Tag: philanthropy

Iris Apfel: The “Geriatric Starlet”

Iris Apfel at O Cinema Miami Beach to present IRIS, by Albert Maysles. Photo courtesy of Miami Film Festival

Iris Apfel was born Iris Barrel in New York City in 1921. Highly influenced by her mother, Sadye, who owned a fashion boutique, Iris became interested in fashion at a young age. After studying art history at NYU, she worked for the well-known fashion magazine, Women’s Wear Daily, as well as for an interior designer.

With her husband Carl, she opened a textile firm called Old World Weavers, running it together until 1992. For forty years, from 1950 to 1992 she engaged in several design restoration projects, including working for the First Ladies of nine different presidents, from Truman to Clinton.

Through the years Apfel built up a large and elaborate collection of clothing, jewelry and accessories of every kind, from the cheapest baubles to the most expensive jewels and fabrics. She was relatively unknown until 2005, when the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York featured an exhibit on Apfel’s personal style called: “Rara Avis: The Irreverent Iris Apfel.” The exhibition was a huge success, and brought Apfel into the glare of the public spotlight.

Her next step up the fame ladder came when iconic filmmaker Albert Maysles made a documentary about her, called Iris. It premiered at the New York Film Festival in October 2014.

In 2016, the Women Together foundation honored Iris for her lifelong support and dedication of artisans all over the world. The award was present to Apfel at the United Nations, in the Delegates General Assembly hall.

Iris Apfel’s modesty and joie de vie are well-known, calling herself the “geriatric starlet” with surprise and an element of disbelief.


Robert Kraft: Businessman, Sports Fan, Patriots Owner, and Philanthropist

Robert Kraft. Photo Courtesy of BrokenSphere

Robert Kraft was born and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts. His father, Harry, was a dressmaker in Boston’s Chinatown, and an active and respected member of his congregation, Kehillath Israel, in Brookline. It is said that Harry would have been happy if Robert would have become a rabbi, but that is not what was meant to be.


Robert Kraft went to Columbia University, where he became the class president. He played lightweight football while at Columbia. He then went to Harvard where he earned his MBA. He met his wife, Myra Hiatt in Boston in 1962, and they married in June, 1963.

Kraft began his career in business at the Rand-Whitney Group, a packaging company his father-in-law ran. Later he purchased the company in a leveraged buyout. He founded International Forest Products in 1972, and together with Rand-Whitney, Kraft had created the largest privately held paper and packaging company in the US. Kraft said he began the company when he realized that there was soon going to be a huge increase in international communications and transportation, leading to an explosion in global trade in the late 20th century.

Kraft’s other business ventures include shares in New England Television Corp, which took control of WNAC-TV in 1982. One year later Kraft became director of the board. In 1986 Kraft became president of the corporation. In 1992 Kraft sold off his stake in the company for about $25 million.

Kraft is a great sports fan, and has been an owner of several professional teams. In 1974 he went partners with four others to purchase the World Tennis Team, the Boston Lobsters. Kraft’s true sports love is football, and tried several times to purchase the New England Patriots. He owned season tickets since 1971. In 1994 the team was for sale, and Kraft was able to purchase it for $172 million. At the time that was the highest anyone had ever paid for a sports team. Since Kraft purchased the Patriots, the team has had incredible success.
Robert Kraft is a well-known philanthropist. He has donate more than $100 million to a wide variety of causes. He has been a huge supporter of American Football in Israel, and built the professional Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem. In 2017 it was announced that Kraft was donating $6 million to build the first regulation size American football field in Israel.

After the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013 Kraft pledged $100,000 in matching funds to help the victims of the terrorist attack through the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.

Vera Guerin: Los Angeles Philanthropist

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Photo by Jorobeq

Vera Guerin is the daughter of Holocaust survivors who were able to pick themselves up, start and again, and succeed phenomenally. Her mother was Lily Schreiber, who had been interned in Auschwitz during WW II, and her father was Nathan Shapell, a survivor of Buchenwald and Auschwitz, but was able to escape. He served as an interpreter/translator at a few of the war crimes trials that took place after the war.

The couple moved to California when Vera was five years old in 1952. Along with his brother David and brother-in-law Max Webb, Nathan founded Shapell Industries, which eventually built a total of 65,000 houses.

When Nathan passed away in 2007, Vera inherited her father’s 43 percent stake in the company.

Since that time, Vera, who married Paul Guerin, has been an active philanthropist and community leader. In 2008 she gave $5 million to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles to support the research division of the Women’s Guild Lung Institute. She also gave $10 million to two other programs at Cedars-Sinai. She established the Vera and Paul Guerin Family Congenital Heart Program and two academic chairs in the pulmonary medicine and pediatric neurosurgery divisions; and she also supports the new outpatient services building.

Other institutions she supports generously are the Harvard-Westlake School; the Stephen S. Wise Temple; the Skirball Cultural Center; and her husband, Paul is the president and board chairman of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.

George Soros Supporter of Progressive Liberal Causes

George Soros - Festival of Economics 2012 - Trento. Photo courtesy of Niccolò Caranti.
George Soros – Festival of Economics 2012 – Trento. Photo courtesy of Niccolò Caranti.

Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros left Budapest during World War II for England, then resettled once again in the United States in the 1950s. One of the wealthiest people in the world he is also a well-known supporter of American progressive and liberal political causes. He donated over $11 billion to a large variety of organizations between 1979 and 2011.

Although Jewish, Soros has not supported uniquely Jewish causes. He has funded several dissident movements behind the Iron Curtain in the Soviet Union, which often included Jews in leadership roles. Soros sent funds to help black students attend the University of Cape Town in South Africa, which practiced apartheid at the time.

Soros has been active, through his financial support, of the non-violent movement towards the democratization of the countries which were formed at the dissolution of the former Soviet Union.

He has also been active in reform in Hungary, playing a part in the peaceful transition from communism to democracy there from 1984 to 1989. He also gave a good deal of money to the Central European University in Budapest.

Soros’ son, Alexander, born in 1985, has also become known for his generosity. He also focuses his support on social and political causes, especially on “progressive causes that might not have widespread support.” Alexander Soros sits on the boards of Jewish Funds for Justice and Global Witness.

Hershey Friedman Has the Golden Touch

Called “the man with the Midas touch” by the Jerusalem Post, Hershey Friedman has made his mark in business as well as many charitable causes.

Hailing from Montreal, Canada, Friedman’s heart is in Israel, as well as his physical presence about 10 days every month. He does not mince his words when describing the special relationship, the Jewish people have to their land:

“Israel is our true land. It is the land of our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” he states. “Israel will always be there. Israel will always have a future.”

Friedman’s business is taking businesses who are not in the best of health and revitalizing them to get them up and running and optimum capacity. This is exactly what he did with Tel Aviv-based Azorim, a company specializing in residential real estate. Friedman purchased Azorim in 2011 when it was wallowing. Now, five years later, the company is “one of Israel’s most exciting enterprises.”

Friedman explains his success: “I have a very good instinct. I have a smell and a gut, and that tells me with a lot of projects what to do and what not to do.”

All ready at the tender age of 17 Friedman was propelled into the world of business, managing the family textile business, which allowed his brothers to continue their educations.

“I was a businessman even when I was a little boy,” Friedman says with a smile.

Friedman is much more than a businessman, however. He is one of the largest givers to Jewish causes in the world. A myriad of buildings have the Friedman name on them, from Canada to Israel and the US and more. He donates generously to hospitals, schools yeshivas, and especially to facilities that help the disabled. This is because Friedman’s own father was disabled after an accident when Friedman was a young boy.

“Remember, I had a father who was disabled, so I know what it’s all about,” he says. “We have big budgets over here.”