The individual does not necessarily represent the pack, but when the individual achieves fame or notoriety, he or she is immediately associated for good and for bad by friend and foe with the country or faith into which he or she was born. This is particularly so in the case of Jews, who, after all is said and done, represent a minuscule percentage of the world’s population. Nonetheless, it is amazing how many accomplished individuals there have been, in any number of fields, whose biographical details, as published by Wikipedia, include mention of the fact that he or she was born into a Jewish family. There are far fewer references to someone being born Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Episcopalian, Catholic, Protestant, Anglican, Mormon, etc., although given their political clout, there is increasing mention of Evangelicals.
Getting back to singling out Jews, one can’t escape their presence in the forefront of leading companies in the race to find a vaccine that will prevent coronavirus.
Greek veterinarian and biotechnologist Albert Bourla heads Pfizer, and Moderna’s chief medical officer, Dr. Tal Zaks, is an Israeli who received his doctorate from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and gives interviews in Hebrew to the Israeli media.
Both men have been fairly secretive about their private lives. For Israelis, it’s enough to know that Zaks, despite the various high positions that he holds in America, is one of us, but in Greece, especially Thessaloniki, where Bourla and his wife were born and raised, there are mixed reactions. On the one hand, Greeks are proud that one of their own is at the top of the totem pole of a company that will help to save the world from COVID-19. On the other, there have already been vile antisemitic accusations against Bourla and Jews in general, accusations similar to negative comments made by US President Donald Trump about the Chinese.
Bourla comes from a Sephardi family of jewelers and real estate developers which fled Spain and has been living in Greece for more than five centuries. His family members were among the few survivors of the once thriving Jewish community of Thessaloniki, which was all but destroyed by the Nazis. He left Greece when he was 34 to pursue a career in pharmaceuticals and joined Pfizer in 1993. He represented the company in various divisions in different countries, working his way to the top. Although he has been living in America for several years, he continues to maintain a home in Greece.
In April 2019, Bourla was named the most “preeminent Greek leader” of the global pharmaceutical industry by United States Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey R. Pyatt, at the Prix Galien Greece Awards ceremony. As for the defamatory antisemitic slurs that have appeared in some Greek media, these have been publicly condemned by the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece.