Co-owner of Zingerman’s Deli Ari Weinzwieg shares in his book how applying the business ideas of radical Jewish anarchist Emma Goldman can impact businesses.
When one travels about Michigan, it seems that every other restaurant one passes advertises a “world-famous” something. You can have a famous Lehto’s pasty on the way to Escanaba from St. Ignace, or you can have a famous Potato Burger in Elmira. While I will personally vouch for the tastiness of both creations, I’m not sure someone outside of Michigan would classify them as “famous.” Would someone in Tel Aviv or London really know about the Potato Burger at the Railside Bar & Grill in Elmira Township (pop. 1,598)?
There are, however, bona fide world-famous eateries in Michigan. One is Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor. There is more to Zingermans than just a deli. Zingerman’s Community of Businesses now includes a bakery, a coffee roaster, a cheesery, The Roadhouse, Miss Kim’s and an internationally recognized service training program. Owners Ari Weinzwieg and Paul Saginaw, and all their partners, are some of the most innovative and successful businesspeople in America.
A friend of mine is a corporate culture expert. He worked for Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker. At dinner one night, I asked him, of all the companies you have worked with, what is the most innovative? Without hesitation, he said, “Zingerman’s.” Why? “Because the owners are not traditional businesspeople with MBAs, so they did not know how to run a business in a traditional, rules-bound MBA way.”
Zingerman’s is the most innovative enterprise I’ve ever had the privilege of working with as an archivist (I collected the Zingerman’s papers for the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan). Want further proof? See Weinzweig’s new book, Going into Business with Emma Goldman.
Emma Goldman? Wait a minute? Is Weinzweig talking about going into business with the radical Jewish anarchist/activist from the early 20th century? The one that J. Edgar Hoover stated was “the most dangerous woman in America?” The one that was expelled from the U.S. in 1919 because of her views? Yes, indeed, it is that Emma Goldman (1869-1940).
Weinzweig has previously authored many books about business and service, including a four-volume Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading. But this one is different, as he notes: “My proposal is that Hoover’s heretical villain could become the 21st century’s prophet of progressive organizational thinking. As crazy as it would have sounded when she was alive, my belief is that applying Emma Goldman’s ideas in the business world would be a really good idea.” I guess it is one radical [businessperson] writing about another radical.
It should also be noted that although Goldman did espouse some radical views regarding the political economy, she also advocated ideas that today are not considered extreme. For example, Goldman advocated for civil rights, racial and gender equality, and voting rights for women. At the time Goldman was expelled from the U.S., for example, women were not yet allowed to vote.
I found 76 pages in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History that cited Emma Goldman. The earliest was in the Sept. 14, 1917, issue of the Detroit Jewish Chronicle in an article titled: “The Jew and Revolutionary Thought.”
What I found most interesting was the rehabilitation of Goldman in more recent issues of the JN. A story from the Aug. 13, 1999, JN cites mom Shelly Nadiv dressing up as Goldman for Purim. Another page from the Jan. 9, 1998, issue, “Guys and Dolls,” features cut-out doll clothes for Goldman. And, reviews of books in the JN about significant Jewish women in history usually include Goldman.
Emma Goldman was a Jewish woman who made a difference in modern America.
Now, through Ari Weinzwieg’s book, she might just have an impact on the business world.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.
Emma Goldman Event
Tuesday, Nov. 5, at the Roadhouse.
Tickets are $50 at