Category Archives: Business & Finance

Jews in the World of Business and Finance

Jew of the Week: Otto Orkin

Otto the Orkin Man

Otto Orkin (1885-1968) was born in Latvia to a traditional Jewish family that immigrated to Pennsylvania when he was three years old. The family settled on a farm, and Otto’s job as a child was to make sure the rats didn’t eat their stocks. The neighbours soon heard of his success, and asked the young Otto to take care of their pests, too. At 14, Otto borrowed 50 cents from his parents to invest in a supply of arsenic, and began experimenting to find the perfect blend of rat poison. He spent hours in attics and granaries watching rat behaviour and carefully studying them. The young Orkin became an expert at rat control, and began selling his services door-to-door. At 16, he founded his own pest control company, Orkin The Rat Man. He continued growing the business, travelling across the country to sell his revolutionary formulas and methods. In 1909, he found that Richmond, Virginia did not have a pest exterminator and settled there. In 1925, Orkin’s company won its first government contract to get rid of rats for the Army Corps of Engineers. During this time, he found that Atlanta, Georgia also did not have an exterminator, and soon moved his headquarters there, renaming the business to Orkin Exterminating Company. It was also during this time that he introduced the diamond-shaped logo now famous across North America. By 1930, Orkin had 13 permanent branches in 8 states, and fifteen years later 82 branches in 14 states. During World War II, Orkin played a huge role in assisting the war effort by providing chemicals and pest control, and making sure that over 150 military installations were sanitary. The company continued to grow, and by 1950 had over 1000 employees operating in 20 states. This rapid growth was partly fueled by Orkin’s famous generosity. He paid very good salaries and all of his managers made more money than he did himself. It was also fueled by great marketing, especially the popular “Otto the Orkin Man” TV commercial – thought to be the most recognizable jingle in America at the time. Unfortunately, Orkin’s sons soon sought to wrest control of the company from him. He eventually gave in and sold his shares. The company went downhill after that, and was bought out by Rollins Inc. in 1964. Orkin continued to be a generous philanthropist until his last days. Beloved by all those who knew him, one employee said of Orkin that he had “a singleness of purpose, a goal he never lost sight of, and he worked tirelessly and diligently to achieve that goal. His was the epitome of the American Dream we hear so much about. His contribution to the industry is inestimable.”

A Kabbalistic Look at Pregnancy and Abortion

Words of the Week

It is true that it is not a good situation for us, but when did we have it better? Now the oppressor is Hitler, once it was Haman, Pharaoh, Torquemada, Purishkevich—only the names change, but the suffering remains the same. It is possible that the troubles in the past were greater. When we compare the entire Jewish situation in the world to certain eras in Jewish history, it will emerge that Jews are now doing much better than in certain difficult eras of the past. There is no reason to despair.
– Rabbi Yosef Rosenthe Rogatchover Gaon

Jews of the Week: Isaiah Kenan & Larry Weinberg

Portland Trail Blazers and AIPAC

Larry Weinberg

Lawrence Jay Weinberg (1926-2019) was born in New York City. He fought valiantly with the US Army in World War II, earning a Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge, and the Bronze Star. He was horribly injured in a battle in France, and spent a year in recovery. After university studies, Weinberg founded the Larwin Company, a housing developer. Two decades later, having merged with another company, it had become the top housing developer in the country, building over 8000 residential units a year. Meanwhile, Weinberg was also the founder of Com-Air Products, a manufacturer of jet engine parts. In 1970, Weinberg teamed up with two other prominent Jewish businessmen to bring an NBA team to Portland. They succeeded, and five years later, Weinberg became president of the Portland Trail Blazers. The team won its first NBA Championship in 1977. Weinberg continued as president until selling the team to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 1988. By that point, Weinberg had also become a major force within AIPAC, the “pro-Israel Lobby” in Washington, and had served as its president for several years.

Isaiah “Si” Kenen

AIPAC was founded by Isaiah Leo Kenen (1905-1988). Kenen was born to a Russian-Jewish immigrant family in Canada. He studied philosophy at the University of Toronto, and went on to become a journalist for the Toronto Star. In 1926, he moved to Cleveland, where he took up the study of law and was admitted to the bar in 1933. Some years later, he became president of the Cleveland Zionist District, and during this time worked for the Jewish Agency. After 1948, he served in Israel’s delegation to the United Nations. In 1951, he was asked to lobby Congress for some financial aid for Israel to deal with the huge influx of Jewish refugees it was receiving, especially the nearly 1 million Sephardic and Mizrachi Jews expelled from Arab countries. (While the world focuses on Palestinian refugees, the plight of Jewish refugees continues to be ignored.) Kenen’s lobbying team would transform into AIPAC in 1959, and has worked hard to draw American support for Israel ever since. AIPAC has become a powerful lobbying group (once ranked as the second most powerful), which has unfortunately brought with it a great deal of negative publicity, not to mention being implicated in wild conspiracy theories. Today, AIPAC has more than 100,000 members, and has been called “the single most important organization in promoting the US-Israel alliance.” Their yearly conference draws some 18,000 supporters, along with a host of renowned speakers. This year’s conference will take place in Washington DC starting March 24th.

The Mizrahi Project: Remembering the Jewish Refugees

Words of the Week

I am convinced that it is true that God created this earth but it is also a fact that only an Israel can keep this earth from dying.

– Tashbih Sayyed, Pakistani-American scholar