Jerry Bruckheimer at a ceremony to receive his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Credit: Angela George)
Jerome Leon Bruckheimer (b. 1943) was born in Detroit to German-Jewish immigrants. His favourite pastimes growing up were stamp-collecting, photography, and watching films. Bruckheimer studied psychology at the University of Arizona, then got a job in advertising. After producing a number of TV commercials, Bruckheimer decided to pursue his passion for film. He teamed up with directors Dirk Richards and Paul Schrader to make several movies, and soon caught Hollywood’s attention. Bruckheimer’s first big hit was Flashdance, which went on to earn $200 million and become a cultural icon. The following year came Beverly Hills Cop—originally meant to star Sylvester Stallone before Eddie Murphy took the lead, launching his film career. Two years later, Bruckheimer produced another big hit: Top Gun, going on to earn $356 million despite costing just $15 million to make. It won an Oscar and was later selected by the Library of Congress for historical preservation. (A long-awaited sequel is coming out later this year.) Top Gun was the first movie in Hollywood history that was produced in collaboration with the US Navy, and is credited with cleaning up the US military’s image after the Vietnam War. Bruckheimer went on to make blockbusters like Days of Thunder, The Rock, Armageddon, Enemy of the State, and Pearl Harbor. He produced the hugely successful Pirates of the Caribbean series, too—one of the highest-grossing film franchises in history. Bruckheimer has been hugely successful on the small screen as well. His first TV show was CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which spawned multiple spin-offs. He is behind the The Amazing Race, now in its 32nd season in the US, with a whopping 15 Emmy Awards (and 77 more nominations). At one point, three of Bruckheimer’s shows were in the top 10 in TV ratings. He has become something of a Hollywood legend, for whom nearly every film and show strikes gold. Bruckheimer has had a tremendous influence in the development of the modern “blockbuster”. He is a hockey fan, too, and invested in an NHL expansion team coming to Seattle starting in the 2021-2022 season. His latest production is the third installment of the classic cop-duo comedy Bad Boys, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, which opens in theatres next Friday.
Words of the Week
Do not try to evade taxes, lest the government catch you and take everything you own. – Rabbi Yehuda haNasi (Talmud, Pesachim 112b)
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 Week) Sol 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
Howard Schultz was born to a poor Jewish-German family in Brooklyn. A phenomenal athlete, he paid his way through higher education on sports scholarships. After working as a salesperson for Xerox, he became the general manager of Swedish coffee machine maker Hammarplast. In this role, he paid a visit to one of the company’s clients – a tiny café in Seattle called Starbucks. Having traveled through Italy and seen the importance of café-socials in Italian society, Schultz was inspired to create the same for America. Unfortunately the three Starbucks founders (two of whom are fellow Jews Gordon Bowker and Zev Siegl) didn’t share his vision. So in 1985 Howard Schultz started his own café called Il Giornale. Hugely successful, by 1988 Schultz was able to buy out the original Starbucks and adopted it as his own brand name! Schultz quickly became a billionaire, went on to own the Seattle Supersonics basketball team, wrote two books, and received multiple awards, including one from Aish HaTorah for his Israel advocacy work. Today, Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse in the world, with 19,435 locations in 58 countries. The company continues to run under the direction of Schultz, and has become well-known for its humanitarianism: their Ethos brand raises money for water development projects, while Product Red delivers AIDS medication to Africa. The Starbucks Foundation works to develop youth literacy and leadership, sponsoring volunteer work and providing millions of dollars in grants every year.
Words of the Week
Leave Israel alone, for even if they are not themselves prophets, they are still the children of prophets.