Mark Zuckerberg is the world’s richest member of the tribe


Mark Zuckerberg is the sixth richest person in the world, and the richest Jew, after accumulating more wealth than anyone else in the past year.

Eleven of the 50 richest people in the world are Jewish, according to the 30th annual Forbes billionaires list released Tuesday. The list features five Jews in the top 15 and seven in the top 25.

Zuckerberg, 31, added $11.2 billion to his net wealth, giving him a total fortune of $44.6 billion and moving him up to No. 6 on the list from No. 16 last year. The surge sends the Facebook founder past last year’s richest Jew, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, and runner-up, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Ellison is the seventh richest person overall with a net worth of $43.6 billion, and Bloomberg is No. 8 with $40 billion. Ellison’s net worth dropped over $10 billion, from $54.2 billion last year, while Bloomberg’s wealth increased from about $35.5 billion.

Zuckerberg, who is still one of the youngest billionaires, announced last December that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, will donate 99 percent of their shares in the social media company over the course of their lifetimes.

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are Nos. 12 and 13 on the list with $35.2 billion and $34.4 billion, respectively.

Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate and influential Republican donor, saw his wealth drop to $25.2 billion from $31.4 billion last year, falling to No. 22 on the list.

Hedge fund manager George Soros ($24.9 billion), Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell ($19.8 billion), Brazilian-Jewish banker Joseph Safra ($17.2 billion), investor Carl Icahn ($17 billion) and hedge fund manager James Simons ($15.5 billion) are the other Jews in the top 50.

While Jewish women are far outnumbered by their male counterparts, several are billionaires, including Israeli businesswoman Shari Arison ($3.9 billion), Pritzker family scion Karen Pritzker ($3.8 billion), Lynn Schusterman ($3.4 billion), Joan Tisch ($3.3 billion) and Gap co-founder Doris Fisher ($2.6 billion).

Sheryl Sandberg makes the cut with a net worth of $1.2 billion. The influential Facebook COO and “Lean In” author donated about $31 million of Facebook stock to multiple charities earlier this year.

The non-Jewish Bill Gates remains at the top of the list — where he has been for the past three years, and 17 of the past 22 — with a net worth of $75 billion.

Forbes found 1,810 billionaires worldwide, down from the 1,826 a year ago.

Moving and shaking: Bet Tzedek, Beit T’Shuvah and Forbes


Halfway through Bet Tzedek’s annual dinner gala at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel on Jan. 22, Jessie Kornberg, the brand-new president and CEO of the nonprofit legal-aid organization, stepped onto the stage. As she approached the microphone, one member of Bet Tzedek’s new leadership council whispered ecstatically to a reporter:  “We love Jessie.”

Kornberg has been on the job only since December. This was her coming-out party, and she immediately owned the stage — bringing up with her about 45 of the 60 members of her staff — and as she started to speak, she spread her arms wide and announced to the 1,100-member crowd: “This is Bet Tzedek.”  Then she went on to tell of the anonymous clients whose homes the attorneys had saved, the Holocaust survivors whose legal claims they had garnered, the infirm whose care the lawyers had assured.

“You are not alone,” Kornberg told the affluent crowd, although she was actually addressing those clients whose many needs the organization sets out to alleviate. “We will fight for you,” she said. “We are the army at your back.”

First impressions are often the most lasting, and in those few words, Kornberg, with her giant smile and simple message, had the crowd in her hands and on its feet for a full minute of standing ovation. The evening raised more than $2.25 million for Bet Tzedek, including meeting the challenge, announced from the stage, of a matching gift of $250,000 from Art and Dahlia Bilger, according to David Bubis, Bet Tzedek vice president of development.

Former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was honored with the Rose L. Schiff Commitment to Justice Award for his extensive service to the community. Southern California Edison President Pedro Pizarro was awarded the Luis Lainer Founder’s Award for his longtime support of the organization. Board member and vice president of Millco Investments Samantha Millman received the Rebecca Nichols Emerging Leader Award, and Bet Tzedek attorney Erikson Albrecht was honored with the Jack H. Skirball Community Justice Award.

