Tag Archives: American Jews

Jew of the Week: Larry King

King of Interviews

Lawrence Harvey Zeiger (1933-2021) was born in Brooklyn to Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Belarus. His father died when he was just a child, leaving the family impoverished. Young Larry was fascinated by radio and always wished to become a broadcaster. In Miami, he found a job cleaning at a radio station and, when the station’s broadcaster suddenly left the show, Larry was given a chance to take his place. The manager said “Zeiger” was not a good stage name, so Larry quickly chose “King” (based on an ad he had just seen for King’s Wholesale Liquor store). He got the job to radio DJ for three hours every morning, earning $50 a week. King soon started doing interviews, too, and would occasionally have a celebrity who was in town to do a show. He was then hired as a commentator for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. It was in 1978 when The Larry King Show aired its first episode (on radio). It would be broadcast live every weekday at midnight, starting with a one-hour interview and followed by several hours of discussion. By 1985, King was a household name and was hired by CNN to star in a television version of his interview show. CNN’s Larry King Live went on to set a Guinness World Record as the “longest-running TV show hosted by the same person on the same network”. Many iconic moments took place in his studio, including the Perot-Gore debate of 1993 (which became CNN’s most-watched segment ever), and the joint interview of Rabin and Arafat in 1995. Famous people loved to come on his show because he asked simple questions and made his interviewees feel at ease. He famously avoided reading up on his guests, preferring not to know much about them. King retired in 2010 after 25 years and a whopping 6000 episodes. Over that same time period, he was a regular columnist for USA Today. King went on to do several more popular shows on other networks, including Larry King Now and Politicking with Larry King. Over the years, he made countless appearances in sit-coms, commercials, movies, cartoons, and even the WWE. All in all, King conducted some 60,000 interviews over his career. He won two Peabody Awards for excellence in broadcasting and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. After suffering a heart attack in 1987, King started the Larry King Cardiac Foundation which has donated millions to pay for life-saving heart surgeries for people who cannot afford them. He also helped raise millions for Israel and for Chabad. He generally identified as a “Jewish agnostic” and said several years ago: “I love being Jewish, am proud of my Jewishness, and I love Israel.” Sadly, Larry King passed away earlier this year.

Words of the Week

Everyone loves the truth, but not everyone tells the truth.
– Yiddish proverb

Jews of the Week: Mitchell Schwartz and Ali Marpet

Jewish Super Bowl Showdown

Mitchell Schwartz
(Credit: Jeffrey Beall)

Mitchell Bryan Mendel Schwartz (b. 1989) was born in California and raised in a religious Conservative Jewish home. By the time he started high school, he was 6’5″ and weighed 240 pounds—so he started playing football. Very quickly, he dominated the game, and just a couple of years later was California high schools’ Offensive Lineman of the Year. He was also an all-star baseball pitcher, and an honour roll student with a near-perfect GPA. Not surprisingly, many colleges wanted him, and he chose to go to UC Berkeley where he majored in American Studies. Over his four-year college career, he didn’t miss a single game. In 2012, Schwartz was drafted to the NFL by the Cleveland Browns. He went on to play all 16 games in his impressive rookie season. After several more successful seasons, he signed a 5-year, $33 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, making him one of the highest paid tackles in the sport. Schwartz wears his Judaism proudly, and co-authored a book with his brother Geoff (also an NFL player) called Eat my Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith. He is a big supporter of Kansas City’s Chabad of Leawood, and has lit the city’s public menorah. Last year, he helped lead the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory. Until then, he had never missed a single game in his entire NFL career. Unfortunately, that incredible streak ended earlier this season, though his team still made it to the Super Bowl, and will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has their own Jewish all-star:

Ali Marpet
(Credit: buccaneers.com)

