Tag Archives: Philanthropists

Jews of the Week: Alfred Nakache & Ben Helfgott

The Holocaust Survivors Who Became Olympians

Helfgott at the 1966 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia

Ben Helfgott (b. 1929) was born in Poland and was only a child when the Nazis invaded his country. He was sent with his entire family to Buchenwald concentration camp. Everyone perished except for one sister. After the war, Helfgott was among some 750 Jewish kids under 16 taken to England as refugees. Now safe in England, Helfgott started a Jewish youth club and became a big fan of sports. He was soon introduced to weightlifting and wanted to take it up professionally. Being just 5 foot 4 inches tall, and weighing 154 pounds, Helfgott was told to find another sport. He persisted nonetheless, and at age 26, became England’s champion in the 11-stone division. He went on to win four more English and British Commonwealth weightlifting championships, and represented the UK at the 1956 Olympics in Australia. He returned in the 1960 Olympics in Rome as the coach of the UK weightlifting team. He also participated in the Maccabiah Games, earning weightlifting gold three times. After retiring from sport, Helfgott became a successful businessman. He used his wealth to start The ’45 Aid Society, generously supporting struggling Holocaust survivors. Helfgott was recently knighted by Queen Elizabeth. He is one of just two Holocaust survivors to become an Olympian.

Alfred Nakache

The other is Alfred Nakache (1915-1983), born in French Algeria to a traditional Sephardic family of eleven children. As a child, Nakache had a crippling fear of water. He made the decision to overcome his phobia, and soon immersed himself in swimming and water sports. He went on to become a five-time French swimming champion, and set five European and World Records. After a silver medal at the 1935 Maccabiah Games, Nakache made the French Olympic team and competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. When the Nazis invaded France, Nakache escaped to the Free Zone in the south of the country. He wasn’t safe from anti-Semitism, though. Banned from swimming in Toulouse, he moved to Marseilles. Several weeks after setting a new record in the 400 metre butterfly in 1943, he was arrested and deported to Auschwitz. Surviving the camp’s hellish conditions, Nakache returned to swimming, setting a new French record in 1946. He made the French Olympic team again and participated in the 1948 games in London. In 1993, Nakache was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He was the subject of the 2001 documentary Alfred Nakache, the Swimmer of Auschwitz. Today, many pools across France are named after him.

What’s the Difference Between Ashkenazim and Sephardim?

What Famous People Thought About Jews

Has Coverage of Israel’s Nation-State Law Been Factual?

The Israeli Who Wants to Make Vanilla Better and Cheaper

Beyonce’s Clothes “Celebrating Every Woman” Ironically Made in Female Sweatshops

Israel’s Only Oscar-Winning Director Passes Away

Men Who Wear Boxer Shorts Have Much Better Sperm

Words of the Week

According to the pain is the gain.
– Pirkei Avot 5:21

Nakache (far left) with the French relay team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Helfgott (inset) at a weightlifting competition.

Jew of the Week: Bob Iger

The Man Behind “America’s Most Admired Company”

Bob Iger (Photo Credit: Angela George)

Robert Allen Iger (b. 1951) was born in New York City and raised on Long Island. He studied television and radio at Ithaca College (with the dream of becoming a news anchor) and there had his first media job on the college television station. After several months working as a casual weatherman, and struggling to find a reporting job, Iger joined ABC as a “studio supervisor” helping out on the set of soap operas and game shows. A few years later he joined the production team at ABC Sports, a position he held for nearly a decade. From there, he became a VP of ABC Sports, and a few years later a VP of ABC. In 1992, he became the company’s president, having incredibly worked his way up from an entry-level position, with just a bachelor’s degree in hand. Iger went on to launch some of ABC’s most popular television shows, including Home ImprovementAmerica’s Funniest Home Videos, and Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?Meanwhile, because of his tremendous success and famous foresight, he was one of only a few executives to survive the buyout of ABC, first by Capital Cities Broadcasting, and then again by The Walt Disney Company. In 1999, Iger was made president of Walt Disney International. By 2005, he took over as CEO as well, and was put in charge of Disney’s day-to-day operations, vowing to fix the struggling company. Soon, Iger engineered Disney’s takeover of Pixar, and then its acquisition of Marvel Entertainment. To the latter he gave the necessary boost to bring out the “Marvel Cinematic Universe”, now the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. Iger had a vision to do something similar with Star Wars, and in 2012 acquired Lucasfilm. Star Wars has since become the second highest-grossing film franchise of all time. Iger has expanded Disney in other ways, too, including a new $5.5 billion Disney Resort in Shanghai. All in all, he increased Disney’s value from $48 billion to some $170 billion, and hired over 18,000 people during his tenure, earning the company multiple accolades including “America’s Most Admired Company” (Fortune Magazine), the “World’s Most Reputable Company” (Forbes), and the “Best Place to Launch a Career” (BusinessWeek). Iger, meanwhile, has been called the “Best CEO”, won multiple “CEO of the Year” awards, as well as a “Corporate Humanitarian Award” and “Equal Opportunity Award”. He is ranked among the 25 most powerful people in business. Iger is also a generous philanthropist, and has been given the Ambassador for Humanity Award for his efforts.

14 Facts About Jews and Judaism That Everyone Should Know

What is a Jewish Name and is it Necessary to Have One?

Words of the Week

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.
– Dr. Robert Jastrow, renowned astrophysicist