Also in attendance were last year’s Lainer awardee, philanthropist Stanley Gold, as well as Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles President and CEO Jay Sanderson. L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer and attorneys David Lash, Mitch Kamin and Sandy Samuels, all past Bet Tzedek presidents and CEOs, were also in attendance, along with California State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin, and law school deans Robert Rasmussen of USC and Rachel Moran of UCLA.

— Susan Freudenheim, Executive Editor


Beit T’Shuvah, a Culver City-based facility that treats patients suffering from addiction and also operates a full-service synagogue, honored Jon Esformes during Road to Redemption, the rehabilitation center’s 23rd annual gala. The Jan. 18 evening at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza drew 850 attendees and raised $1.6 million.

Esformes, who once suffered from alcoholism, was suicidal and homeless before undergoing treatment at Beit T’Shuvah, according to a Jan. 22 press release. Today, he is on the facility’s board and serves as the operating partner at Pacific Tomato Growers, a family-owned farming business in Florida that is one of the largest in the nation and that has fought to raise farmworker wages and improve farmers’ working conditions. (To learn more about Esformes’ work, watch a community screening of the film “Food Chains,” which features him, at Beit T’Shuvah on Feb. 8.)  

Above: Entertainers at Beit T’Shuvah’s gala included singer Shany Zamir and Beit T’Shuvah resident Ben Foster.

Below: Beit T’Shuvah graduates Asher and Rachel Ehrman fell in love during their treatment and are now happily married.
Photos by Justin Rosenberg, Creative Matters Agency

“He went from pushing shopping carts to filling the shopping carts of others,” Beit T’Shuvah founder and executive vice president Harriet Rossetto said of Esformes, as quoted by the press release. She leads Beit T’Shuvah with her husband, Rabbi Mark Borovitz, its head rabbi and CEO. 

The gala featured live entertainment — a musical performance by singer Shany Zamir and Beit T’Shuvah resident Ben Foster highlighted the event. Additional performers included Beit T’Shuvah Cantor Shira Fox and the Beit T’Shuvah Choir. Asher and Rachel Ehrman, who met and fell in love during their treatment and are now happily married, spoke about how Beit T’Shuvah has impacted their lives.

Co-chairs were Lise Applebaum, Meryl Kern and Janice Kamenir-Reznik


Milken Community School alums Mark Gurman (class of  2012) and Asher Vollmer (2008) were included in Forbes’ fourth annual 30 Under 30 list, which recognizes millennials making moves in consumer technology, finance, education and other fields. 

Mark Gurman, photo courtesy of Milken Community School

Already an accomplished journalist, Gurman was featured in Forbes’ crowded media section. He is currently the senior editor of 9to5Mac, one of the largest Apple product tracking sites. The 20-year-old began his ascent at the end of 2009, when he caught the eye of Seth Weintraub, the site’s founder, after locating several online references to Apple registering domains for tablet-related products and informing Apple news blogs about his discovery. This was all before the original iPad was announced and before Gurman’s junior year at Milken. Weintraub himself promptly hired Gurman as a 9to5Mac intern.

Asher Vollmer, photo courtesy of Milken Community School

Vollmer, 25, a graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Interactive Media and Games Division, made the games category. He started as the “feel” engineer, dealing with controls, character movement and camera behavior for the game development studio thatgamecompany, but left in 2012 to pursue a more independent route. Shortly thereafter, his independent development team — consisting of himself, illustrator Greg Wohlwend and composer Jimmy Hinson — created “Threes!” a puzzle game in which the player moves numbered tiles to link multiples and addends of three. When there are no moves left on the grid, the tiles are counted for a final score. Vollmer collected an Apple Design Award last year when the tech giant named “Threes!” its best iPhone game of 2014. 

Vollmer also designed “Puzzlejuice,” a Tetris-inspired puzzle game, and “Close Castles,” an IOS strategy game played on a grid map in the same vein as the board game Risk. 

— Oren Peleg, Contributing Writer

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.