Alexander “Ali” Marpet (b. 1993) was born in New York to a traditional Jewish family. He was also a big high school football (and basketball) success. Marpet studied economics and public policy at Hobart College, which is not a particularly strong athletic school and doesn’t even award athletic scholarships. Only one other player in the history of the college ever made it to the NFL. Marpet went there anyways, and led their football team to multiple championship appearances. He was drafted to the NFL in 2016 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his rookie season, he was voted the best pass-blocker among rookies and 12th-best run-blocking guard overall. In 2018, he signed a 5-year, $55 million extension with the Buccaneers, making him one of the highest paid guards in the NFL. Marpet once described how, while on Birthright Israel, the classic camel ride in the desert didn’t go so well for him since he weighed over 300 pounds and the camel wasn’t too happy about that! He has stated that he is honoured to represent all Jews as a professional athlete. Marpet hopes to win his first championship ring this Sunday.

Words of the Week

Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.
– Chinese Proverb

Jew of the Week: Sheldon Adelson

In Memory of Israel’s Greatest Defender

Sheldon Gary Sholom Gedaliah Adelson (1933-2021) was born in Boston to a working-class, immigrant Jewish family of Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and English heritage. Even as a child he thought about how to get the family out of financial hardship, starting his first business at just 12 years of age by selling newspapers. Three years later, he started a new business operating a vending machine. His studies didn’t go well, and he dropped out of both college and a trade school before joining the military. After his army service, Adelson started a new business selling toiletries, followed by several more businesses before making his big break with a charter-bus tour company. In his 30s, he had already become a millionaire. A few years later, he was the co-creator of one of the first computer industry trade shows. The business grew exponentially and was sold to a Japanese company in 1995 for $862 million (of which $500 million went to Adelson). Meanwhile, Adelson had started investing in Las Vegas real estate. His first major venture there was purchasing the Sands Hotel and Casino for $110 million. A few years later, he dreamed of building a massive resort hotel and the result was The Venetian. Adelson also built a casino in Pennsylvania, in Singapore, and the Sands Macao, which was China’s first Vegas-like casino. The latter was one of Adelson’s most profitable investments, with some estimates suggesting it multiplied his wealth by fourteen times! In 2007, Adelson started a new conservative-leaning newspaper in Israel, called Israel Hayom. Distributed for free, it became the country’s number-one weekday paper. Originally a Democrat, Adelson grew disenchanted with the party and became a Republican. He always believed business and politics should not mix, and that wealthy people shouldn’t influence elections. However, when he discovered how strongly some wealthy people were influencing elections, he felt he had no choice but to do so as well. Over the years, Adelson donated hundreds of millions to support various Republican candidates. While he initially did not favour Trump, he ended up backing him due to Trump’s promises to help Israel. He gave around $65 million for Trump’s 2016 campaign, another $113 million to Republicans in 2018, followed by another $100 million in the last election. Trump’s erratic behaviour and obsession with election fraud led to a rift between the two, and they had not spoken following the election. A generous philanthropist, Adelson gave nearly $500 million for Birthright Israel (being its largest individual donor), $50 million to Yad Vashem, $25 million to build a medical school at Ariel University in Israel’s historic heartland, as well as nearly $20 million to fund Israel’s young space-exploration industry. His contributions played a key role in getting Benjamin Netanyahu into office in 1996. In the US, Adelson’s foundation funds medical research at 10 different universities. Aside from Las Vegas’ casinos, Adelson has built a state-of-the-art school, substance abuse centre, and research clinic in the city. His other major passion was fighting against the legalization of drugs, including cannabis. This was personal for him, having lost his son to a drug overdose. Adelson gave millions to ensure no other parent would experience such a tragedy. Sadly, Adelson succumbed to cancer earlier this week. Over the years, he gained a reputation as Israel’s greatest defender, and the biggest advocate of the Jewish people. Friend and fellow-billionaire Michael Steinhardt has said that “Whether he is in the Oval Office, the Prime Minister’s Office, a senator’s office, or a Congressman’s office, his first goal was to be an advocate for the Jewish people and the Jewish community, not for his own personal gain.”

Words of the Week

Those who never change their mind never change anything.
– Winston Churchill