On Monday, I wrote about taking the Mensch Pledge, a desire to see a new code of business ethics which, had they been in place, might have prevented the current, painful recession we are experiencing. The inspiration for this came from the founder of Noah’s Bagels – Noah Alper – and his book - Business Mensch.
“What’s important is providing for your family, conducting yourself with integrity, and living a life of meaning.“ Noah Alper – Business Mensch.
I am somewhat skeptical when I read memoirs of successful businessmen sprouting ideals and values. Probably I feel a pang of jealousy. It’s easy to take a shot at people who have made it financially – they can afford to take the moral high ground.
I certainly have little time for Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) or Ray Kroc (McDonalds). Exploiting workers, abusing animals, destroying the world or creating unhealthy lifestyles just doesn’t cut it. Perhaps working in the non-profit world balances the lack of acquiring wealth with a healthy dose of narcissistic self-righteousness.
Noah Alper began and built up Noah’s Bagels from a single bagel shop in Berkeley. Having read his book, I think he is different. He instilled a code of values that begins with his own actions. Being an observant Jew, Alper anchors his moral business code in Judaism. This certainly excited me as a Jew. In a time when so many people’s lives were ruined by a greedy and unethical businessman who happened to be Jewish, it is important for a few Tzadikim (righteous men and women) to stand up in the business world.
Since coming to the US I have found my managerial style questioned on a number of occasions. Many times in this thin treatise, Business Mensch, I found myself nodding in agreement with his values and principles and remembering similar scenarios.
I found it strangely validating that Alper, an unapologetic entrepreneur, believes in living by such values in his daily practice. And values are only worth something if they are truly upheld on a daily basis.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com.
I read almost every solicitation that I receive from a non-profit. I can’t help it. A lot of my time is spent raising funds for San Francisco Hillel, the Jewish Student Center, and I send out my fair share of letter campaigns.
Women for Women caught my eye for their very personal letter. This is an organization that helps women who have lost everything, often both material and personal, through violence and war. Their primary focus is on women from the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Rwanda, Afghanistan, and others.
Women for Women are able to :
- offer direct financial support for medicine and food
- provide job training skills and business training
- teach an empowerment program about their rights as women and citizens
The Woman for Women website offers many stories and testimonies. Warning – they can be tough to read. One interesting set of facts that I read includes the following data:
- women reinvest 90% of their income into their family and community compared with 30-40% of men (World Bank study).
- women hire at least one person to help with their businesses and train or mentor on average 4 other women.
- women are 70% of the world’s farmers, produce 90% of the world’s staple food crops, but own less than 2% of the land.
Finally, in the words of one of Zainab Salbi, Founder of Women for Women: “…it’s the Butterfly Revolution in action. You make a gift of $20 and the impact of your decision is felt thousands of miles away, by a woman whose life has been devastated by war and conflict…
“The Butterfly Revolution is a metaphor for the concept that even small actions…like the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings…can have far-reaching effects. I believe that by taking action, every one of us have a major impact on making the world a better place for women in need.”
Please consider joining me with a $20 gift. You can click here and don’t even need to leave your chair.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).