Author Archives: Jew of the Week

Jew of the Week: Temerl Sonnenberg Bergson

Europe’s Greatest Jewish Businesswoman

Tamar “Temerl” bat Avraham of Opoczno (c. 1765-1830) was born in Poland to a wealthy and deeply religious Jewish family. She married young, but her first husband tragically died soon after. She got remarried to a young businessman named Dov Ber (“Berek”) Zbytkower. He went on to become immensely wealthy, and supplied the Polish and Russian armies. He took on the last name “Sonnenberg”, and was nicknamed the “Polish Rothschild”. Meanwhile, besides being a devoted mother of six children, Temerl was busy supporting the nascent Hasidic movement, founded just a few decades earlier by the Baal Shem Tov. Temerl played a huge role in bringing Hasidism to Poland. In fact, she financed the construction of Warsaw’s first Hasidic synagogue. She paid the salaries of numerous Hasidic rabbis in Poland (along with non-Hasidic rabbis), including the great Simcha Bunim of Peshischa. Temerl was a huge philanthropist and gave to all kinds of other causes as well. In 1818 alone, she donated some 54,000 rubles to Polish charities. After her husband passed away, Temerl took over his business. (In honour of their father, her children changed their last name to “Berekson”, or “Bergson”, which is why she came to be known as Temerl Bergson, too.) She also founded her own new bank. Temerl was one of the top businesswomen in all of Europe at the time. She was so influential that the Russian government gave her special permission to buy an estate, making her only the third Jew to own property outside the ghettos. She continued to do everything she could to assist the plight of the Jews. In 1824, she used her influence to rescind a government decree against Jewish pilgrimages. In fact, some Hasidic leaders came to refer to her as Reb Temerl! (A title traditionally reserved for men.) In her will, she left 300,000 zlotys to charity. Temerl was called the “Polish Hasidah”, and her tombstone states: “To her nation she was a protector against oppression—a helper during distress. To the poor she was a mother. She was a virtuous woman, powerful and famous.” The renowned philosopher and Nobel laureate Henri Bergson was her great-grandson.

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Words of the Week

The Sabbath is the day we focus on the things that have value but not a price, when we neither work nor employ others to do our work, when we neither buy nor sell, in which all manipulation of nature for creative ends is forbidden and all hierarchies of power or wealth are suspended.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Jew of the Week: Andrés Cantor

World’s Greatest Sports Commentator

Andrés Cantor (b. 1962) was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina to Jewish parents of Romanian and Polish heritage. His grandparents fled to Argentina during the Holocaust. Cantor spent the latter half of his youth in California, where he played soccer for his high school team and edited the sports section of the school paper. After interning at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain, he officially became a sports journalist. Cantor got a job as a play-by-play sports commentator for Spanish-language TV in America. Soon, he became famous for his long and loud “goaaaaaaal” calls. Though he did not come up with it, he has been credited with making it world-famous. He first used it during the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy, and introduced it to English-speaking audiences during the 1994 World Cup that was held in the US. By the 1998 World Cup, Cantor was featured making the goal call in a popular Volkswagen commercial (also in 2014), and the Telemundo network has since turned it into a ringtone. Aside from the goal call, Cantor is famous for his deep knowledge of sports and his excellent and insightful overall commentary. He was the main Spanish commentator for the 2004 and 2012 Olympic Games, and also did English commentary during the 2000 and 2008 Olympics, and commentary in both languages in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. He is currently Telemundo’s lead announcer at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. He also hosts a daily radio show called Futbol de Primera, broadcast across 100 different stations, and has written a book, Goooal! A Celebration of Football. Cantor voiced himself in a 2014 episode of The Simpsons (see the clip here). In 1994, he was America’s “Sports Personality of the Year”, and has received an award from the National Soccer Hall of Fame. He has won a whopping six Emmy Awards for broadcasting. FIFA described him as one of the greatest sports commentators of all time.

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Words of the Week

Slowly and by degrees, science is being brought to recognize in the universe the existence of One Power, which is of no beginning and no end; which existed before all things were formed, and will remain in its integrity when all is gone – the Source and Origin of all… This sum total of scientific discoveries of all lands and times is the approach of the world’s thought to our Adon Olam, the sublime chant by means of which the Jew has wrought and will further work the most momentous changes in the world.
– Waldemar Haffkine, renowned scientist and “saviour of humanity”

Jew of the Week: Jacques Spreiregen

The World’s Coolest Hats

Yakov Henryk Spreiregen (1894-1982) was born to a Jewish family in Warsaw. The family immigrated to France when he was a young man—where he changed his name to Jacques—and then to England to escape the First World War. Spreiregen found a job working for a hatmaker, but was soon called up to serve in the military. After returning to England following his service, he started importing military-style berets from France. He then began making his own hats from high-quality angora wool. In 1938, Spreiregen leased an old thread factory in northwest England and founded Kangol (a name he made up from “knitting angora wool”). The company initially struggled to turn a profit, and many of the first employees were his own family members. Eventually, the hats did become popular, and earned a reputation for quality and durability. During World War II, Spreiregen won a contract to outfit the British army with berets. By the end of the war, he was making a million hats a year! Kangol later outfitted the English Olympic team, and the crew of British Airways. The company went public in 1952. Two years later, Spreiregen started a new division to produce helmets and seat belts. Kangol went on to become the largest seat belt manufacturer in Europe. In 1964, Kangol made a deal with The Beatles to make their branded hats. Soon, Kangol hats were popular among American hip hop artists, too, and have since been sported by the likes of Grandmaster Flash, Madonna, Brad Pitt, and Princess Diana. The most famous wearer of Kangol hats is undoubtedly Samuel L. Jackson, who has said that it’s a family tradition going back to his grandfather. Spreiregen retired from the company in 1972. Just a few years later, it would officially become the world’s largest hatmaker. Because Americans would often ask for the “kangaroo” hats when shopping, Kangol made their logo a kangaroo in 1983, a year after Spreiregen passed away.

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Words of the Week

The real danger of antisemitism is not what others think of us, but what it makes us think of ourselves.
– Rabbi Manis Friedman