For several years now – and especially in
the last few months – I was troubled by the fact that while
two non-Jews were pioneering new and unprecedented historical
paths in philanthropy, there was no Jew close in sight.
Not that there is any problem with gentile charity. Quite
the contrary: as I have written in several earlier columns,
the charitable initiatives of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates
are simply breathtaking and astonishing. For the first time
in history the richest people on the planet are not using
their wealth to accumulate more power and to celebrate and
immortalize themselves, but they are sharing their blessings
First, four years ago, when Mr. Buffett announced his unparalleled
$30 billion plus gift to charity, and then again five months
ago, when Mr. Buffett and Mr. Gates challenged the richest
people in America with the givingpledge.org,
which states its objective: “an effort to invite the
wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit
to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.”
They are fulfilling – on a scale never before seen – the
purpose of existence: Bucking the formidable drive of self-interest,
and instead of being takers they have become givers – and
challenging the billionaires of the world to do the same!
Simply unprecedented. And nothing less than a true paradigm
shift of human consciousness, which promises to change the
course of history (for a lengthier analysis of this breakthrough,
and Takers and $600,000,000).
What was troubling is that the founder of charity and social
justice was Abraham – “father of all nations.”
As a true visionary Abraham pioneered the path of kindness
that would change the entire world. This gave birth to Judaism,
the Ten Commandments, the Torah – and in turn to all
the world’s major religions. Our modern democratic
world became possible only due to the teachings of Abraham
and his descendants.
So where are the Jewish visionary philanthropists?
This does not, in any way, diminish the enormous amounts
of charity given by Jewish (and for that matter, non-Jewish)
philanthropists – money that has built impressive
institutions, hospitals, universities, humanitarian efforts,
and many other vital entities that have and are improving
our world. Yet, despite all the vast charities distributed,
no one before Misters Buffett and Gates, has launched a
visionary philanthropic drive that virtually has the power
to change the entire way we will forever look at wealth:
not as a measure of self-worth, or as a personal reward,
or as an expression of ego and power, but as a gift from
above meant to be returned to the public interest.
Why is it that only Mr. Buffett and Mr. Gates – very
likely also grandchildren of Abraham – are leading
the Abrahamic charge? Why are their Jewish compatriots not
In truth, I should correct that statement. Since Buffett
and Gates challenged, in June of this year, the wealthy
to pledge giving away the majority of their riches to charity,
their website, givingpledge.org,
sports 40 people who have risen to the call – I count
at least 12 Jews among them.
Yet, this visionary drive remains the initiative and the
primary effort of Misters Buffet and Gates.
Perhaps, at first, one can justify the lack of Jewish visionary
giving as a sad byproduct of a mentality that has been shaped
by centuries of Jewish suffering. For close to two millennia
Jews have become accustomed to protecting themselves from
all forms of grotesque oppression, expending all their resources
– and then some – fighting for their basic survival
– with no energy left to think about anything more
than survival. Where was there time to be visionary –
to think about the big picture? Where was there wealth to
change the world, when the world was trying to annihilate
This protective defensive “golus” attitude
has remained part of the Jewish psyche, spilling over even
into our free world. And has been the defining force of
most Jewish charity: To address a crisis (the pogroms in
Russia, the Holocaust and its survivors, protecting Israel,
[As some cynics like to point out, that much of Jewish
giving is driven by guilt and is defined not by a vision,
but by being anti-anti something or other. What would we
do if we had no enemies? What would drive us? Where would
we direct our passions?]
But today we are a free people. And as such, time has come,
high time that we return to our roots – to reclaim
our place in history, as children of Abraham who set in
motion the path of global change and perfecting the universe,
the path of justice and charity.
Given, there are still forces to battle (and perhaps raising
money to fight a crisis is easier and tugs more at the heart
strings than a cause of building) – nevertheless,
today, in a free world, we no longer have to define ourselves
and our giving by what we stand against. We now have
a new opportunity – that compels us to rise to the
occasion and demonstrate what we stand for.
