Five Proud 20th Century Jews Who Changed the World

July 25, 2013 12:01 am 16 comments

20th Century Proud Jews Who Changed the World: Albert Einstein. Photo: Wiki Commons.

The Jewish people have had such a positive effect on the world – so many heroes and so many great contributions in so many arenas. While there are a lot of high-profile, successful Jews, as a proud Jew myself who owns a PR firm, I wanted to share my list of some Jewish heroes and role models. This list highlights Jews whose Judaism and love for Am Israel (the nation of Israel) encompassed them and occupied a central role in their lives as they changed the world for the better.

With no further ado, here is my list of five 20th Century Proud Jews Who Changed the World:

Albert Einstein: Time Magazine’s “Person of The Century” developed the general theory of relativity. Thanks to his brilliance, the television was developed, remote controls, lasers, DVD-players, and so much more. The man was a proud Jew, and a Zionist who was devoted to making the world a better place. Einstein said “my relationship to the Jewish people has become my strongest human bond, ever since I became fully aware of our precarious situation among the nations of the world.” To this day, any purchase of any product with Einstein’s name or image on it results in proceeds going to The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  The man in life and work was an inspiration.  His name has become synonymous with genius.

20th Century Proud Jews Who Changed the World - Marc Chagall. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Marc Chagall: One of the most successful artists of the 20th Century, he is undoubtedly the most famous Jewish artist ever. His work so richly and vividly defines the Jewish experience. He depicted so many Jewish events with such beauty, and changed the world with his work, which circled around his heritage. His works sometimes depicted Torah (Bible) portions, and they are on display worldwide – from the halls of the Knesset to the Lincoln Center to the South of France. Pablo Picasso once said, “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is.” Art has such a strong impact upon this world, and the proud Jewish artist Marc (Moshe) Chagall indeed helped make this world a better place.

20th Century Proud Jews Who Changed the World - Elie Wiesel. Photo: David Shankbone.

Elie Wiesel: Wiesel has told the story of the Holocaust, and kept the story alive so we never forget the horrors that were perpetuated upon our people. We may never understand the depth of the destruction and pain done to the Jewish people – and the world – but Wiesel has told the stories so we remember them. As he says, “I have tried to keep memory alive. I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are all accomplices.” He also said, “To be Jewish today is to recognize that every person is created in the image of God and that our purpose in living is to be a reminder of God…” The man has contributed so much to the world.

20th Century Proud Jews Who Changed the World - Menachem Schneerson. Photo: Mordecai Baron.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson: The leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement built the largest Jewish organization in the world. He was a pioneer of Jewish outreach and spread positive Judaism to all ends of the Earth. He reached out to Jews of all backgrounds and had tremendous influence and impact. The man simply spread Judaism and a love for yiddishkeit (Jewishness) further and further afield. As it is said, Coca-Cola and Chabad are everywhere in the world.

20th Century Proud Jews Who Changed the World - Ze'ev Jabotinsky. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Ze’ev Jabotinsky: One of the founders of modern-day Zionism, the Jewish Garibaldi founded the modern day Jewish self-defense movement. His political philosophy has been the guiding force behind many of Israel’s political leaders of the last 35 years (Menachem Begin, Yitzchak Shamir, Benjamin Netanyahu), and he reminded Jews of the importance of unity and protecting one’s people.  This week marks the 74th year of his passing, yet the words of Ze’ev Jabotinsky remain vibrant and relevant for the Jewish people even today.

And some honorable mentions:

The holy soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces who protect our people and our nation. The leaders of Israel, including Menachem Begin, Golda Meir, and others. The father of modern day Zionism, Theodore Herzl. Anne Frank, whose stories from the Holocaust show how strong the human spirit is, and remind us of the Jews we lost. Natan Sharansky, whose strength and opposition to Russian brutality inspired Russian Jews who have changed the Jewish experience. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach who taught the Jewish people of the beauty of Jewish song, and whose tunes of love for G-d are sung at synagogues worldwide.  The Chofetz Chaim, whose books remind us that Jewish law is a real, living, breathing organism by which to live our lives.

