Maickel Melamed (b. 1975) was born in Caracas, Venezuela. At birth, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, choking him and causing severe damage to his body. Doctors said he would never be able to walk or talk. Despite this, he battled on and spent his entire childhood in rehabilitation. Even when, at age 13, doctors confirmed he would never be “normal”, Melamed never gave up hope. He learned to walk, run and climb. Today, not only is he able to speak, but he now converses fluently in three languages. In 2006, Melamed climbed Venezuela’s tallest mountain. Following this he trained gruelingly and ran several half-marathons before completing his first full marathon in 2012. He plans to run several more in the coming years. Meanwhile, Melamed earned a degree in economics, as well as psychotherapy, and teaches at the Caracas Jewish School which he himself attended in his youth. In 2009, Melamed co-founded Paz Con Todo, an organization that inspires young people to work for peace around the world, and has worked together with the United Nations to promote peace. Melamed’s story has served as a great inspiration to countless people across the globe. Today, he works as a lecturer and life coach throughout the Americas, and has written his first book. He has dedicated his life to helping and inspiring others. Of his incredible ability to run marathons despite his disabilities, Melamed has said: “Every step is not a step; it’s a possibility to connect another person with their own miraculous possibilities. When you live for others, an energy that’s bigger than yourself comes in and helps you succeed…”
Words of the Week
All that is thought should not be said, all that is said should not be written, all that is written should not be published, and all that is published should not be read.
– Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, the Kotzker Rebbe
Born in Baiersdorf, Germany, Joseph Seligman (1819-1880) showed a creative entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. As a youth he would earn money by exchanging foreign coins for travellers while working at his family’s goods shop. At 17, Seligman decided to go out on his own, boarding a steamer for America. In Pennsylvania he worked as a cashier for a salary of $400 a year. From his earnings, Seligman started a small business delivering goods to rural farmers, saving them from having to travel to the city. His first $500 in savings was used to ferry over two of his brothers from Germany. After building a successful clothing business, the brothers went into banking, opening branches across Europe and America. Their wealth continued to skyrocket, so much so that during the Civil War Joseph Seligman disposed $200 million in bond loans to allow the war effort to continue. Historians have called this “scarcely less important than the Battle of Gettysburg”. Seligman was later offered the position of Secretary of the Treasury, but turned it down. He would go on to invest heavily in the development of the United States (as well as Russia and Peru), pumping money into railroads, bridges, shipbuilding, steel, oil and mining, even bicycles and communication lines. Together with the Vanderbilt family, Seligman financed much of New York’s public utilities. In one of the country’s most controversial events of the time, Seligman’s family was denied residence at the Grand Union Hotel by Henry Hilton, on the grounds that Jews were not welcome. Of this H.W. Beecher wrote “When I heard of the unnecessary offense that has been cast upon Mr. Seligman, I felt no other person could have been singled out that would have brought home to me the injustice more sensibly than he.”
If you had a name like Kalonimus Kalman Vulf Ze’ev Yankelevich Wissotzky, you’d kick ass, too.
Kalman Ze’ev Yankelevich Wissotzky (1824-1904) was the son of struggling merchants in Russia. After studying at the famous Volozhin Yeshiva, he joined an agricultural colony which paved his way into the tea trade. In 1849, he established the Wissotzky Tea company in Moscow and very soon became known as the “King of Russian Tea.” By 1904, Wissotzky Tea was popular across the world, with branches in Europe and America. Meanwhile, the situation in Russia worsened to the point that Wissotzky Tea moved their headquarters to Israel. (During the Russian Revolution, the masses protested “Jewish domination” and chanted their slogan: “Tea of Wissotzky, Sugar of Brodsky, and the Tzar is Leiba Trotsky!”) In 1936, Wissotzky Tea opened a factory in Israel, becoming the first tea company in the region. Since then it has been Israel’s leading tea brand. It would surely make Wolf Wissotzky proud – he was an ardent Zionist and one of the main shakers of the movement. He gave 10,000 rubles to the Alliance Israelite for Zionist causes, then another lump sum of 20,000, as well as 6000 rubles to start one of Israel’s first monthly magazines (called HaShiloach). Wissotzky personally traveled to Israel and laid the groundwork for the Lod, Nablus and Gaza settlements. He also established and financed the first school in Jaffa. Outside of Israel, too, Wissotzky was a great philanthropist. In 1898, he gave 70,000 to build a yeshiva in Byelostok. Most amazingly, he worked tirelessly to help the Cantonists – young Russian Jews forcibly taken from their homes and conscripted into life-long military service. Wissotzky ensured many of them had Shabbat services and Passover meals, and helped bring countless young boys back to Judaism. Ultimately, he would leave over 1 million rubles to charity. In those days, one ruble was equal to 0.514 ounces of gold, which in today’s value is nearly $1,000. So, Wissotzky donated nearly one billion dollars to charity! Now that’s philanthropy!
Words of the Week
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. – Eleanor Roosevelt