Optimism is a Jewish Value

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On this month’s episode of FedRadioDetroit, Sam Dubin and Beverly Liss welcomed a true community all-star into the virtual studio, Hannan Lis. A leader in both the business and not-for-profit worlds, Hannan’s resume is long and impressive and includes titles such as Chief Operating Officer and Board Member of WW Group, Principal at GSH Group, Founder and Chair of Firebolt Group Inc., Venture Capitalist at Lis Ventures, Chairman of the Yoga Shelter, Past-chair of Forgotten Harvest and Chairman of Detroit Public Television. While Hannan’s involvement in the community takes many forms, from his outspoken advocacy for Israel, to his many businesses and philanthropic work, these endeavors all reflect his passion to make the world around him a better place.

Born in Haifa, Israel, Hannan joined a socialist youth movement as a teenager. After his army service, he began living and working on a kibbutz where he met his wife, native Detroiter Lisa Mark Lis. When the couple moved to Michigan, Hannan began working for the family business, WW Group (formerly Weight Watchers). Hannan says that he learned so much from his mother-in-law and the founder of the first Weight Watchers franchise in Michigan, Florine Mark, who he praised for her commitment to women and women’s issues as well as helping people to live a healthy life.

In addition to his role as COO of WW Group, Hannan is also a venture capitalist and explains the work as a combination of Ross Business School and slot machines in Vegas. “Working in the venture areas teaches you humility very quickly. As you do it more and more, you learn how to bet better, and also how not to be so disappointed when something doesn’t go your way,” he said.

Hannan goes on to talk about the meaningful work he has done with Detroit Public Television and Forgotten Harvest, two non-profits with missions very close to his heart. “It’s a shonda that the wealthiest country in the world has thousands of people in Metro Detroit who have food insecurity,” he said when discussing the important work of Forgotten Harvest.

In closing and when asked what his wish for the Jewish new year is, he said “I hope people remember that the world belongs to the optimist. Optimism is what has kept the Jews going all these years. Optimism is a Jewish value, and I hope we all will regain our sense of optimism.”

FedRadioDetroit is Federation’s podcast series hosted by Sam Dubin and Beverly Liss and featuring big personalities from Jewish Detroit’s diverse cast of characters. Explore previous episodes and stay tuned for a new episode next month here.

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