From Samson to Judah Maccabee, Ze’ev Jabotinsky to Hanna Senesh, there is a valiant history of tough and brave Jews who made tremendous marks on the world. While the image of a Jew has not always been that of a “tough” people, it is important that the world sees tough Jews. Owning a PR firm, I help build brands and create personas – and as a proud traditional Jew and Zionist, approaching two important Jewish holidays – Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and Yom HaZikaron, (Israel’s Memorial Day for its fallen soldiers), I offer this list in tribute.
The list of the Top 10 Living Tough Jews it is not only about brute physical strength – it is about a people who are smart, strong, resilient, rugged, bold and fearless. This is a reflection of good, tough Jews who are positive representations of the Jewish people, (no gangsters here) – don’t let a yarmulke fool you.
In no particular order here’s my List of the Top 10 Living Tough Jews – it’s a list compiled by a Public Relations pro, not a Rabbinical Authority.
Open for Debate, (In No Particular Order):
1. Israel Defense Forces: All of the men and women of the Israel Defense Forces – the holy Jewish army are the toughest (and holiest) Jews one can ever imagine. They protect the people of Israel against tremendous odds, and with Israel’s survival threatened daily these Jews are consummate warriors, fighting not only for a country but for an important ideal.
2. Elie Wiesel & All of The Holocaust Survivors: Elie Wiesel and all of the Holocaust survivors who survived the tremendous inhumanity of the Nazis are tough beyond comprehension. Wiesel said: “I have tried to keep memory alive. I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are all accomplices.” The Holocaust survivors all lost so much – and fight on every single day in life; few can imagine how much toughness and inner strength that takes.
3. Yitzchak Shamir: Israel’s founding father, Shamir served as Prime Minister of Israel in 1983–84 and 1986–92. Before Israel became a state he served in the heroic underground, and then in the Mossad (Israel secret service). Shamir is a man with amazing legacy – elegant, strong and determined, this tough man devoted his whole life to building the land and people of Israel. Shamir, whose name means “hard stone,” always said “I would like to be remembered as a person who loved Eretz Israel and never ever gave up an inch.” Tough man.
4. Liev Schreiber: Defiance is one of the greatest Jewish movies ever, as it makes my point clear for audiences around the world to see, and it can make any tough guy cry. Schreiber’s character in the movie, Zus Bielski, is a real life tough Jew. (Bielski is one of three Jewish warrior brothers who fought the Nazis). As Schreiber says, “this was a remarkable story — a triumphant story. It sets out to redefine the Jewish image — that of fighter. We all know tough Jews like that. My own grandfather was incredibly tough and athletic and was the main male role model in my life.” For his portrayal and his own pride of his heritage, Schreiber makes the list.
5. Sandy Koufax: Perhaps the greatest known Jewish athlete ever, Koufax was a legendary pitcher – the youngest player ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 at the age of 36. Skilled and determined on the mound, he had tremendous inner strength to be able to not pitch in Game One of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. As legendary Dodgers scout Al Campanis said, “There are two times in my life the hair on my arms has stood up: The first time I saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the first time I saw Sandy Koufax throw a fastball.”
6. Sam Zell: This business magnate may be the most hated man in the newspaper business – and he’s one damn tough Jew. “I’m an immigrant’s kid. I have a very different perspective on the world than somebody who grew up in Chicago and led what I would call a normal life.” Zell was raised in an Orthodox household and is a supporter of Israel, and says no matter where he travels: “In no way, shape, or form do I hide the fact that I believe in Israel—open kimono!” he declared. “There’s this Yiddish term, derech ertez, and it means respect. My father and mother, particularly my father, brought us up with the premise that respect was non-negotiable. Love was optional. I’m not saying this in a bad way. It was: ‘I want you to love me, but you have to respect me.” A great lesson for all of the Jewish people.