Tag Archives: Olympics

Jews of the Week: Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank

The Home Depot

Bernie Marcus

Bernard Marcus (b. 1929) was born in New Jersey to Russian-Jewish immigrants. His dream was to become a doctor, but he could not afford the tuition. Instead, he studied pharmacy at Rutgers University (where he was part of the Jewish AEPi fraternity) and paid his way by building cabinets with his father. While working at a drug store after graduating, Marcus realized that he is far more interested in business than pharmacy. He went on to work in various retail jobs, eventually becoming the CEO of a home improvement store. There he met Arthur Max Blank (b. 1942). Blank had studied business in college, and worked in various accounting jobs until becoming VP of finance at the same home improvement store as Marcus. The two were both fired from the company in 1978. Undeterred, they decided to start their own home improvement store, with a new “warehouse” concept, and a focus on superb customer service and a vision of giving back to the community. The two hired a fellow employee who had been fired, Ron Brill, as well as businessman Pat Farrah, who had once owned a home improvement store. The following year they opened the first Home Depot in Atlanta. Just two years later, they branched out into Florida and went public. Within a decade, Home Depot had become America’s largest home improvement store. Today, it has over 2200 stores across the US, Canada, and Mexico, with some 385,000 employees, and is the world’s largest buyer of construction materials. True to their original vision, The Home Depot Foundation has donated over $200 million in support of various causes, including Habitat for Humanity. They have been lauded for their environmental conservation, avoiding lumber purchases from endangered forests, running the largest light bulb recycling program in the US, and spending $100 million over ten years to build 100,000 green homes and plant 3 million trees. Home Depot also sponsors the US and Canada Olympic Teams.

Arthur Blank

Marcus and Blank served as CEO and president of Home Depot for 19 years. Upon retirement, Blank purchased the Atlanta Falcons football team, and recently founded a new Major League Soccer team, Atlanta United FC. He is also a noted philanthropist, donating millions to various causes, including a recent $7 million to Denver’s National Jewish Health Center. Blank has signed The Giving Pledge, committing to donating at least 50% of his wealth to charity. Marcus has signed the Pledge, too, and was one of America’s most charitable donors in 2005. Among his many contributions, he has given $25 million to Autism Speaks, $15 million for a new nanotechnology research centre, and $5 million to co-found the Israel Democracy Institute. He now chairs his Marcus Foundation, which has given countless sums to children’s causes, Jewish communities, medical research, and support for military veterans. When asked why he was so passionate about charity, he said: “It goes back to what I learned as a young Jewish boy growing up in Newark, N.J. with immigrant parents: You have an obligation to give back to society. Thirty years ago, when I had no money, I worked for various charities, gave my heart, soul and time – now I can also give money.”

Words of the Week

We have neither taken other men’s land, nor are we in possession of other men’s property, but of the inheritance of our forefathers; it was wrongfully held by our enemies at one time, but we, grasping our opportunity, hold firmly the inheritance of our forefathers.
– Simon Maccabee (Book of Maccabees I,15:34-35)

Jew of the Week: Aly Raisman

Aly Raisman at the 2016 Rio Olympics (Credit: Fernando Frazao/Agencia Brasil)

Aly Raisman at the 2016 Rio Olympics (Credit: Fernando Frazao/Agencia Brasil)

Alexandra Rose Raisman (b. 1994) was born in Massachusetts. As the eldest daughter of a gymnast, she was introduced to gymnastics at just two years old, and was inspired by watching that year’s Olympics US women’s team. At 14, she started competing in both national and international events. After two successful years, she signed as a professional athlete and received sponsorship from Ralph Lauren. The following year, she tried out for the American Olympic team and placed third overall. Raisman made it to the 2012 London Olympics as part of the team nicknamed the “Fierce Five”. She dedicated her floor routine (set to the tune of Hava Nagila) to the Israeli terror victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics (see it here). It won her the gold medal, making her the first American woman to win a gold medal in floor exercise. She went on to win two gold medals and one bronze medal – the most decorated American gymnast at the London games. She returned to the 2016 Rio games as captain of the team nicknamed the “Final Five” (since the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will switch to a four-team format, and the US team will have a different coach). Raisman has won three more medals in Rio – a gold and two silvers – making her the second most decorated Olympic gymnast in American history. Away from the Olympics, she has won over a dozen other medals at the World Championships, the Pacific Rim Championships, and the American Cup. Raisman has also appeared on the television shows Dancing With the Stars and Gold Medal Families, and was featured in the documentary Aly Raisman: Quest for Gold. When she isn’t training, Raisman often volunteers with the Special Olympics and with UNICEF, among other organizations. In 2013, she lit the flames at the Maccabiah Games in Israel.

Words of the Week

Cherish criticism, for it will place you on the true heights.
– Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber of Lubavitch