That does not mean we forget our history of suffering;
we remember but we do not allow it to define our identities.
We have suffered, but we are not sufferers. It is not our
state of being: we are not a suffering people. Indeed, Jewish
suffering can serve as a powerful lesson in this message.
That despite the fires we have endured – we have come
through it all unscathed, and stronger than ever. And now
– after all the ordeals and tragedies – we are
wiser and more mature. We no longer need to use our money
and resources merely for survival; we can now use it to
change the world.
And yet, it is Monsieur’s Buffett and Gates that are leading
the way. Without any Jews in sight, or at best, following
This is what has been troubling me for the past few years.
Until this week.
This week I heard a talk delivered by a Jewish billionaire
from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, which gives us a glimmer of
a new trend – making Abraham and the world proud.
Mr. Buffet: Please Meet Mr. Bogolubov
Mr. Buffet I would like to introduce you to Mr. Bogolubov.
Gennady – Tzvi Hirsh – Bogolubov.
In his own words the 49-year old Mr. Bogolubov described
his life as one of transition – from being a “big
atheist” and a “very material” man, to
a man of faith and tradition.
From being an utterly ignorant and indifferent Jew, “25
years of my life there was nothing with Judaism,”
feeling ashamed of walking out of Synagogue with a kippah
(skullcap) on his head, to someone who now wears tztizit
(fringes) – Mr. Bogolubov raised his tzitzit to the
amazement of the large crowd – keeps Shabbat, dons
Tefillin, says Shema Yisroel. And it is all, as the Ukrainian
billionaire put it, “unexplainable.” “I
have a synagogue in my house in London. I have a Sunday
Jewish school for kids. I’m ready to do much more,
and if you ask me why, I cannot answer… It was a nes.
It was a miracle, because” – and here the billionaire
leaned over, stabbed the air with his determined finger
and empathically declared – “I can’t find
any reason in this world to explain why I started to keep
From being a cold businessman whose life was entirely consumed
“to go and take and put into our pocket” and
giving “was against the nature,” to someone
who suddenly did the “reverse, backward” and
has to date given away tens of millions of dollars, to fulfill
“man’s purpose in life, as taught by the Torah,
to partner with G-d in bringing the world to a state of
perfection” (as stated on The Bogolubov Foundation
– and clearly these millions are only the beginning.
As the words flowed out from this Ukrainian Jew with a
thick Russian accent -- infiused with disarming wit and
street smart intelligence -- you could feel the tension
of two worlds at war (in this week's Torah portion): the
devious business world of the corrupt and manuevering Laban,
and the pure world of the inncocent scholar Jacob, with
the latter prevailing in Mr. Bogolubov's unfolding life.
I could not control my tears when I heard this self-proclaimed
materialist declare the moment his life shifted, forever
– the moment he decided to give his first $10,000
donation: “After that I gave out [charity in] the
millions. Everything [all the millions] I can explain, besides
the [first] $10,000… it was unexplainable. Because
at that time our business means that we have to go and take
and put into our pocket. But do to the reverse, backward,
was against the nature. I did it and it changed my life.”
He did it – he reversed the natural selfish inclination
of materialism – and it changed his life…
And equally impressive is that he remembered and appreciated
the moment everything changed.
If he can do it, is there anyone on Earth that cannot?
I do not know if Mr. Bogolubov himself understood the gravity
of his statement. Had it come from a self-declared man of
faith, it would have been not much of a declaration. But
it came from a self-acknowledged “very material”
man, a “big atheist,” a person who grew up with
no other option. For most of us living in the free world
– including Misters Buffet and Gates – it is
impossible to imagine the depths of secularization imposed
by the Communists. The extent of how they amputated any
semblance of validity to religion and faith. For over 70
years (!) they orchestrated a deliberate effort to cut out
and destroy – even from common language – what
they considered to be the “opiate of the masses,”
seen as a threat to the authority of the State.