Larry Ellison is world’s wealthiest Jew — again


Oracle’s Larry Ellison remains the world’s wealthiest Jew, placing fifth on Forbes magazine’s annual world billionaires list for 2014.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg (ranked at No. 21) was the “biggest dollar gainer” on the list, with his fortune jumping $15.2 billion, to $28.5 billion.

Ellison (with a net worth of $48 billion) and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson (No. 8, with $38 billion) were the only Jews in the top 10 on the list released Monday.

Eighteen Israelis (up from 17 last year) were among the 1,645 billionaires, a number that is 219 more than in 2013. In addition, several of the list’s 268 newcomers — including Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, Jan Koum of WhatsApp (which was just sold to Facebook) and sisters Aerin and Jane Lauder, heirs to the Estee Lauder cosmetics firm and daughters of World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder — are Jewish.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates topped this year’s list, with a fortune of $76 billion.

Judaism in Poland: It’s Warsaw, Jake


You would think that when the Polish edition of Forbes, the internationally respected financial magazine, publishes a front-page exposé on the disappearance of tens of millions of dollars of Holocaust restitution funds, Jews everywhere would be outraged and demand an immediate, independent investigation.

You would be wrong.

Instead, the two main institutional Jewish reactions have been: 1. Hey, it’s Poland — what can you do? And 2. Those Forbes people — what a bunch of anti-Semites.

But if you talk to committed liberal Polish Jews and their supporters about the scandal, you get a different reaction — absolute outrage. 

“The Polish Jewish community is potentially the wealthiest Jewish community in the world, per capita,” Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak told me. “But instead, there’s no money.”

Rabbi Beliak, who lives in Los Angeles, has been a key figure in supporting various streams of Judaism in Poland. 

He said the loss of funds means that the estimated 80 percent of American Jewry who trace their history to Poland will see their patrimony sold off by the very people charged with protecting it. And it means that the revival of a vibrant, living, breathing Polish Jewish community will be, if not impossible, then impossibly difficult.

Last week, Rabbi Beliak came to my office with Piotr Stasiak, chair of Beit Polska, the umbrella organization for all progressive Jewish communities in Poland.

Stasiak is a solid, middle-aged man, a physicist-turned-businessman with a heavy brow over bright blue eyes. Like many Polish Jews, he discovered his identity from parents who had long kept it hidden. Thousands of Poles share similar stories. Poland is not just, as so many Israeli and American Jews would have it, a Jewish graveyard. It is also a Jewish opportunity.

But it seems what makes being a Jew so difficult in Poland these days is other Jews.

According to the Forbes article, titled “Kaddish for a Million Bucks,” a woman named Monika Krawczyk sits at the head of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, which is charged with recovering the property of Jewish communities confiscated by Nazis and the communist regime.

Krawczyk also works for the Regulatory Commission for Jewish Communities, which distributes restitution funds. Krawczyk, Forbes said, personally benefits from the restitution decisions she makes. Forbes also accuses the president of the Union of Jewish Communities, Piotr Kadlcik, of personally taking money resulting from the sale of several Jewish communal properties.

Kadlcik controls some $310 million in communal restitution properties, Forbes reported. And where is that money? No one can say.

The Forbes story, bold as it is, is far from thorough and raises many unanswered questions.

The Polish Parliament adopted a “Restitution Law” in 1997 to return all the communal Jewish property that existed in Poland before World War II to Poland’s official Jewish community.

The World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) lent the indigent Polish community $800,000 to process the filings. In return, WJRO and WJC were meant to receive half the value of the properties recovered. 

According to Forbes, and confirmed by Stasiak, much of the money is completely unaccounted for.

“I am asking a very simple question,” Stasiak said. “Please explain to the community what happened to the money.”

If Stasiak and other Polish Jews are the victims of this scandal, its Zola is an L.A. Jew, Severyn Ashkenazy.

Ashkenazy has been the kol koreh bamidbar — the voice crying in the wilderness — for years. Tall, courtly and determined, Ashkenazy has for years maintained to Jewish leaders and journalists that something was rotten in Warsaw. 

