Ohad Topor, founder, and chairman of TCK Investments says he is frequently asked about the reason Jews succeed in business.
"I used to highlight education or say that it has to do with family relations," Topor said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Topor was unable to travel for business, so he took the time to search for an answer to the question. "I spent months researching the key values of Jewish culture and success."
Topor concluded that the roots of success among Jews lay in their culture and education, which are unique. In Jewish culture in general, and in the Talmud - the primary source of Jewish religious law - in particular, becoming learned is part of the tradition. Learning is seen as just as important as family values and a life-long pursuit.
Another aspect of Jewish religious learning is always challenging the ideas of those learning with you and even the ideas of the sages of previous generations. This culture or atmosphere is associated with success in business.
Topor says that the same approach was adopted by the IDF as well.
After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and the failure of the military to anticipate the intentions of the enemies to attack, a "control unit" was established in the intelligence force, which was assigned to examine decisions and conclusions by adopting and arguing opposing positions.
Topor published his research in a book called "Masters: The 10 most important principles of Jewish culture for success in management and leadership in business and life."
"The book will give Israelis the true understanding that Jewish culture is an operating system that creates success. We need to understand that even if it is difficult for us to see it from where we stand, our culture is very different from other cultures," Topor said.
When Topor was 4 years old, his family moved to the United States, and after six years they returned to Israel. “I grew up in Tel Aviv, in a secular environment, but in a home that appreciated tradition and holidays,” he says.
“Later, I served in the IDF, studied economics at Tel Aviv University, and business administration at Stanford. The graduate studies included talented people from all over the world, and no one there asked whether Jews act or think differently in business," he says.
"When I started working in Asia, however, I immediately felt that the basic premise there was that Jews were extremely smart and very successful in business. There was a real interest in learning from the Jews and mirroring their success.
“In addition to the number of Nobel Prize laureates, I knew that there were many Jews who founded successful and often world-leading companies, but when I examined things further, the data I collected stunned me – out of about 8 billion people on Earth, less than 20 million are Jews. That is less than 0.25 percent. But according to Forbes, out of the 30 richest people in the world - about 30% are Jewish or of Jewish origin. That is 166 times their proportion in the population.”
If the success of Jews can be attributed to the Jewish tradition, the obvious question is why are there not more religious or ultra-Orthodox people among the giants of industry or the very wealthy.
“I’m not saying that success comes from religion or fulfilling commandments, but from the Jewish culture that surrounds you like the air you breath. This is a culture that has been passed down through generations and includes unique ways of thinking, ideals, priorities, and many things that are not directly related to faith.
“This is a culture that pushes towards excellence, because of its most basic values – such as skill and honesty, maintaining harmony in the family, community empowerment, persistence and consistency, flexibility and adaptation, and other principles, each of which is a chapter in my book, which effectively clarifies the origins of the way of thinking and the values that Jewish culture has produced."
Topor says that although he cannot claim the Israeli educational system is bad, it is very basic. But young Israelis are taught responsibility early.
"In our youth movements, counselors are children themselves are responsible for the younger kids, without the supervision of adults. This is always mind-blowing to Americans when I tell them about it."
What conclusions are you trying to impart to people from abroad?
"That there are no hidden reasons for the success of the Jews in business or elsewhere. But there are traits and behavior formed by the Jewish culture and almost anyone can use the principles of Jewish culture to succeed.
"Moses, for example, grew up with a lack of self-confidence and a speech impediment. But when you look at his behavior, and what he had been through, you realize that no matter who your parents are and who you are, you can become a prophet and a leader who leads the Israelis out of Egypt. The ideals of Jewish culture encourage certain behavior that pushes people to succeed.”