And now on this memorable evening, Mr. Bogolubov stood
and announced in public, his transformation from a taker
to a giver. “It changed my life,” he repeated
many times in his talk.
In one fell swoop, in a remarkable talk, Mr. Bogolubov
ripped away the excuse of all materialistic human beings,
of all atheists, of all secularists – not just in
our times, but in all of history. And not with logic and
reasoning, but – as the man said – it is a miracle!
With his heavy Russian accent, but an uncanny mastery of
English, infused with humor, wisdom – and humility
– the Ukrainian businessman dramatically mesmerized
close to 5000 people (and thousands more online) with his
is a full transcript of his fascinating talk. And here
is the video.
No doubt, Mr. Bogolubov is not alone. Indeed, he credited
Mr. Lev Leviev -- who has himself contributed tens of millions
-- for teaching him by an example “how to give.”
Other rich Ukrainians and Russians are beginning to give
away millions. A trend is well under way. Mr. Bogolubov
can perhaps be credited for helping us all appreciate it
and in such a pronounced and blunt fashion, contrasting
tzedakah with the coarse forces of greed so inherent to
Yes indeed, the time has come for Mr. Buffet and Mr. Gates
to meet Mr. Bogolubov.
20 years have passed since the fall of Communism. Now with
Capitalism disappointing us, time has come for (failed)
Capitalism to meet (failed) Communism.
Now with the failings of Capitalism in full glare, with
the desperate need of a new economy – that will provide
us with true security and certainty, instead of the current
anxiety-ridden markets, accelerating at a frightening and
dizzying pace – here is a bit of good news, a breath
of fresh air:
Some of the richest and the mightiest are leading the way
to something which is nothing less than a revolution: Giving
is greater than taking. At the outset – giving the first
$10,000 – seems impossible to do. As Mr. Bogolubov so aptly
stated: Everything I can explain, besides the [first] $10,000…
it was unexplainable. Because at that time our business
means that we have to go and take and put into our pocket.
But do to the reverse, backward, was against the nature.”
Materialism, after all, is all about taking, hoarding, accumulating,
building your self and your own equity. But
then, after the initial shock and jolt to your materialistic
systems, you realize the power of giving, the blessing of
being blessed to be able to help others – the reason
you were entrusted with your wealth in the first place.
As Mr. Bogolubov dramatically concluded: “I did it
and it changed my life.”
You realize that giving vs. taking is the core essence
of our purpose – the battle – of life: Who will
prevail – self-interest or serving others? Laban or
Another fascinating element in this new economic revolution
is the fact that, in contrast to the Communist revolution
– the specter haunting the world in the 19th
Century – which was driven by a frustrated and oppressed
populace, a proletariat rebelling against the bourgeois
establishment, the common folk rising up against an arrogant
leadership – this current revolution is being driven by
the wealthy in power!
Throughout history the revolutionaries were the poor and
downtrodden (as mentioned above), or the spiritual visionaries,
the prophets, the counter-establishment – the Abrahams
of history. Now the pioneers are hard-core, tough-minded
The Talmud says that it takes the wood of a tree to craft
the axe that can cut down that very same tree.
So good morning world. Welcome to a new era. Let us usher
in the economy of the future, one infused with heart and
soul – a paradigm unlike anything we have ever seen
May the material men of the world lead the way. May the
atheists show us the path. May the miracle of faith manifest
in our highly scientific world – teaching us that
the most logical thing of all is the illogical (or supra
logical) act of helping another, of perfecting the world,
of taking the inward arrow of self-absorption, turning it
around in the other direction – outward.
Instead of being a mirror – a pane of glass smeared
with silver – seeing only our own reflection, we become
a window, seeing everything around us. Seeing and feeling
the needs of others and our connection to them.
Yes indeed, I would like to arrange a meeting between Mr.
Buffet, Mr. Gates and Mr. Bogolubov. And then the real miracles