Jewish mothers and fathers worldwide who keep our tradition going. My mother (Z’L), Penny Waga who will always be my hero.

We only live in this world once.  Let us do all we can – as proud Jews and human beings – to make the world a better place.

Ronn Torossian lives in New York City with his family. He established the Ronn Torossian Family Foundation as a non-profit organization through which he conducts philanthropy, and is an active board member of a number of charities.

16 Comments

  • Wonderful list. I would add every single one of the martyrs and survivors of the Holocaust, every soldier of the IDF, and Jewish educators all over the world.
    Thank you to Ronn Torossian for compiling this wonderful and inspirational list.

  • Einstein: BAM!
    Chagall: Seriously? In the Age of Duchamp?
    Wiesel: No creds. Why so silent in the face of Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people?
    Schneerson: Who?
    Jabotinsky: BAM!

  • Awesome list, couldn’t agree more with the selections. You mentioned Anne Frank and Golda Meir, who have shown the world what is excellence of character and sharpness of mind and who will certainly prove to be inspirations and role models of courage and wisdom for generations. If I may there are at least three other women who merit a mention on your list.

    Donna Garcia Mendes- 15th century; head of a banking empire in Belgium, eventually moved her family and wealth into the Ottoman empire, organized a citywide boycott in Ancona after dozens of Jews were burned at the stake.

    Glückel of Hameln- 17-18th cent.; business woman and diarist, for centuries providing scholars with accurate depictions of Jewish life of the time, had 14 children, 12 of whom were married into the most prominent families in Europe.

    and who could forget Barbara Streisand, especially in her endearing and heart wrenching performance of Yentl?, her humor and warmth coupled with the elegance she brings to everything can really be identified as the epitome of the Jewish woman.

  • Great article! Einstein was also the first head of the World Union of Jewish Students, and Jabotinsky was a Russian-Jew from Odessa. :)

  • Ronn, in highlighting for us the achievements of these great men at the close of a century, you remind us that someday not too distant from today someone, perhaps our own children, perhaps the world, will look upon our actions and judge our own contribution(s) to mankind. Your words are an inspiration to us all to always strive to maximize each moment of our short existence to make the greatest positive impact that we can. Well done!

    • Dovid Goldshteyn

      “Certainly a world without the Jews would have been a radically different place” Paul Johnson A History of the Jews. Thank you Ron for focusing our attention on what proud Jews are capable of.

      Dovid G.

  • Einstein had the soul of Esau/Edom; he was a descendant of Edomite converts, a Jewish dissembler by confession; not by blood! As our sages put it: “Grant not to (his soul) Esau, the wicked, the desire of his heart; for should they but go forth they would destroy the whole world.” (Megilah 6a). Einstein’s imagination caused great damage and his soul had the potential to destroy the world!

  • Einstein had the soul of Esau/Edom; he was a descendant of Edomite converts, a Jewish dissembler by confession; not by blood! As our sages put it: “Grant not to (his soul) Esau, the wicked, the desire of his heart; for should they but go forth they would destroy the whole world.” (Megilah 6a) Einstein’s imagination caused great damage and his soul had the potential to the world!

  • How about Sasha Borat Cohen who showed the world not to throw Jews down the well? Or how about the esteemed Yitzhcak rabin

  • Ronn, Great article and food for thought as always! It’s so easy to allow for life to just pass by and for real meaning to slip away. I think anyone who dedicates themselves to doing good and to strengthening the Jewish people is a hero!

  • Hannah Senesh would have been on my list as would have David Ben-Gurion.

  • For years the Coca-Cola slogan was IT’S THE REAL THING. So when we speak about what Chabad and Coca-Cola have in common – we say that they are both found all over the world and they are THE REAL THING.

  • 1 – Jesus
    2 – Freud
    3 – Einstein
    4 – Schneerson
    5 – Herzl

  • 1- EINSTEIN

    2- JABOTINSKY

    3- FREUD

    4- MAHLER

    5- BERNSTEIN

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.