Anita Zucker share's family story steeped in survival, love, hard work and charity
As a young girl in Nazi-controlled Poland, Rose Goldberg found herself fighting for survival. She and her family had been living in a Labor Camp set up by the Nazi’s. When troops came to cleanse the “Ghetto,” she fell behind a straw mattress and kept still. They didn’t find her. Rose managed to escape and later caught up with her two younger brothers, who had already successfully managed to get their mother off a transport truck to safety. Then, she found her 18 month old niece, alive and seemingly forgotten in a corner. Together, they would all survive the Holocaust. Goldberg’s courageous efforts during one of the world’s most horrific events would have a lasting impact, not only on her own life, but on the lives of others in her family. Perhaps most notably, her daughter, Anita Goldberg Zucker, who credits her mother, now almost 92 years old, with being her greatest teacher. “She’s got an amazing strength and a dedication that binds us to this day,” said Zucker, an acclaimed Charleston businesswoman and philanthropist, who served as the featured speaker at the Daniel Island Speaker Series September 9 event at the Daniel Island Club. “…She’s really quite amazing and I can’t say enough about her. The one thing I can tell you is her faith never wavered…She’s taught me so much about the values necessary to achieve success.” Dressed in a crisp black dress suit, Zucker used her time at the podium last week to share her life’s story with the 250 people in attendance, much of it centering on the influence of her mother. Her late father, Carl, who married her mother after the atrocities of the war had ended, was also a Holocaust survivor. As Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of her family’s company, The InterTech Group, Inc., Zucker also owns the Carolina Ice Palace, the original Ms. Rose’s Fine Foods and Cocktails in West Ashley (named for her mother), and the South Carolina Sting Rays. She has served on numerous boards, including Trident United Way; the Advisory Board of the Charleston Area HUB for Math, Science and Technology; Trident Technical College Area Commission; the Board of Jewish Studies, Inc.; and the Medical University of South Carolina Foundation. She is a past president of the Rotary Club of Charleston, Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, and the Coastal Community Foundation. Zucker has also been the recipient of multiple awards, such as the prestigious “Order of the Palmetto,” South Carolina’s highest civilian honor; the “Joseph P. Riley Leadership Award”; and the Charleston Jewish Federation’s inaugural “Light Unto the Nations Award.” Zucker and her late husband, Jerry, started InterTech in 1982, after moving to the Charleston area in 1978. While speaking to her Daniel Island audience, she reflected on the early days of her marriage to Jerry, who passed away after a battle with cancer in 2008. They began to cultivate what would later become a highly successful business model while living as college students in Florida, both working to put themselves through school. “When I turned 18, I married Jerry Zucker, and life began,” she said. “…We owned a delicatessen and a record store…and in the afternoons when we finished the paying jobs and the classes, we would go cook. We prepared foods that were being served while we were busy working or going to school. It was really an interesting time.” The couple learned the benefits of hard work early on, and success followed soon after. “…We made sacrifices, but no challenge was too great,” said Zucker, “We were building a foundation and would eventually discover success in business and that success would unveil opportunities to improve the lives of others, through giving and community service. So over the years as our businesses grew so did our opportunity to give back.” Several decades later, the Zucker family’s InterTech Group is one of America’s largest private companies with some 15,000 employees and an estimated worth of $4.2 billion (Forbes, October 2014). Jerry’s vision, combined with his continuous efforts to conduct business with honesty, integrity, respect, and fairness, continue to guide the company’s practices today. “Our company is family-owned,” Zucker said. “What makes it very special is that we have strong business performance and a wonderful committed family…Our family is what it’s all about. We all work together, do things together, and we care for each other.” The business is involved in products and services related to aerospace, advanced materials, leisure entertainment, real estate, financial services, manufacturing and alternative energy. Some of their products and investments include a polymer fiber that keeps firefighters protected longer in extreme heat, soft baits for fisherman, solar farms, beach volleyball in Canada, and residential and commercial real estate all over the world. “It makes our industry never boring, and always a lot of fun to see what we’re engaged in,” Zucker told the audience. Driving the business’s widespread achievements are several “keys to success” created by Jerry, said Zucker. First, always have a sense of urgency and a bias for action. “As CEO, he made decisions yesterday, I used to make them tomorrow,” added Zucker. “I can’t do that anymore. I had to change. No more procrastination!” Also on the list — leading by example and serving as a role model, asking yourself daily if your actions are contributing to increasing company revenues or reducing costs, continuously increasing productivity through better application of methods and technologies, striving for innovation, and providing excellent and consistent customer service. “Jerry also said if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life,” said Zucker. “I have to tell you, I am really lucky and I love my job. I’m happy to have somewhere to go and something to do every day.” Zucker said she is also very thankful that InterTech remains a privately held company. “The most important thing is we’re very entrepreneurial. As a private company, I can make decisions at the snap of a finger…That’s what really differentiates us from a public company. We can do pretty much what we want. I don’t have to work to please shareholders, because I am it. That’s a nice thing.” An undeniable component of the Zucker family mantra is service, something that Zucker said she and her husband learned from their parents, as well as their faith. Both the company and the family continually seek out ways to provide help to those in need, particularly in areas that enhance the human experience, such as education, health and human needs, the environment and the arts. They have created a legacy of charitable giving over the years, contributing millions of dollars towards various initiatives both locally and nationally. “One thing our parents taught us was to give of your time and your talent,” she said. “So we began to do that, and today we can give our treasure.” The Zucker family has several charitable foundations, among them the InterTech Foundation, which gives between $200,000 and $500,000 in grant funding per year. They have also contributed greatly to educational causes in South Carolina, creating a Zucker Family School of Education at The Citadel, the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center at the Clemson Restoration Institute, and the Zucker Institute for Aerospace Innovation at the University of South Carolina. “In our religion in the Jewish faith it’s expressed as ‘Tikkun Olam,’ repair of the world, and this is a philosophy that today guides my family and me through our lives,” Zucker said. “It’s such a vital part of the foundation supporting my personal and professional life.” Making sure today’s youth are well educated and equipped to enter the job force is an area Zucker is particularly passionate about. Citing the increasing expansions of new businesses into South Carolina, including Boeing, Volvo, and Daimler Chrysler, the Lowcountry workforce must be prepared with ready skill sets, she said. “We can change people’s lives by giving them the right education,” said Zucker, a former educator herself who earned a master’s in education from the University of North Florida. “Not everyone has a college degree, but they have the ability to earn a wage. A living wage allows them to become successful as individuals. That’s critical to me.” In closing, Zucker shared a favorite quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Do not follow where the path may lead,” she recited. “Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” From Rose Goldberg’s journey to freedom so many years ago, to Anita Zucker’s own road to prosperity and philanthropy, it’s always been about making a difference. “I believe that great achievement is born from leading by example, and inspiration rather than dictation,” said Zucker. “…I spend my time working towards something more important than self…In my religion, it’s an obligation. It’s an obligation to leave the world a little better than how we found it.” For Zucker, Rose is still providing that example. Two women, separated by two different worlds of experiences, linked by a common, powerful theme that has become a lasting family legacy. “Our connection is one of those things that created a driving force within me,” said Zucker. “She has played an unbelievably key role in my decisions to become an educator, an entrepreneur, and teaching me about the joys of living, and living to serve.” The Daniel Island Speaker Series is sponsored by The Rotary Club of Daniel Island, the Daniel Island Property Owners Association, the Daniel Island Club, and the Daniel Island Business Association. The next speaker in the series, slated to take place on November 18, will be Nigel Redden, General Director of Spoleto USA. For additional information, please send an email inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.