Born in Poland, he survived much of the Holocaust by staying silent while hiding under a stranger’s floorboards. After becoming a successful businessman in Los Angeles, Ashkenazy has returned to Poland frequently over the years, almost singlehandedly founding and supporting the revival of the liberal, non-Orthodox Jewish life that flourished there before 1939. He witnessed the glorious synagogues and Jewish community centers of his past being sold off in Poland’s real estate boom, and the monies that should have been directed to all Jews disappearing into other pockets.

The Twarda, the officially recognized Orthodox community in Poland that has received the lion’s share of existing restitution funds, has called the Forbes editors anti-Semites on a witch hunt — never mind that the article was instigated, and reported, by Jews.

And in a press statement, Ronald Lauder, chairman of the New York-based WJRO, flatly repudiated Ashkenazy’s charges, and the article.

“To make it very clear,” Lauder said, “neither the WJC nor the WJRO, of which the WJC is a founding member, have ever sought or received money coming from the restitution of Jewish property in Poland, as the articles suggest.”

With all due respect to Lauder and the Polish Jewish leaders, their denials cannot be the final word. In the name of the Polish victims of the Holocaust, and on behalf of their heirs struggling to rebuild Jewish life there, and in recognition of the history and tradition so many of us share, an outside, independent forensic accounting firm must fully investigate the dispensation of every last dollar.

To read the Forbes article, visit forbes.pl.

Sara Netanyahu ranked Israel’s most powerful woman by Forbes


Sara Netanyahu was ranked Israel's most powerful woman in a list published by Forbes Israel.

Netanyahu beat out international CEOs, and politicians on the list of the Israel's 50 most powerful women, which was published earlier this week.

“Netanyahu has been placed ahead of impressive women who lead huge companies,” the magazine wrote. “While she does not decide about operations against Iran, lowering the interest rate or real estate reforms, her influence stems mainly from her involvement in the main appointments around the prime minister. Some sources interviewed by 'Forbes' say that her involvement in appointments does not stop at the prime minister's office but includes major positions in the state service. 'She is involved at all levels senior and junior,' one source said.”

She was followed by Rakefet Russak- Aminoach, CEO of Bank Leumi, at number 2; Shari Arison, head of The Arison Group, at number 3; Ofra Strauss, head of The Strauss Group, at number 4; and Karnit Flug, deputy governor of the Bank of Israel, at number 5.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was ranked at number 11; and opposition leader and head of the Labor Party Shelly Yacimovich was ranked 13.

Ellison is world’s richest Jew, new Forbes billionaire list shows


Oracle's Larry Ellison is the world's richest Jew, according to Forbes' annual world billionaires list for 2013.

Ellison was among five Jews in the top 25 on the list published Monday. Seventeen Israelis were among the record 1,426 billionaires — 200 more than in 2012.

Ellison was No. 5 overall with a net worth of $43 billion. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was No. 13 with $27 billion, followed among the Jews by casino magnate and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson at No. 15 with $26.5 billion, and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, at 20 and 21, with $23 billion and $22.8 billion.

Four of the Israelis are new to the list: tech investor Shaul Shani, with a net worth of $3 billion; diamond baron Dan Gertler, $2.2 billion; and oil prospector Tzadik Bino and pharmaceuticals investor Mori Arkin, both with $1.05 billion. Businessman Idan Ofer ranked highest of the Israelis, placing at No. 182 with $6.2 billion. Ofer's brother Eyal was four spots lower with $6 billion.

Mexico's Carlos Slim topped the list as the world’s richest person for the fourth year in a row, followed by Microsoft's Bill Gates, Spanish clothing retailer Amancio Ortega and investor Warren Buffett.

Obama first, Netanyahu 23rd on Forbes most powerful list


President Obama for the second straight year was named the world's most powerful person by Forbes magazine, which placed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 23rd on the list.

The list includes 71 individuals — one for every 100 million people on the planet.

Other notable Jews on the list included Ben Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, at No. 6; New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at 16; Google co-founder Sergey Brin, at 20; Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, at 25; and Goldman-Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, at 36.

Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, which develops and manufactures space launch vehicles, at age 41 is among the youngest on the list and appears at No. 66.

Following Obama in the top 10 are German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Russian President Vladimir Putin; Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates; Pope Benedict XVI; King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia; European Central Bank President Mario Draghi; Xi Jinping, the secretary-general of China's Communist Party; and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Iran's Grand Ayatollah Khamenei finished two slots ahead of Netanyahu.

Abramson 5th on Forbes list of powerful women


Jill Abramson, the executive editor of The New York Times and first woman to lead the paper, was named the fifth most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine.

Abramson was ahead of first lady Michelle Obama, who was ranked seventh, and below philanthropist Melinda Gates and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the 2012 World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list released Wednesday.

Several other Jewish businesswomen also joined the list including Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, at 10; CEO and chairman of Kraft Foods Inc. Irene Rosenfeld, at 13, down from number 2 last year; senior vice president of Google Susan Wojcicki at 25; and CEO of the Home Shopping Network Mindy Grossman at 96.

[Related: Jill Abramson, world’s most powerful Jewish woman?]

Fashion designer Diana Von Furstenburg made the list at 33 along with Anna Wintour, the editor in chief of Vogue, who came in at 51.

Other Jewish women on the list include: Chairman of Sony Pictures Amy Pascal, at 36; Oracle CFO Safra Katz, at 48; heiress, businesswoman and philanthropist Shari Arison at 65; U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Schapiro at 65, down from 17 last year; Cable TV executive Bonnie Hammer at 73; and Rockefeller Foundation head Judith Rudin at 98.

Oracle’s Ellison top Jewish billionaire on Forbes list


Oracle founder Larry Ellison is top ranked among Jewish individuals, appearing sixth on the Forbes magazine’s annual list of world billionaires, with $36 billion.

Ellison held the same ranking last year, but with $28 billion.

Casino and hotel magnate Sheldon Adelson, with $24.9 billion, moved up to No. 14 from 78. Adelson and his family have donated at least $20 million to a Super PAC supporting GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. Adelson also is a major giver to Birthright Israel.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the next Jewish person, at No. 20, with $22 billion — like Ellison, $8 billion richer than last year — followed by George Soros at 22nd, up from No. 35 with $20 billion.

Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were tied for No. 24, with $18.7 billion each.

Other Jews to make the top 100 included Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, at No. 35 with $15.5 billion; Brazilian banking and investment mogul Joseph Safra, at No. 52 with $13.8 billion; Russian steel magnate Roman Abramovich, at No. 68 with $12.1 billion; and U.S. businessman Ronald Perelman, at No. 69 with $12 billion.

Thirteen Israelis made the list, down from 16 last year. Eyal and Idan Ofer became the two newest Israelis on the list, inheriting their fortunes from their father, shipping magnate Sammy Ofer, Israel’s richest man, who died last June after coming in at No. 79 last year with $10.3 billion. Idan Ofer entered the list at No. 161, with $6.2 billion; and Eyal Ofer was No. 173, with $5.8 billion.

Carnival Cruise CEO Micky Arison dropped from No. 62 to No. 223, with $4.7 billion, just months after one of his cruise ships sank near Italy.

Mexican telecom businessman Carlos Slim Helu and his family topped the list, with $69 billion.

Jewish CEO second on Forbes list of powerful women


A Jewish CEO was named the second most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine.

Several other Jewish women also joined Irene Rosenfeld, CEO and chairman of Kraft Foods Inc., on the 2010 World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list released Wednesday.

Rosenfeld was second to U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and ahead of Oprah Winfrey. Rosenfeld in 2009 earned the second highest salary for women in the United States at $26.3 million.

Mary Schapiro, chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, was 17th on the list. U.S. Supreme Court Justices Elana Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were No. 25 and 31, respectively.

Other Jewish women on the list: actress and fashion designer Sarah Jessica Parker (45); personal finance expert Suze Orman (61); Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg (66); and fashion designer Donna Karan (96).