We have all heard of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Starbucks, and DreamWorks; major businesses that have helped change the way we do things in both American and international markets. Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream has become a leader in not only entrepreneurship but in philanthropy, carving the way for activism in business. Starbucks has revolutionized the way we think of coffee. DreamWorks’ innovation in animation has changed the way we think of TV and film. These companies are all leaders in their respective fields, but they don’t seem to have anything in common beyond that. Well…they do! Each of these companies was founded, or co-founded by Jewish-American entrepreneurs. These men have not only changed the name of the game, but also the game itself. Celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month with these Jewish American Entrepreneurs and their companies that have revolutionized their fields.
Ben & Jerry’s
Ben and Jerry’s Homemade Holdings began in Vermont in 1978. It all began when two buddies decided to buy a gas station and make ice cream. Ben Cohen wanted an ice cream that he could actually taste. Cohen has severe anosmia which is a lack of a sense of smell or taste, so he relies largely on texture. It also had to be kosher, of course, as he was raised Jewish and practiced Judaism. This unique set of requirements gave us the intense flavor and the unique “chucks” of batter that are featured in their ice cream. They changed the way we think about ice cream, creating their own “super premium” category of high calorie, high fat frozen dessert.
These entrepreneurs also changed the way businesses deal with activism. Pre-B&J, many corporations were afraid of taking any social stands. The fear of retribution lead many corporations to be relatively neutral on social issues. However, Ben held no such qualms. Since the founding of Ben and Jerry’s, the company has taken active stands against injustice. It started with 1% for Peace and has continued to this day to include anti-war and anti-injustice. Ben and his partner Jerry have continued to fight not only for the Jewish community, but against injustice in every community.
Schultz & Starbucks
The Jewish entrepreneur Howard Schultz, along with his co-founders Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker founded Starbucks. Their love of high quality coffee brought them together. By 1971 they opened their first store in Seattle, Washington. They have since become the largest coffeehouse chain in the world, with more than 32,660 stores in 83 countries. Though they have expanded so rapidly, they still have kept many of the values that Schultz holds so near. One example of this is offering kosher drink options. Like Ben and Jerry’s, they also have a great track record of giving back not only to the Jewish community, but to all of America. Recently, their contributions have included environmental justice, farmer equity, food bank donations, and only using fair trade products. Starbucks is sticking to Schultz’s beliefs by giving back to the community, while also serving a pretty great cup of joe.
Dreamers of DreamWorks
DreamWorks was born from the minds of not one, but three brilliant Jewish entrepreneurs. The company was formed in 1994 when director Steven Spielberg, producer Jeffery Katzenberg, and producer/film studio exec David Geffen joined forces to create the animation studio. These founders have kept the company close to their Jewish morals. Not only do they make fun, family friendly movies that feature kosher characters and good moral lessons. They also actively give back to the community. DreamWorks takes their social responsibility seriously, offering programs related to education, mentoring, and employment at every career level. They have also started the DreamWorks foundation, which supports diversity, equity and inclusion for all in animation, arts, and schools. These leading Jewish entrepreneurs are paving the way for more to follow, while also creating spaces for inclusion for all.
These Jewish-American entrepreneurs have made a huge impact on America, and will continue to do so. They have inspired people of every race and religion to strive towards the highest, to stand up for each other, and to be creative in their business endeavors. America’s Jewish entrepreneurs help us to empower communities across the country. To celebrate the inspiring history of Jewish people in America. To educate diverse public audiences about Jewish culture. They are changing the game for both Jewish and non-Jewish entrepreneurs alike.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.