Tag Archives: Moroccan Jews

Jew of the Week: Gad Elmaleh

“The French Jerry Seinfeld”

Gad Elmaleh (b. 1971) was born in Casablanca, Morocco to a traditional Sephardic family. He went to a religious Jewish school (the only one that would have him after being expelled from everywhere else), and spent summers at a Chabad camp. After high school, he studied political science at the University of Montreal. Having grown up in a family of performers, and acting since he was a child, Elmaleh decided to pursue his passion for drama instead. At age 21, he moved to Paris and enrolled at the Cours Florent, one of France’s most prestigious acting schools. Elmaleh became a comedian, and his first stand-up show was a huge success. His second, performed in Paris’ famous Olympia, was even bigger, while his third show drew 300,000 spectators and sold 1.5 million DVDs. His fifth show, in 2007, sold out for weeks, selling over a million tickets. That same year, he was voted the funniest man in France. Elmaleh has been credited with bringing American-style stand-up to the country, and has been called “the French Jerry Seinfeld”. Indeed, Seinfeld was Elmaleh’s greatest inspiration, and the latter would go on to appear on Seinfeld’s show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. (Elmaleh was also the voice of Seinfeld in the French version of Bee Movie.) In 2015, Elmaleh moved to New York and went on his first American tour, “Oh My Gad”. In the past two years, he has had two Netflix specials, in French and in English. He has also performed in Hebrew and in Arabic. Elmaleh has appeared in dozens of films, was awarded the Order of France and the National Order of Quebec, has a child with a European princess (and another with a famous French actress), and is a good friend of (former Jew of the WeekDiane von Fürstenberg. See Elmaleh describe his embarrassing first encounter with Jerry Seinfeld here.

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Words of the Week

Though Jews presently constitute 3 percent of the total American population, the number of Jews imprisoned for crimes of violence is but one tenth of one percent of the prison population… This tremendous disproportion in the statistic continually amazes sociologists.
– Max I. DimontJews, God and History

Elmaleh meeting the Lubavitcher Rebbe as a young man, and more recently alongside Jerry Seinfeld.

Jew of the Week: Joe Mimran

The Brand Master

Joe Mimran (Credit: The Globe and Mail)

Joe Mimran (Credit: The Globe and Mail)

Joseph Mimran (b. 1952) was born in Casablanca, Morocco to an observant Jewish family, and grew up in Toronto, Canada. As a young man, he worked a number of odd jobs before opening his own art gallery while a student at York University. He finished his studies at the University of Windsor and became an accountant. After a couple of years, Mimran’s fashion designer mother inspired him to enter her field. He joined his mother and brother to set up a family fashion business called Ms. Originals. In 1979, the brothers hired a young Chinese-Canadian, Alfred Sung, to design their clothes, and the line was an instant hit. (Alfred Sung would later be hailed as “The New King of Fashion”). In the mid-80s, Mimran was once shopping for a simple white shirt but could not find one. He resolved to make his own, and started a new brand, Club Monaco, focused on simple, minimalist designs. By 1999, Club Monaco had 125 stores around the world, including one on Fifth Avenue in New York, and was bought out by Ralph Lauren. In 2004, Mimran started working on a new line to be sold exclusively at Loblaw’s supermarkets, giving rise to the Joe Fresh brand. The brand became so popular that in 2010, independent Joe Fresh stores began popping up. Mimran also founded the “Pink Tartan” label with his wife, and designed lines for President’s Choice and Holt Renfrew. He is currently the chair of the Fashion Design Council of Canada. Aside from fashion, Mimran is a noted philanthropist, supporting the Reena Foundation (which assists people with autism and disabilities), and Toronto’s East General Hospital, among others. Recently, Mimran joined the panel of Canada’s version of Dragon’s Den, the popular TV show where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to venture capitalists. Mimran is recognized as a pioneer in modern fashion, and has been called a “human calculator”, and a “brand master”.

Words of the Week

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.
– Sigmund Freud