Tag Archives: Star Wars

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.

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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

Jew of the Week: Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman plays Orthodox girl Rifka in ‘New York, I Love You’

Netalee Hershlag (b. 1981) was born in Jerusalem to a Jewish-American mother and Israeli father with a mix of Russian, Austrian, Romanian, and Polish heritage. The family moved to the US when she was three years old, and young Natalie went to a Jewish day school. She spent most of her teenage years in New York, where she studied dance and ballet. When she was 11, an agent spotted her at a pizza parlour. Shortly after, she was cast alongside Britney Spears in a small role on a Broadway play. The following year, she was cast as twelve-year old orphan Mathilda Lando in the popular film Leon: the Professional. It was then that Natalie decided to use her grandmother’s maiden name, “Portman”. Her incredible performance launched her into stardom. Nonetheless, she made sure to reject all the highly sexualized roles she was being offered, later saying that “there’s a surprising preponderance of that kind of role for young girls. Sort of being fantasy objects for men, and especially this idealized purity combined with the fertility of youth… so I definitely shied away from it.” Indeed, she initially rejected a role in 1999’s Anywhere but Here because of a sex scene, and only accepted it when the script was rewritten without it. For this role, she would win a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. Meanwhile, Portman wanted to get a proper education, even if it meant “ruining my career”. She skipped the premiere of Star Wars: Episode I (where she played beloved Queen Amidala, young mother of Luke and Leia Skywalker) to study for her high school exams, then enrolled in psychology studies at Harvard. Throughout her time there, she was a noted pro-Israel activist, and also served as Alan Dershowitz’s research assistant. Portman continued graduate studies at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, and has co-authored two scientific papers. (Even in high school she was a scientist, coming up with, and writing a paper titled, “A Simple Method to Demonstrate the Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen from Sugar”.) Portman was later a guest lecturer at Columbia University, and once said, “I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” Thankfully, she is both, with many of her films receiving rave reviews. 2006’s V for Vendetta inspired a whole movement, while 2010’s eye-opening Black Swan won her an Oscar for Best Actress. For the former film she had to shave her head, while the latter required 5 to 8 hours of dance training every day for 6 months. All in all, Portman has acted in, directed, or produced 42 films thus far. Meanwhile, the vegan Portman is an animal rights activist, and has produced an acclaimed film on cruel factory farming. She produced another to depict the plight of gorillas. She has also worked to combat poverty, and served as an Ambassador of Hope for a microlending fund, and an ambassador for Free the Children. She is a member of OneVoice, which strives to build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians. For her tireless work, last month Portman was awarded the $1 million Genesis Prize (“the Jewish Nobel Prize”), which she said would be donated primarily to support women’s causes. Portman has two children, and though she now lives in LA, has said that “my heart’s in Jerusalem. That’s where I feel at home.”

Words of the Week

Fighting evil is a very noble activity when it must be done. But it is not our mission in life. Our job is to bring in more light.
– Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe