Tag Archives: TIME

Jew of the Week: Yuri Milner

Yuri Bentsionovich Milner (b. 1961) was born in Moscow. He studied theoretical physics at Moscow State University before working at the prestigious Lebedev Physical Institute. He found that his abilities in physics were not the best (especially because he was placed on a lower track due to his being Jewish), and decided to switch to business. He first tried selling computers, then went to do an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania, becoming the first person from the Soviet Union to officially study in the US. Upon graduation, he got a job at the World Bank, and in 1995 was made CEO of Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s investment company. In 1999, Milner read an article and decided it was a good idea to start an online business. He began a series of ventures that brought American-style sites to Russia, including Molotok.ru (the Russian eBay), Boom.ru (free webhosting), and 24×7 (Russia’s Amazon). In 2005, Milner established his own investment fund, Digital Sky Technologies. Five years later, his Mail.ru went public on the London Stock Exchange with a valuation of $5.6 billion. That same year, Milner bought pioneering Israeli instant messaging company ICQ, and has since invested an additional $150 million in Israeli startups. Milner’s venture capital fund has become one of the world’s greatest. He was among the first to invest in Facebook, with an initial $200 million, and plenty more since. He also invested $800 million in Twitter, $125 million in WhatsApp, and $1.6 billion in Alibaba, in addition to Groupon, Snapchat, Airbnb, and Spotify. In 2012, Milner established the Breakthrough Prize, awarding $3 million to great achievements in Physics, Life Sciences, and Mathematics. This is now the largest scientific award in the world, trumping even the Nobel Prize. In 2015, Milner founded the Breakthrough Initiatives to investigate life on other planets. Its first project is a $100 million, 10-year endeavour called “Listen”, searching for radio and laser signals from distant stars with the most sensitive equipment in the world. The most recent Breakthrough Initiative is “Starshot”, investing $100 million to develop a spacecraft that will be accelerated to 20% of the speed of light and take a 20 year journey to our nearest star. Milner also awards (together with Mark Zuckerberg) a $250,000 scholarship to the winner of the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, in addition to $50,000 for that student’s science teacher, and $100,000 for the student’s school science lab. Milner has been on Fortune‘s list of 50 Greatest World Leaders, and TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. He was voted Russia’s Businessman of the Year in 2010, and Man of the Year in 2011, and has been described as “the most interesting man in the world”. Milner recently purchased a house in Los Altos for $100 million, the most ever paid for a single-family home in US history (which the modest Milner was quite embarrassed about). He regularly attends the local synagogue. Milner made the news once again a couple of weeks ago when his Breakthrough Listen project discovered mysterious radio bursts from a distant galaxy, sparking whispers of the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe.

Words of the Week

An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no god. By some definitions, atheism is very stupid.
– Carl Sagan

Jew of the Week: Anne Frank

A Diary that Changed the World

Anne Frank

Anne Frank

Annelies Marie Frank (1929-1945) was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Her family fled to Amsterdam shortly after the Nazis took over, and there her father started a new business selling herbs, spices, and fruit extracts. On her thirteenth birthday, Anne received an autograph book that she began to use as a diary, which she addressed as “Kitty”, her best friend. By then, the Nazis had already occupied the Netherlands, and a month later Anne’s family was ordered to report to labour camps. Instead, they hid in a space above her father’s company offices. Some of the employees were aware of this, and provided the Franks with food. During this time, Anne wrote in her diary of her experiences, struggles, and relationships, as well as deeper insights into human nature. In the summer of 1944, the Franks’ hiding place was discovered and the family was arrested. They were sent through various detention centres and labour camps, ending up in Auschwitz. There, her father was taken away and presumed dead, while Anne, her sister, and mother were forced into back-breaking labour. By the time that the two sisters were relocated to Bergen-Belsen, their mother had already succumbed to starvation. Not long before the camp was liberated, a typhus outbreak spread that killed thousands. Anne and her sister were likely among those victims. The only member of the family to survive was Anne’s father, Otto. He went on to publish Anne’s original diary in 1947. By 1952 it was published in the US as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, and would go on to be translated into 67 languages. In 1955, the first dramatization of the diary premiered as a Pulitzer prize-winning play. A movie version followed in 1959. The diary is still among the top-selling books of all time, and included in La Monde‘s list of the 100 greatest books of the century. It is praised for its beautiful writing, and is powerful not only for capturing some of the horrors of the Holocaust, but also for its honest portrayal of a girl’s transformation into a young adult. Nelson Mandela read the diary while imprisoned and said how Anne Frank’s story inspired his struggle. Others who derived inspiration from Anne Frank include President Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Hillary Clinton. TIME Magazine named Frank as one of its 100 most important people of the century. The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam still stands, and is one of the city’s most visited places.

Words of the Week

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

– From the diary of Anne Frank