In recent years, Fox Business Network anchor Liz Claman has made it a priority to observe Shabbat at the Davos economic forum. Her thoughts from the 2010 dinner appeared on wowowow and were excerpted on this blog.
Before she left for Davos last week, Liz offered to write The God Blog from become an annual Shabbat dinner. My questions are in bold:
Why do a Shabbat in Davos? Is this about breaking bread with those attending or about observing the Sabbath?
It’s a little of both. The World Economic Forum is like a gigantic magnet that pulls in world leaders and business people from around the globe to this tiny Swiss Alpine ski village. At some point, someone must have looked around and said, “My goodness, an important number of people here are Jewish. Let’s give them a place not only to mark Shabbat but to meet and schmooze.”
Who is at this year’s Davos Shabbat dinner?
Everywhere you turned, there was someone who’s got an important and pivotal role in either business, politics or both.
Israel’s president Shimon Peres and Minister of Finance Ehud Barak were the star guests. Israel’s Central Bank Governor Stanley Fischer, JP Morgan Chase International Chairman Jacob Frankel, U.S. Undersecretary of State Bob Hormats, Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Bank Hapoalim Chairman Yair Seroussi, Warren Buffett’s grandson Howard Buffett Jr., Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky, Nobel Prize winners Astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter and Biologist Bob Horvitz, billionaire investor Jeff Greene, Henry Schein CEO Stan Bergman, the list goes on.
Who took a surprising role in dinner?
Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg. She’s an amazing singer and led us all in “Shalom Alechem.” It was very emotional. There we all were at the Hotel Seehof singing at the top of our lungs in a country that hadn’t exactly extended real help to the Jews during World War II. Definitely an important moment and real affirmation of our resilience.
Davos this year has not been without Occupy protestors. How has that affected the tone of the conference? The dinner?
One of the first things my crew and I did upon arrival was to head over to the Occupy Davos location. The protestors were building igloos and I felt we as journalists should take a look. The mandate of the World Economic Forum is to “solve the world’s problems.”
One issue on a lot of participants’ plates was fixing the income inequality gap, a big Occupy complaint. We got there and found 3 guys slicing ice blocks. We talked to them. They are still angry at the banks. As one protestor put it, “They got bailed out when they got into trouble. So many of us lost our jobs because of their mistakes. Where’s our bailout?”. They told me they were hoping for more people to amass but Davos is a 2 and a half hour winding drive from Zurich. Even with only 3 people there, it was a topic of conversation at dinner.
Ehud Barak brought up Israeli’s complaints about high inflation and unemployment, saying this was equally if not more important than Occupy Wall Street to discuss. Israel, he asserted, needs to be stronger than ever to face the always present threat Arab nations and Iran pose. “Let me remind you of a Jewish saying,” he said with a smile. “Be healthy because troubles will never be in short supply.”