Creating a successful business takes more than a soaring vision and superhero chutzpah in the face of risk. For this reason, young entrepreneurs often find empowerment by following in the footsteps of successful business leaders. Jewish entrepreneurs likewise seek greater business growth through the examples and mentorship of market mavens who view success through a shared lens of faith and passion for Jewish principles. By exploring Jewish entrepreneurship and Jewish entrepreneurs, we can better appreciate how faith often informs lifestyles, business practices and entrepreneurial success.
Read on to learn more about the foundational differences in entrepreneurship versus Jewish entrepreneurship. Consider the lives of celebrated Jewish entrepreneurs upholding Jewish principles to achieve their inspirational visions.
Defining Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs are major players in any economy, anticipating needs and bringing visions of new ideas to profitable fruition. Typically recognized as innovative risk-takers, entrepreneurs create new products, services, practices and/or businesses. Entrepreneurship is the process of setting up a business to achieve envisioned profit, using all the entrepreneur's skills and initiative necessary for a new idea to succeed.1
Joseph Schumpeter, Frank Knight, and Israel Kirzner, three prominent thinkers of the mid-20th century, are collectively responsible for instituting the notion of entrepreneurship.
Before their contributions became widely known, formal economic models did not include such components as idea-discovery and risk-taking. However, Schumpeter recognized that an entrepreneur, not a company, discovers new and profitable ideas. Knight identified the entrepreneur's role in bearing financial risks of market uncertainty, and Kirzner formalized entrepreneurship as an actual process of discovering new profitable ideas.1
Exploring Jewish Entrepreneurship
Jewish entrepreneurship implies the incorporation of Jewish religious principles into the process of discovering and bringing profitable new ideas to market. Expounding on relevant Torah verses, the 12th-century Jewish legalist and philosopher Maimonides is often credited with the wide-scale adoption of ethical business practices among Jewish businesspeople.2,3
For example, the Jewish exposition of Biblical mandates for accurate weights and measures implies a requirement for periodic self-inspection and independent inspection by appointed officials. The Torah verses prohibiting lying and ona'ah (oppression) likewise necessitate prohibiting deceptive business practices, such as misleading or false packaging and labeling, monetary deception, price-fixing outside fair market prices, and even verbal deception between sellers and buyers.2
Additionally, Talmudic regulation stipulates that Jewish business practices are bound not only by Jewish law but also by the "law of the land." This applies to paying taxes honestly and fairly, as well as providing safe working conditions, fair wages and other employer-employee considerations. Faithful Jewish entrepreneurs embrace a higher standard of ethical entrepreneurship not for their sake alone, but for the sake of serving God and sustaining the Jewish faith.2,4
Visionary Jewish Entrepreneurs
Setting the gold standard for Jewish and non-Jewish entrepreneurs alike, the following list of visionary Jewish entrepreneurs highlights some spectacular examples of Jewish entrepreneurship empowered by Jewish faith and principles:
Billionaire Israeli-American businesswoman and Jewish entrepreneur Shari Arison is perhaps best known as Israel's richest woman and the owner of Carnival Cruise Lines. Arison also owns 16% of Hapoalim, which is Israel's largest bank. In 1981, she founded the Ted Arison Family Foundation, establishing visionary philanthropic ventures promoting Shari's signature Doing Good model for incorporating social entrepreneurship into business practices in Israel and worldwide. She has also invested in multiple, diverse real estate projects, including thermo-solar power plants at Ashalim in the Negev and a desalination plant in Hadera, Israel.5,6
Michael Rubens Bloomberg
An American Jewish entrepreneur, businessman, philanthropist, author and politician, Bloomberg served as New York City's mayor from 2002 to 2013. He was also a Democratic candidate for U.S. President in 2020. With a net worth of about $82 billion, Bloomberg's visionary innovations in business, government and philanthropy define him as a global leader on public health, education, climate change and other crucial issues. In 2014, Bloomberg was awarded the first annual Genesis Prize, which is presented to Jewish people who have achieved significant professional success, in recognition of their accomplishments, contributions to humanity and commitment to Jewish values. He donated the $1 million prize money to a global competition, awarding $100,000 each to 10 entrepreneurs aged 20-36 with the best ideas for improving the world based on Jewish values.7,8
A Jewish entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist, film producer and co-founder of KPJR Films, Pritzker is one of 11 billionaire heirs to the Pritzker family fortune, originating with her grandfather, Abram Nicholas Pritzker, who built the industrial conglomerate Marmon and Hyatt Hotels. The Pritzkers are among the 10 wealthiest families in the U.S., supporting diverse philanthropic causes such as Jewish charities and education programs in the Chicago area. As founder and president of The Seedlings Foundation since 2002, Karen has overseen millions of dollars awarded in grants supporting the physical and mental health of children and families, catalyzing progress in social services, medical research, affordable housing, and online news sites dedicated to combating false advertising. In 2007, Karen Pritzker donated $1 million for a new visitor center at the Treblinka concentration camp in Poland. Her documentary films are highly regarded for increasing community awareness, creating educational initiatives and sparking global movements for social change.9,10,11
Steven Spielberg, Jeffery Katzenberg and David Geffen
This power team of Jewish entrepreneurs founded DreamWorks Animation in 1994. Currently worth about $3.46 billion, the iconic American animation studio makes family-friendly movies featuring family-friendly characters and wholesome ethical lessons. The trio keeps DreamWorks closely aligned with Jewish principles by giving back to the community and offering education, employment and mentoring programs at every career level. Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen also created the DreamWorks Foundation, further supporting social responsibility through diversity, inclusion and equity for all people via school, art and animation initiatives.12,13,14
Achieve Your Vision
Envision yourself as a successful Jewish entrepreneur. The Online MBA program from Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business can empower your vision and fuel your success. With strong connections throughout New York City and Israel, the Sy Syms faculty nurtures exciting networks of successful students, alumni, businesses, mentors and government officials supporting sustainable, responsible Jewish entrepreneurship.
Our Online MBA curriculum fosters a big-picture growth mindset aligned with a passion for Jewish principles and practices. You’ll gain strategic data-driven skills and world-class hands-on experience, empowering you to thrive and overcome any challenge in the ever-changing business landscape. Embrace your opportunity. Reach out to an Admissions Advisor to get started today.
1. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from investopedia.com/terms/e/entrepreneur.asp
2. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from myjewishlearning.com/article/jewish-business-ethics-in-practice/
3. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from atlantajewishtimes.com/business-principles-embedded-in-jewish-law
4. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0276146701211007
5. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from forbes.com/profile/shari-arison/?sh=48fbb7d34366
6. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from arisonfoundation.com/en/about/
7. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from mikebloomberg.com/about/
8. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from jewishvirtuallibrary.org/views-on-israel-of-u-s-presidential-candidates-2020-michael-bloomberg
9. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from forbes.com/profile/karen-pritzker/?sh=70ca8a3b39ef
10. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from forward.com/culture/208841/where-the-pritzker-money-goes/
11. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from kpjrfilms.co/resilience/filmmakers/karen-pritzker/
12. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from greyjournal.net/hustle/inspire/jewish-american-entrepreneurs-that-have-changed-the-game/
13. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from dreamworks.com/culture
14. Retrieved on April 15, 2022, from forbes.com/sites/natalierobehmed/2016/04/28/comcast-to-buy-dreamworks-animation-for-3-8-billion/?sh=2c002db42956