Throughout his career and especially since Oct. 7, American billionaire, investor and “Shark Tank” star Mark Cuban has been vocal against antisemitism, expressing his support for Jewish college students. But is Cuban Jewish?
Cuban is, in fact, Jewish, and his Jewish heritage has always been a driving force in his career. The former Dallas Mavericks owner has openly shared aspects of his Jewish identity and has become known as a Jewish activist to college students throughout the country.
Cuban was born on July 31, 1958, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Jewish parents Norton and Shirley Cuban. Growing up in the suburb of Mount Lebanon, Cuban described his childhood as “pretty normal,” with Cuban’s father working as an automobile upholsterer.
From a young age, Cuban showed an entrepreneurial spirit. By age 10, he had started his first business venture, trading collectible baseball cards.
“I have always been selling; I always had something going on. That was just my nature,” Cuban said in an interview with CNBC. While Cuban’s entrepreneurship is well-known, his Jewish identity also played a significant role in his life’s trajectory.
Cuban’s Jewish upbringing
Growing up, Cuban’s family rarely attended synagogue and was not involved with organized Jewish groups.
“My dad kind of rebelled against organized religion, but never against his Jewish faith,” he explained in an interview with the Atlanta Jewish Times.
He was one of only two Jewish kids in his school and neighborhood until seventh grade, when he moved to a new school with more Jewish classmates. Despite not attending synagogue or religious school, Cuban’s Jewish heritage was still a significant aspect of his upbringing.
“I choose to play football on Saturdays instead of going to Saturday school. So, while that was not a feature of my life, growing up Jewish has certainly been. It’s something I’m very proud of,” he explained.
He also endured bullying from his classmates due to their antisemitic name-calling. He never understood why the kids in his neighborhood disliked him simply because he was Jewish.
Cuban’s connection to his Jewish roots was also influenced by his grandparents. In an interview with Hillel International, he recalled fond memories of eating Borscht and other traditional Ashkenazi Jewish food with them.
Cuban views Judaism as a core part of his life
Today, Cuban emphasizes the fundamental role Judaism plays in his life. In 2021, speaking at a business school class at Yeshiva University, he expressed this sentiment, stating, “Being Jewish has given me a foundation for everything I am and everything I hope to be.”
He also credits his Jewish heritage for shaping his values, making him “more empathetic.” A quarter of Cuban’s mom’s family were killed in the Holocaust, so he understands that his family moved to the United States because they had no other choice.
Cuban is an advocate for Jewish college students
In the interview with Hillel, Cuban emphasized the crucial role of Jewish organizations in shaping the future of Judaism, particularly through effective branding.
Cuban thinks of Judaism as a “brand,” though he acknowledges that this may seem like a counterintuitive model, and believes this approach could connect with Gen Z college students.
A few weeks after the Oct. 7 attacks, Cuban posted a social media video offering words of encouragement to students facing antisemitism on campus.
He recalled a time from his childhood when he was discriminated against due to his Jewish faith, adding:
“There’s always going to be people who hate us. Period. End of story. And there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it,” he stated. “But our lives and who we are is not defined by who hates us. It’s defined by who loves us and who we love.”
Cuban’s effort and curiosity drive his success
From appearing on “Dancing with the Stars” to owning a venture capital firm and NBA basketball team and being arguably the most popular Shark on “Shark Tank,” Cuban has had many unique and unusual business experiences.
Speaking with Yeshiva University business school students, Cuban said that self-motivation and effort are central to his success, stating, “The one thing you can control in life is your effort.”
Cuban also emphasized the importance of curiosity, the willingness to try new things, and the pursuit of lifelong learning as key components to success.
“If you’re able to put in the effort, if you’re always curious, if you’re always agile, there will come a point in time when you’ve got a basic knowledge, when all of a sudden there will be a little nugget in front of you,” Cuban said. “That’s when the magic happens. That’s what always has worked for me, and I think it could work for anybody.”
His advice for recent graduates is to persevere and stick things out — even if you don’t like them — and be willing to explore different paths.
“The day after you graduate, you’re a free agent…If you get a job you think is interesting, great. If you don’t have a job available to you that you really like, just adopt your mindset and say, ‘Hey, I’m just going to learn,’” he said.
“You’ll always be a free agent, and you’ll end up figuring out more about yourself if you try different things,” he added.
Originally Published Jan 10, 2024 05:29PM EST