Listed by Forbes among the richest people in the world, Ralph Lauren (b. 1939) was born Ralph Lifshitz to Polish-Belorussian immigrants in the Bronx. He began selling ties to his classmates at the Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy. Lauren then studied at Baruch College, followed by several years in the US Army, after which he became a tie salesman. For a long time he would struggle to make a living, until he was finally able to open his own tie store in 1967, called Polo. As his success grew, Lauren released several men’s clothing lines. Today, Polo Ralph Lauren is a multi-billion dollar company. Interestingly, Lauren owns a rare car collection with over 70 unique vehicles – one of the greatest collections in the world. He is also a knight of the French legion.
A fellow New Yorker, Karl Anderson (b. 1959) was born to a Swedish father and Jewish mother. He changed his name to Michael Kors at age 5 when his mother remarried. Influenced by his mother’s modelling career, Kors began designing clothes as a teen and selling them out of his parents’ basement. He was discovered soon after while studying at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. After working for French fashion giant Celine for many years, Kors left to focus on his own label, which has quickly grown to huge popularity globally. Aside from the fashion world, Kors received the Oliver R. Grace Award for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research.
Words of the Week
You create your own universe as you go along. – Winston Churchill
Moshe Chaim Montefiore (1784-1885) was born in Livorno, Italy to a wealthy Sephardic family. Raised in England, he worked as a grocery merchant before earning great wealth in the stock exchange. In 1824, Montefiore retired and dedicated his life to making the world a better place, funding countless schools, hospitals and other institutions. He was a key figure in abolishing slavery, and even raised the money used to compensate angry plantation owners. Montefiore served as Sheriff of London, and was knighted by Queen Victoria for his selflessness. In 1827 he travelled to Israel and the experience returned him to his Jewish roots. He became a strictly Torah-observant Jew, so much so that he had a personal shochet travel with him so that he can have kosher meat. Fighting for each individual Jew, Montefiore personally went to Turkey to gain the release of 10 imprisoned Jews. He did the same in trips to Russia, Morocco, Rome and Romania. In 1862 he built a Sephardic yeshiva, in addition to the great Montefiore synagogue, built on the former estate of Queen Caroline. Montefiore would make 7 trips to the Holy Land over his life time (the last at age 91!) setting the ground work for the Zionist movement. He financed much of the early construction projects, including the first printing press and textile factory, established multiple agricultural colonies, and even commissioned several censuses that provide us with important information to this day. Montefiore died childless at the age of 100. His centenary was celebrated as a national holiday. Today, the 13th of Av, is his yahrzeit.
Words of the Week
A wealthy anti-Semite once told Moses Montefiore that he had just returned from Japan, where there are “neither pigs nor Jews.” Sir Moses replied: “then you and I should go there, so that they should have a sample of each.”