Tag Archives: Romanian Jews

Jew of the Week: Jeff Brotman

Jeffrey Hart Brotman (1942-2017) was born in Tacoma, Washington to parents of Jewish-Romanian ancestry. His father and uncles ran a successful retail store that eventually expanded to 18 locations. After earning a political science degree and law doctorate, Brotman followed his father’s footsteps and went into retail with his brother. They first opened a jeans store for women, and then a men’s clothing store. In 1982, Brotman teamed up with Jim Sinegal, who had previously worked for (recent Jew of the WeekSol Price and learned the wholesale business from him. Brotman and Sinegal co-founded Costco. By 1993, Costco merged with Sol Price’s original wholesale company. Today, Costco has over 700 locations around the world, with 85 million members, 174,000 employees, and $120 billion in revenue, making it the 18th richest company in the world, and second largest retailer (behind Wal-Mart). Thanks largely to Brotman’s personal motto of “Do the right thing”, Costco is famous for being one of the top-rated employers in the world, giving its workers large salaries and extensive benefits. Brotman was Costco’s chairman since its founding until last week, when he sadly and unexpectedly passed away. He had served on the boards of 12 other organizations, including Starbucks (of which he was one of the first investors) and the United Way. Brotman was a philanthropist, too, donating large sums to educational and health institutions like the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital, as well as the arts and many Jewish causes. He recently gave a million dollars to his synagogue in Tacoma to build a Jewish daycare and preschool. He had stated that it was the synagogue that “launched me into being a responsible adult.” Starbucks’ founder Howard Schultz eulogized him: “He was one of the earliest believers and investors in Starbucks and in me… he has been a shining light… We have lost a titan of our community.”

Words of the Week

Helping the disadvantaged, encouraging diversity, fostering a community that treats its people well – these were values I learned from my parents… my rabbi at Temple Beth El, and my grandfather, who helped with the movement to plant trees in Israel. When I see some of the fundamental unfairness built into the system for people who are less fortunate, and couple that with my family’s tradition of helping others, I am compelled to act, compelled to give what I can to help.
– Jeff Brotman

Jew of the Week: Bill Goldberg

World Champion of Wrestling

Bill Goldberg

Bill Goldberg

William Scott Goldberg (b. 1966 ) was born in Oklahoma to a Jewish family of Romanian and Russian heritage. He grew up going to Tulsa’s Temple Israel, where he had his bar mitzvah, and playing football from a young age. Goldberg studied at the University of Georgia on a football scholarship, and was drafted into the NFL by the Los Angeles Rams in 1990. He played for several teams over the next five years, but his career was cut short with a serious abdominal injury. While doing rehab for this injury, Goldberg started mixed martial arts training. He was soon spotted by some wrestlers who suggested he take up the sport, so he began training at the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) school, called the Power Plant. Goldberg had his first match in the summer of 1997, and went undefeated for nearly 80 matches before winning the US Heavyweight Championship. By the summer of 1998, he defeated Hulk Hogan for the World Heavyweight Championship. Goldberg continued to mesmerize audiences around the globe, and became the world’s highest-paid wrestler, making $2.5 million a year. In 2001, while he was recovering from another injury, the WCW was bought out by WWF, and the new company did not take on his contract. Goldberg went on to wrestle in Japan, then came back to the US and joined the WWE. He had his last match in 2004 at WrestleMania XX, which he won. In 2006, Goldberg began working as a commentator for various mixed martial arts events. Meanwhile, he has starred in eleven films, and made appearances on 26 television shows. Goldberg is also a big advocate for animal rights and welfare, and has even addressed Congress on behalf of this cause. Goldberg has always been proud of his Jewish heritage, and refused to wrestle on Yom Kippur. Today, he runs a mixed-martial arts gym in California, and visits sick children in the hospital in his spare time.

Words of the Week

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.
– Aldous Huxley

Jew of the Week: Janet Rosenberg Jagan

President of Guyana

Janet Rosenberg Jagan

Janet Rosenberg Jagan

Janet Rosenberg (1920-2009) was born in Chicago, the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants from Romania and Hungary. As a young nursing student she met a Guyanese dentist, Cheddi Jagan. The two got married less than a year later, and moved to Guyana, where Rosenberg worked as a nurse in her husband’s dental clinic. Meanwhile, the couple joined the British Guianese Labor Union and were very active in the political scene. Rosenberg founded Guyana’s Women’s Political and Economic Organization, and its Political Affairs Committee. Shortly after, she and her husband co-founded the Marxist-Leninist People’s Progressive Party (PPP), with Janet serving as its General Secretary. Soon, she was elected to the City Council of Guyana’s capital, Georgetown. From there, she moved up to the House of Assembly, and was appointed Deputy Speaker. However, for vocally opposing British colonial rule over Guyana, the Jagans were both jailed for 5 months, then kept under house arrest for another 2 years. After finally being freed, Rosenberg won back her seat in the Assembly and was appointed Minister of Labour, Health and Housing. In 1973, she was elected to the national parliament, and was re-elected three more times, making her the longest serving parliamentarian in the country’s history. In 1992, her husband became Guyana’s president, and after he passed away in 1997, Janet became the country’s prime minister and vice president. She won the national elections later that year and became president herself, making her just the third woman (and coincidentally, the third Jew) to head a nation in the Western Hemisphere. At age 79, the popular Rosenberg resigned her post due to health problems. She continued to serve in the government, and was still on the PPP’s Central Committee until shortly before her passing, at age 88. Aside from government, Rosenberg worked hard to expand the Guyanese literary world, and to make books available for Guyana’s children. She wrote several of her own books, and was the editor of the PPP’s newspaper for over 20 years. Rosenberg received Guyana’s highest honour, the Order of Excellence, along with a UNESCO award for her efforts on behalf of women’s rights.

Words of the Week

Greater is hospitality to wayfarers than receiving the Divine Presence.
– Talmud, Shevuot 35b