Tag Archives: Washington D.C.

Jews of the Week: Irene and Abe Pollin

The Couple that Brought Sports to Washington, D.C.and Saved Lives

Irene Sue Kerchek (1924-2020) was born in St. Louis, Missouri. She met her future husband Abraham “Abe” Pollin (1923-2009) when she was just 17. The couple married and settled in Washington, D.C. Abe worked for his father’s construction company before he and Irene started their own business in 1957. Together, they built a prosperous real estate empire, raising up both affordable and subsidized housing projects as well as luxury properties. The Pollins went on to found and own the NBA’s Washington Wizards team, the NHL’s Washington Capitals, and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, working hard to bring those three clubs to the city. They also built the Capital Center and what is now Capital One Arena (formerly the Verizon Center), and were credited with reviving Washington’s downtown core. In 1963, the Pollins lost their teenage daughter to heart disease, and Irene lost both of her parents to heart disease that same year. She fell into deep depression and, when nothing seemed to help her, decided to go study psychology and social work herself. She went back to university and earned two degrees. Pollin opened two pioneering therapy clinics, and wrote two acclaimed books on mental illness and counseling. Her greatest mission in life, however, was to combat heart disease. In 2008, she donated $12 million to Brigham and Women’s Hospital (of Harvard) to establish a heart wellness program. In 2012, she donated $10 million to Hadassah Medical Center in Israel to create a heart health institute, and another $10 million to do the same at Johns Hopkins University. The following year, she gave another $10 million to establish one more heart health centre in Los Angeles. After discovering that more women died from heart disease than from breast cancer, Pollin started a number of organizations to increase awareness of female heart disease and to get more women screened on time. The most famous of these organizations is Sister to Sister: The Women’s Heart Health Foundation. Through their efforts, and the screening clinics they set up across America, the lives of countless women have been saved. The Pollins were generous philanthropists and gave millions more to many other causes, including Washington’s Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, the National Symphony, and research into brain disease, which ultimately took the life of Abe Pollin. The Pollins had a summer house in Rehovot, Israel, and were close friends of Yitzhak Rabin. It was Rabin’s assassination in 1995 that was the major reason why they renamed their Washington Bullets basketball team to the Washington Wizards (the new name was selected in a public contest). Irene Pollin also sat on the National Cancer Advisory Board, to which she was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1986, while Abe Pollin was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame as the longest-serving owner of an NBA franchise (46 years). Sadly, Irene Pollin passed away last month at the age of 96.

Words of the Week

If you were born with a healthy heart, keep it that way.
– Irene Pollin

Jew of the Week: Bernard Baruch

Bernard Baruch

Bernard Baruch

Bernard Mannes Baruch (1870-1965) was born in South Carolina to German-Jewish immigrants. His father was a doctor specializing in hydrotherapy and appendectomies, and a key military surgeon in the Civil War. The family moved to New York City, where Baruch first worked as an office boy for $3 a week. After college, he became a stock broker and made a fortune trading sugar (though he would lose and regain his fortune several times). By 30, he was among the most successful financiers of all time, nicknamed “The Lone Wolf of Wall Street” as he worked independently and resisted joining a financial house. In 1916, Baruch left finance and became an adviser to President Woodrow Wilson. He was soon the chairman of the War Industries Board and managed America’s economic mobilization for World War I. At the end of the war, Baruch attended the Paris Peace Conference and was a central supporter of the League of Nations (the precursor of the UN). Baruch continued to advice future presidents, including Roosevelt, whom he helped to create the National Recovery Administration for fair business, industry and labour practices. After World War II, Baruch worked at the UN, particularly to stem nuclear arms proliferation. He would be sought as an adviser until the last days of his life, counselling a total of nine American presidents. He was famous for discussing global issues and politics while sitting on public benches in Central Park (in NYC) and Lafayette Park (in Washington, DC) and was thus called the “Park Bench Statesman”. Baruch was also a noted philanthropist throughout his life, contributing millions to charities and colleges. Click here to learn a few investment tips from Bernard Baruch.

 

Words of the Week

There are free men with the spirit of a slave, and slaves whose spirit is full of freedom. He who is true to his inner self is a free man, while he whose entire life is merely a stage for what is good and beautiful in the eyes of others, is a slave.
Rabbi Avraham Itzhak Kook

Jew of the Week: Charles Lazarus

Toys “R” Us!

Charles Lazarus and the original Children’s Supermarket

Charles P. Lazarus (b. 1923) was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up working in his father’s bicycle shop. After returning from combat in World War II, he opened his first business, a baby furniture store called ‘Children’s Bargain Town’. In 1950, Lazarus responded to customer requests and began selling baby toys in his store. He quickly realized that toys are a much better business than furniture, as they break often, get boring quickly, and parents are always looking for new gifts for their kids. Lazarus had a vision of toys becoming an everyday commodity, as opposed to a seasonal item. He decided to try a new store concept, modelling on the self-serve grocery stores that were becoming very popular at the time. Thus, Lazarus opened the first ‘Children’s Supermarket’, which still stands today in Washington. His motto: “Give the customer what they want.” In 1957, as business boomed, Lazarus opened a second store, calling it ‘Toys “R” Us’. The chain has since expanded to over 1,600 locations around the world, employing over 100,000 people, and becoming one of the most recognizable brands globally. Lazarus personally oversaw the bulk of this growth, running his company for 46 years before stepping down as CEO and Chairman in 1994. The company continues to give back to the community with its Children’s Fund donating millions of dollars to countless children’s programs. Recently, Toys “R” Us began to cover the roof of its distribution centre with solar panels, creating a 5.4 megawatt, clean energy generator – the largest such project in North America.

Words of the Week

There is no such country as Palestine. ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. ‘Palestine’ is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it.
Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937