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The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking by Eli Broad

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Chapter 19

Giving Back

My parents were hardworking but not wealthy people. My father painted houses until he saved up enough to open his own five-and-dime. My mother was a seamstress and later worked in the store and kept my dad’s books.

Obviously, they didn’t have money to give away, but they were generous with what they did have to spare—time and passion. My father spent many of his off-hours helping out at the Workmen’s Circle, a nationwide Jewish social, political, and charitable organization whose left-wing politics he shared. Most of my parents’ friends also were involved in the circle, which, as the name suggests, was concerned with labor issues and with enriching the lives of working people. The Workmen’s Circle launched a network of Yiddish schools for children, ran housing cooperatives in our Bronx neighborhood, and pooled funds for everything from strike benefits to burials.

My parents also helped support my mother’s brother, Joseph, who was one of the few family members to stay behind in Europe. He went to a university in Berlin, but when it came time to decide whether to go to America or stay in Western Europe—where it was becoming difficult for Jews to live in peace—Joseph chose a third option. Despite the precariousness of his own situation, Joseph worked to establish a school for Jewish children in British Palestine. The tradition of scholarship was deeply rooted among Lithuanian Jews. Among the graduates of the school my uncle helped found in Palestine is the two-time ...

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