Busi­ness Men­sch: Tire­less Wis­dom for Today’s Entrepreneur

Noah Alper with Thomas Fields-Meyer
  • Review
By – October 3, 2011
Adher­ence to Jew­ish laws and val­ues in the work­place means busi­ness ethics’ need not be a con­tra­dic­tion in terms.

Both of these new guides for suc­cess­ful busi­ness lead­er­ship in today’s world draw heav­i­ly on Jew­ish val­ues, sea­soned with a good­ly mea­sure of yid­dishkeit. Alper’s book is not only a man­u­al for entre­pre­neurs but is, at the same time, a mem­oir of the life and career of the founder of Noah’s Bagels, telling the sto­ry of his jour­ney from a young man con­fined to a men­tal hos­pi­tal to becom­ing one of America’s most suc­cess­ful businessmen. 

Begin­ning as a sec­u­lar and some­what alien­at­ed Jew, Alper was drawn to Judaism and an appre­ci­a­tion of its his­to­ry and val­ues as a result of a vis­it to Israel. He learned that Jew­ish law and wis­dom warns against greed and stress­es the impor­tance of hon­esty, fair­ness, com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice, and help­ing those in need. Alper draws on quo­ta­tions from the Torah and oth­er Jew­ish sources and com­bines these with humor and grace as he tells his sto­ry. He shares the lessons he has learned along the way and illus­trates them with exam­ples that demon­strate the impor­tance of these prin­ci­ples in guid­ing him to entre­pre­neur­ial success. 

But his book isn’t only about work. It’s about how to be an entre­pre­neur while still liv­ing a healthy, mean­ing­ful and worth­while life.” It’s also a joy to read. 

Zweifel and Raskin have a more ambi­tious goal: their book, The Rab­bi and the CEO, sets out to give the read­er the tools you need to be an eth­i­cal and effec­tive leader.” The authors do this by refer­ring to the Ten Com­mand­ments and expound­ing on their mean­ing as well as by recount­ing the chal­lenges faced by lead­ers encoun­tered in the Bible and exam­in­ing how they dealt with them. In their book, it mat­ters not whether the read­er is a small busi­ness­man or the CEO of a giant cor­po­ra­tion. Ref­er­ences cit­ed run the gamut from Moses to Bob Dylan and, in view of Rab­bi Raskin’s Chabad affil­i­a­tion, also include the Zohar as well as the Tal­mud, Ethics of the Fathers,” and numer­ous oth­er tra­di­tion­al sources. 

Each sec­tion of the book has a sum­ma­ry of its con­tents labeled The Bot­tom Line” and Tips” designed to help the read­er apply the advice giv­en by the authors. The book is thor­ough­ly researched and replete with foot­notes. It’s an easy read and con­tains many valu­able suggestions.

Addi­tion­al books fea­tured in this review:

Peter L. Roth­holz head­ed his own Man­hat­tan-based pub­lic rela­tions agency and taught at the Busi­ness and Lib­er­al Arts (BALA) pro­gram at Queens Col­lege. He lives in East Hamp­ton, NY and San­ta Mon­i­ca, CA and is a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to Jew­ish publications.

Discussion Questions