‘Repairing the World,’ Physically and Spiritually

Jewish Billionaire Jeff Swartz’s uncompromising ethics and attachment to Torah set him apart from most of America’s jet set.Jewish Tycoon Jeff Swartz Advocates Strong Corporate Ethics, Makes Time for Torah Study

Even though Jews comprise a mere two percent of the U.S. population, it appears that they represent 48 percent of American billionaires, and are widely seen, for better or for worse, as the most powerful and influential ethnic group in the United States. Some pertinent facts and figures:
18% of Jewish households have a net worth of $1 million or more.

More than 55% of all Jewish adults are college graduates, and 25% possess a post-graduate degree.

More than 60% of all employed Jews are in one of the three highest status job categories: professional or technical (41%), management and executive (13%) and business and finance (7%). 

Over 45% of large gifts made to charity are made by Jewish Americans. Over 50% of Jewish Americans live in just four states: New York, New Jersey, Florida and California.

Topping off the list of American Jewish billionaires are co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corporation, Lawrence Ellison with a net worth of $25 billion; casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, with a net worth of $20.5 billion; co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin, with a net worth of $18.7 billion; co-founder of Google, Larry Page, with a net worth of $18.6 billion; computer mogul Michael Dell with a net worth of $17.5 billion; CEO of Microsoft, Steven Ballmer with a net worth of $15.2 billion, business personality Carl Icahn with a net worth of $14.5 billion; New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg with a net worth of $11.5 billion; and controversial hedge fund manager, George Soros with a net worth of $9 billion.

No doubt these mega-moguls are prodigious businessmen who have devoted their lives to climbing the corporate ladder, yet amongst those not listed above is Jeff Swartz, the former owner of the Timberland, LCC, the US-based global manufacturer and retailer of rugged outdoor wear with a focus on footwear, such as cutting edge hiking boots and mountaineering gear.

Founded in 1953 by Jeff’s grandfather, Nathan Swartz, the New England company was recently sold for $2 billion to VF Corp which is one of the world’s largest clothing and shoe companies. Its brands include The North Face, Vans, Wrangler and JanSport. The hallmark of the Timberland Company has always been its well-known commitment to environmental responsibility and social justice and Jeff Swartz has established a reputation as perhaps the most passionate advocate in corporate America for the idea that companies have a moral obligation not only to generate wealth for shareholders but to do good for the world.

With that in mind, Swartz has blazed a unique path for himself in the rarified confines of the billionaire sphere. A humble and affable man who steers clear of the glitz and glamour that normally accompanies someone of his stature, Swartz, an observant Jew, sports a yarmulke, learns Torah and dedicates his time to “tikkun olam”, making this world a better place. He divides his time between homes in Boston and Jerusalem and rises every morning at 4 AM to engage in his Torah studies.

According to a recent report in Haaretz, Swartz has asserted that the most efficacious way to foment social change is by way of “a targeted conversation aimed at the CEO that makes him or her a little uncomfortable, but that is done in a way that allows there to be some middle ground for a conversation, that says, we will negotiate solutions. The problem solvers will not be from the left or from the right. They will be in the middle. Politically, militarily, socially.”

Clearly, Swartz’s personal credos have paid off. In 2007, a CNN Money report listed Timberland as the 78th best employer in the United States, among the “100 best companies to work for” list.

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