Jewish people are world-class entrepreneurs and also intellectuals like Albert Einstein. What are their success secrets, considering that for 2,000 years they have been one of the persecuted minorities worldwide?
(Photo below of the world's most famous scientific genius who was offered the presidency of Israel, German Jew Albert Einstein)
Among the world’s top Jewish billionaires are Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with his former Harvard schoolmates and Facebook co-founders Dustin Moskovitz and Brazilian-Jewish Eduardo Saverin. Google, Inc. was also founded by young Jewish innovators Sergey Brin and Larry Page, each with $18.7 billion in personal wealth.
(Photo below of Google co-founder Sergey Brin)
We in the Philippines should have invited two famous Jewish casino billionaires in Macau and Las Vegas to invest in PAGCOR City — Sheldon Adelson of the Sands (net worth $24.9 billion) and rival Steve Wynn. Adelson has donated over $100 million to Birthright Israel, a non-profit that finances diaspora Jewish youths’ heritage trips to Israel.
(Photo below of Sands casino tycoon and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson)
(Photo below of Las Vegas casino tycoon Steve Wynn)
Other Jewish billionaires include World Jewish Congress (WJC) president and Neue Galerie New York art museum founder Ronald Lauder of the Estee Lauder cosmetics empire; former WJC president Edgar Bronfman Jr.; Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison (net worth $36 billion); New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($22 billion); George Soros ($20 billion); computer mogul Michael Dell ($16.5 billion); Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer ($15.7 billion); Carl Icahn ($14 billion); Brazilian-Jewish banker Joseph Safra ($13.8 billion); Russian-Jewish Roman Abramovich ($12.1 billion); Lev Blavatnikm ($11.9 billion); fashion tycoon Ralph Lauren ($7.5 billion); plus many others.
(Photo below of Ronald Lauder)
(Photo below of Oracle founder Larry Ellison)
(Photo below of self-made billionaire and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg)
(Activist self-made billionaire George Soros is a Holocaust survivor)
(Photo below of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer)
(Photo below of Carl Icahn)
(Photo below of Brazilian banker Joseph Safra)
(Photo of Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich)
(Photo below of Lev Blavatnikm)
(Photo below of fashion tycoon Ralph Lauren)
Thanks to the Ramos family of Powerbooks, National Book Store and also to the Embassy of Israel for arranging an exclusive Philippine STAR interview with memory guru and Where Did Noah Park the Ark? book author Eran Katz. A lot of his amazing memory-enhancing techniques from ancient Jewish traditions are detailed in the book.
Excerpts from the interview:
PHILIPPINE STAR: Why are Jews good with memory and reputed to have the best intellect in the West, and with so many Nobel Prize winners?
ERAN KATZ: Jews in the world total only some 13.5 million, or less than the population of Metro Manila. About 5.7 million Jews live in Israel, and the rest are scattered as minorities worldwide. Jews are only 0.02 percent of the world’s population but 35 percent of all Nobel Prize winners.
The Jewish people have to remember, it is a commandment from God. One of the most important factors to a better memory is motivation, and a commandment from God is the greatest motivation for religious people like Jews through the centuries. What can the rest of the world learn from this? If we use motivation, we can improve our memory.
(A menorah, sacred Jewish symbol which means "Israel is a light unto nations")
(The flag of Israel, a country which is a bastion of dynamic democracy and economic progress in the Middle East)
Can you cite examples of this motivation factor and memory?
Whenever I talk in seminars and challenge students or people to memorize a number with 20 to 30 digits, people will say, “I will never remember,” but if I give you $1 million to do it, then you will. Now you have a better motivation.
In religious Hasidic schools in Israel, they give kids who are 5, 6 or 7 years old chocolates if they memorize well. In the Hasidic schools, there is also the custom of matchmaking and schools are segregated to exclusive boys’ or girls’ schools. Professional matchmakers choose spouses based on brains, so if you’re the smartest, a young man is matched to the most beautiful daughter of the richest family. Isn’t that a great motivation?
My newest book, which will come out late this year, is entitled Five Missions for the Mind: Gifts from an Asian Student. It will discuss Asian ideas like how Korean Buddhist Chan masters can help erase memories, also Chinese persuasion skills.
In business or sales, the average success rate to persuade others on a deal is one out of 10 attempts; with this new book I’m helping readers bring it to nine out of 10. This is based on what the Chinese and the old Jews have in common — the biggest success secret is respect for time, meaning patience.
I heard in your recent lecture that 83-year-old former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos sat in the front row. Other old people like 88-year-old Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and 83-year-old Justice Serafin Cuevas are still sharp; why do you think they’re like that?
Mrs. Marcos came to me after my lecture and said, “You gave one very good tip on enhancing memory that I like, which is being enthusiastic about what you’re doing in your life, that’s the key to good memory and a good life.”
I think Imelda, the Senate President and the Justice should be inspirations for older people.
Many old people start losing their memory not because of biological reasons, but because of mental reasons.
They say, “My life is over, why make efforts to remember and learn new things?” Look at our Israel President Shimon Peres, 87 years old and still a remarkable leader.
I remember my grandmother — she was 75 years old when she went to the retirement home. The moment she entered, she began losing her memory. But if you’re like Imelda, Shimon Peres, Enrile or Cuevas, and like professors at old age who still want to contribute, teach and learn, then your brain will be sharp.
Where were your parents from? Was persecution a factor in Jewish success?
My grandfather and father were from Prague (in what is now the Czech Republic). My mother’s family was from Romania in the Transylvania region, so maybe Dracula was a relative (laughs).
(Photo below of Prague City)
(Photo below of Transylvania, Europe)
I think the success of the Jews was not just due to good memory, I believe it also has to do with being a persecuted minority. Why? It’s the survival instinct, because you have to think two, three and more times better than the locals. Because you’re not equal, so you must try harder.
By the way, how are you as part of the ethnic Chinese minority with regards to the Philippine-China conflict over the islands? Who will you side with?
Our family has been here for over 200 years. China is like our mother and the Philippines like our wife; in-laws often have quarrels, we shouldn’t take any sides but work to patch things up and help lessen misunderstandings.
Have you heard of Eli Cohen, he was an Egyptian Jew who loved Egypt and also never forgot his Israel roots, but many in their Jewish minority fled when both countries had wars. Here, in over 1,000 years of Philippine-China relations, there have been no wars between the two countries; in fact, local Chinese even fought alongside Filipinos in World War II against the Japanese invaders.
Not only do I know Eli Cohen, he died on May 18, 1965 at, I think, 4 a.m. in the morning. I was born two hours later, so I always said I must be somehow related.
(Images of the Israeli hero Eli Cohen)
What are other Jewish cultural reasons for your exceptional successes?
Another reason for success is the way Jews learn, like the method of deliberation, it’s question-and-answer style. Even in studying the Talmud, nothing is taken for granted. In Judaism, you are allowed to challenge your teachers.
According to Socrates and the Jews, knowledge is developed and accumulated not if the teacher taught you something, but when you make the conclusion yourself, then you will remember it better.
Any other tips on how people can improve their memory?
Unlike what most people mistakenly think, memory champions like myself who made it to the Guinness Book of World Records, we were not born this way, but we practice many hours on memory stunts.
Actually, I’ll break a myth about the prodigy, the so-called “photographic memory” of people looking at one page and memorizing everything; that never happened, it never was. The encouraging thing is that each and every one of us has the power to improve our memory.
Enhancing our memory is a skill like playing basketball, like singing, and in the same way, you can also improve your memory with practice and motivation. We humans usually only utilize 10 percent of our brainpower throughout our lifetime, and we can really improve more.