sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where they spent six months. Many of them died there, but Ladany and his parents were lucky to be saved by a group of American Jews who ransomed out 2000 prisoners. In 1948, the family made aliyah to Israel. There, Ladany earned a Master’s in Engineering from Technion. He later got a Ph.D from Columbia University. During his studies, Ladany trained himself to become a marathon runner, then switched to race-walking. He would go on to win 38 national titles globally, and set a new world record that stills stands to this day (50 miles in under 7 and a half hours). He participated in his second Olympic games in Munich in 1972, wanting to make a statement as a Holocaust survivor competing in Germany. The night after his race, Palestinian terrorists broke into the Israeli quarters. Ladany managed to escape by jumping out of his window, and rushed to notify the authorities of the attack. Sadly, 11 of the 16 Israelis were killed. Ladany went back to race-walking soon after, winning a gold medal at the World Championships the same year, then breaking more records, and becoming the first person to ever win both the American Open and American Masters championships. Despite his age, Ladany continues to compete, setting another record in 2006 as the first 70 year-old to walk 100 miles in under 24 hours. He recently swam across the Sea of Galilee, and did a 300 km walk across Europe. It is estimated that he has walked over half a million miles over his life. On top of this, Ladany was a professor of industrial engineering for over 30 years, publishing over 120 scholarly books and articles (in addition to an autobiography), and has lectured in universities around the world. He holds eight patents, speaks nine languages, and has been inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Unbelievably, he has also defeated both skin cancer and lymphoma – no wonder that he has been nicknamed “the Ultimate Survivor”. He still walks at least 15 kilometers every day.

Words of the Week

A person should have two pockets in his coat. One should contain the Talmudic saying: “For my sake was the world created.” In the second pocket he should keep the Torah verse: “I am but dust and ashes.”
– Rabbi Simchah Bunim of Peshischa