Money Matters

What money lessons can we learn from the Jews?

/ 12:01 AM May 28, 2014

Q: I often hear that Jews are very good in business. I am not religious, but I have always admired the Jews for their passion to succeed. I wonder if there is any difference in the way they handle their money compared to others. Do you have any insights to share?—Beni F. by e-mail

While there are certainly a lot of things that we can learn from the Jewish people, I personally believe that everyone has the ability to succeed in life regardless of race and nationality.


Becoming successful financially, whether in business or career, is not about becoming somebody else, but learning how to be yourself.

Learning and understanding other people’s culture and behavior is one way to improve yourself.


In my recent visit to Tel Aviv University in Israel, I saw how disciplined and passionate the Jewish people are about innovating and starting up a business. I met a number of MBA students from the University’s accelerator program who pitched and demonstrated to me their business ideas that were all great and promising. The university is just one of the growing community of startups in Israel, and innovation of new products and services is very much part of their entrepreneurial culture.

This is the same creative culture that shaped many successful Jewish startups into multibillion enterprises such as Facebook, Google, Viber, Whatsapp and Waze. It is no wonder that Israel is known as the Start-up Nation because it has the second largest community of technology companies in the world, second only to United States.

The Jewish people are not only successful in high tech entrepreneurship but also in other fields.

For example, most of the well-known garment brands today are owned by Jews such as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Liz Claiborne, Donna Karan, Kenneth Cole, Marc Jacobs, and Guess. Other popular consumer brands such as Levi’s, Haggen Dazs, Starbucks, Mattel and even big Hollywood outfits such as MGM, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Columbia, Warner Brothers and Universal Studios  are all founded by Jewish entrepreneurs.

The recent Forbes ranking of the world’s top billionaires reveals that about 12 percent of them are Jews. Among the richest Jews on the list are Larry Ellison of Oracle, Michael Bloomberg of Bloomberg LP Media, Paul Allen of Microsoft, Michael Dell of Dell Computer, Mark Cuban of Dallas Mavericks, Steven Spielberg, Carl Icahn and George Soros.

How can a tiny minority like the Jewish people who represent less than 1 percent of the world’s population can be disproportionately so successful financially?  What are their values? What valuable business lessons can we learn from them?

According to Steven Silbiger, best-selling author of the book “The Jewish Phenomenon: 7 Keys to the Enduring Wealth of a People”, the Jews are highly motivated to excel in everything they do because they have that strong drive to prove something. They want to prove to themselves, their families and the world that things could change for the better despite the long history of persecution against them.


Have you ever felt looked down upon by your friends or relatives because you are not rich? How do you feel about being psychologically set apart because you do not belong to them? We can learn from the Jews that instead of getting angry at yourself or your family, you can turn that pain into your strength by becoming more driven in your endeavor so that someday you can prove to everyone that you can succeed, too.

When you are driven to achieve something, you need to set your long-term goal and find ways to reach it. One way to prepare yourself is to invest in education. If you feel that you are not earning enough, maybe it is time to learn some new skills to increase your earning capacity. If you think that you need to learn how to invest and grow your money, enroll yourself in a personal financial planning course.

According to Silbiger, Jews have high regard for education. Gaining knowledge for knowledge’s sake is a core Jewish value.

The Jews believe that when you are equipped with the right education, you can survive any crisis in life.

Silbiger also says that Jews believe that wealth is a worthy goal to strive for. Abstinence from worldly pleasures is not a Jewish ideal.

The Jewish founding fathers in the Old Testament like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not poor.

They were, in fact, very wealthy with abundant land and cattle.  If you really want to be rich, you must change your mindset.

There is a wealth to be had; there is money in the streets. However, a person needs to want this money, to look carefully for it, and gather it up.

For the Heavens guide a person in the way he wishes to go as a famous Jewish saying goes.

This is not to say that you must be obsessed with money. It only means to say that when your financial house is in order, it will be easier for you to pursue your spiritual life.

My recent trip to Israel was an encouraging one and I hope that I have shared something valuable with you. This trip would not have been complete without the assistance given to me by Ambassador Generoso D. G. Calonge of the Philippine Embassy.

Henry Ong is a Registered Financial Planner of RFP Philippines. Attend our FREE personal finance talk on June 5, 7 p.m. at PSE Center Ortigas. To reserve, e-mail [email protected]

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