Tag Archives: British Army

Jews of the Week: Edward and Philip Sassoon

In honour of Jew of the Week’s 9th birthday this November, we will feature a month-long series on the Sassoon family, the “Rothschilds of the East”. This is Part 3. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here

Sir Edward Sassoon (1856-1912), the son of Albert Sassoon, was born in Bombay, India. He studied at the University of London, and served in the British Army, rising to the rank of major. Edward diligently continued the communal and philanthropic work of his father. In 1899 he was elected to the British House of Commons. One of the most famous bills he proposed was a law to make wireless telegraphs mandatory on all passenger ships. However, the bill was struck down over budget issues—until 1912, when the Titanic sank. By 1914, an international treaty made it mandatory for all passenger ships to have telegraphs. Sir Edward was a close friend of Arthur Balfour, famous for his 1917 Balfour Declaration that paved the way for establishing the State of Israel. Edward married Aline Caroline de Rothschild, granddaughter of (former Jew of the Week) Jacob “James” Rothschild.

Their first child was Sir Philip Albert Gustave David Sassoon (1888-1939). He studied at the prestigious Eton College, and then at Oxford—one of just 25 Jewish students at the time. Following this, he joined the British Army and had the rank of second lieutenant. He followed his father into Parliament in 1912. When World War I broke out, Sir Philip was sent to mainland Europe and was the private secretary of Field Marshal Douglas Haig, commander of the British Expeditionary Force. He was later awarded the Croix de Guerre for “distinguished service” in the war. Returning to Parliament after the war, Sir Philip made it his personal mission to bring civilian air travel to England and the world. Airplanes were still little-known by the public, and considered far too dangerous. Sir Philip bought his own airplane in 1919 to promote air travel to the masses. In 1931, he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for Air. He also served as England’s First Commissioner of Works, and chaired London’s famous National Gallery. Philip owned Trent Park in the north of London, and built a mansion there where he liked to host his many friends. Interestingly, during World War II the British used Trent Park as a luxury prison for high-ranking German POWs, on whom they carefully spied and extracted critical information, which was instrumental for winning the war.

Words of the Week

The main superiority of man over animals is in his power of speech. But if we speak vanity and folly, we are no better than animals.
Rabbi Moshe Leib Erblich of Sassov (1745-1807), the Sassover Rebbe

Jews of the Week: Ted & Shari Arison

Ted Arison

Ted Arison

Theodore Arisohn (1924-1999) was born in Tel-Aviv, a third-generation Israeli of Jewish-Romanian heritage. During World War II, Arisohn fought with the Jewish Brigade of the British Army, and then as an IDF Lieutenant Colonel during Israel’s War of Independence. In 1952, Arisohn moved to the US (becoming “Arison”) in the hopes of better financial opportunities. In 1966, now living in Miami, Arison teamed up with Knut Kloster to create Norwegian Cruise Lines. The company started with one small cruise ship offering cheap Caribbean tours, and grew very quickly. By 1972, Arison left Norwegian and started a new company: Carnival Cruise Lines. It was here that Arison made his fortune, and transformed the company into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. The Carnival Corporation now owns 9 other cruise lines, including Costa, Holland America, and Princess Cruises. Arison was a noted philanthropist, too, creating the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, as well as his own Arison Foundation. In 1988, Arison brought professional basketball to Florida by forming the Miami Heat NBA team. His final big move came in 1996, when he led a group that purchased Israel’s largest bank – Bank Hapoalim – for a record sum of over $1 billion.

Shari Arison

Shari Arison

Today, Bank Hapoalim is led by Ted’s daughter, Shari Arison (b. 1957). Born in New York, Shari spent half of her youth in Israel and the other half in the US, before returning to serve in the IDF. She further expanded her father’s businesses after his death, and is now the richest woman in the Middle East (and the only woman listed among the Middle East’s Top 20 richest people). Shari heads The Ted Arison Family Foundation, with its many philanthropic branches. One of these is dedicated to helping people find “inner peace”, while another is for promoting global unity, and a third for inspiring volunteerism in youth and creating International Good Deeds Day. Shari published her first book in 2009 and it became an Israeli bestseller. Her second, Activate Your Goodness: Transforming the World through Doing Good, was a New York Times bestseller, too. She has been selected “Woman of the Year”, has been ranked among Forbes list of the World’s Most Powerful Women, and the World’s Greenest Billionaires, as well as Jerusalem Post’s 50 Most Influential Jews.

Words of the Week

Such is the way of creation: first comes darkness, then light.
– Talmud, Shabbat 77b

Jew of the Week: David Ben-Gurion

David Ben-Gurion

David Ben-Gurion

David Grün (1886-1973) was born in Poland and at just 14, already started a Zionist youth club with friends to promote immigration to Israel and study of Hebrew. While a student at the University of Warsaw in 1905, he was arrested twice as a member of the socialist Poalei Tzion party. The following year he made his way to the Holy Land and settled there. Just 20 years old, he became the chairman of Poalei Tzion in Yafo. Due to various disputes, Grün left politics and focused on farming in Petah-Tikva and the Galilee. He joined an armed defence group in 1908 to protect Jewish settlements increasingly under attack. In 1912 he temporarily relocated to Istanbul to study law, and it was there that he Hebraized his name to Ben-Gurion (and would convince countless others to do the same over the course of his life, wanting them to drop their old “diaspora” names for a fresh start in a newly resurrected Jewish Homeland). He returned to Jerusalem, only to be deported to Egypt due to World War I, then made his way to the U.S. where he toured for 3 years raising support for the Jewish cause. In 1918 he enlisted in the Jewish Legion of the British Army. After the war, Ben-Gurion resettled in Israel and established the Histadrut, Israel’s first labour union (which is 650,000 members strong today). By 1935, he became the chairman of the Jewish Agency – the largest Jewish non-profit organization in the world – overseeing the immigration and settlement of Jews in Israel. He served in this role until 1948, when he became the new State of Israel’s first Prime Minister. One of his first acts in the ensuing War of Independence was the fusion of all militias into one unified army: the IDF. After the war, he worked tirelessly to establish the state and its institutions, overseeing massive construction projects and mass immigration of Jews from around the world, not to mention an international hunt for Nazi war criminals. Although he worked to create a free, modern, non-theocratic state of Israel, he ensured that the Jewish essence would remain, setting Shabbat as an official rest day, kosher food in all state institutions, and autonomy in religious education. He also focused on Israel’s military might, ordering the creation of special operations units while pushing heavily for attaining nuclear capability. He would serve as prime minister in two stints lasting nearly 14 years, in addition to being minister of defence. After retiring in 1970, he wrote an 11-volume history of Israel’s beginnings, adding to two previous tomes he had written. He passed away shortly after, and is commemorated as the central founder of the modern State of Israel.

Words of the Week

Oil, which saturates everything it comes in contact with, represents innerness. Wine, which causes the heart to spill out its deepest secrets, represents outwardness. Chanukah is oil, Purim is wine.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe