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Howard Jonas: “Every setback is just an opportunity to try things another way — and maybe for Heaven to send a miracle your way.”

There are so many miracles in the world. I don’t see myself as a person always being challenged who needs grit to get by. It seems to me every setback is just an opportunity to try things another way — and maybe for Heaven to send a miracle your way. I had the pleasure of interviewing Howard Jonas, […]


There are so many miracles in the world. I don’t see myself as a person always being challenged who needs grit to get by. It seems to me every setback is just an opportunity to try things another way — and maybe for Heaven to send a miracle your way.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Howard Jonas, Chairman of the board at Rafael Pharmaceuticals. Jonas is the Founder and Chairman of IDT Corporation (NYSE: IDT), Genie Energy (NYSE: GNE), and IDW Media (OTC: IDWM). He was also the Founder and controlling shareholder of Straight Path Communications, Inc (NYSE: STRP), which was acquired by Verizon for $3.1 Billion. Mr. Jonas has extensive leadership experience in founding and growing public companies and has sold multiple businesses in deals worth both hundreds of millions and billions of dollars.


Thank you so much for joining us Howard! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started by delivering tourist brochures to hotel lobbies. When I went to visit my first prospect, the leader of the company was two hours late to the meeting. At first, I was upset, but after an hour I was happy, because I realized such an important guy wouldn’t keep a 17-year-old entrepreneur waiting for so long without giving him a contract to distribute his brochures, for $20 dollars a month. I got the deal and eventually I raised my price.

Can you tell us your story of “Grit and Success”? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

In 2007, after I had semi-retired, our company went into a tail spin and the stock price dropped by 99 percent. On paper we owed far more than we had and were bankrupt, but I wasn’t unhappy. Instead, I found it invigorating. Finally, I was needed.

You see, when you run a big company, everyone does everything for you. When you’re on the skids you have to do everything yourself. So, with my sons help (and the help of the great downturn of 2008) we were able to restructure and actually came out far ahead of where we were before the slide!

How did Grit lead to your eventual success?

There are so many miracles in the world. I don’t see myself as a person always being challenged who needs grit to get by. It seems to me every setback is just an opportunity to try things another way — and maybe for Heaven to send a miracle your way.

So, how are things going today?

Today, I’m proud to share that I sit as chairman of the board for Rafael Pharmaceuticals, a leader in the growing field of cancer metabolism-based therapeutics.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I once called on every multinational company telecom manager in New York to try our new service, which cut the cost of calls from overseas by 80 percent. Not one signed up.

Then the New York times eventually did a front-page story on us they all called in three days and signed. Many told me the same story, that the CEO read the story in the NYT that day and called to find out why they weren’t using us. The telecom managers all told them we were in touch and signed right away. Sometimes you just have to reach the right person in the right place.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I believe Rafael Pharmaceuticals stands out because it is the next wave of cancer treatment — Cancer Metabolism. We all know the staple to treating cancer is chemotherapy — which remains an effective method. But we also know chemotherapy decimates the immune system. Then, there’s the promise of immunotherapy, arguably the hottest topic in cancer treatment and one we’ve seen work. Unfortunately, today’s immunotherapies work for only 20–30 percent of patients with some cancers and is completely ineffective in others.

We need additional tools in our cancer-fighting arsenal, and this — among many other reasons– is why I chose to invest in Rafael. The company has found a way to develop a cell metabolic therapy to where only targets the mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) within cancer cells — so no healthy cells are harmed in the process.

I believe this is the game changer we’ve been waiting for

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

While many things can be said on the subject, I think one sentence can sum it up — “Only do things that inspire you and the people you work with.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Not every story is a success story — but Michael Steinhardt made it possible for us to go after oil in Israel with the company Genie Energy. Although the project didn’t work out, I don’t regret trying. It would have been great for Israel and for the company. Michael Steinhardt is a giant both for his vision and in his heart. I am forever grateful to him.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

While I do the typical charity events, donations, etc. , that, all good-hearted people do. But I believe it will be through my company, Rafael Pharmaceuticals, where I have the opportunity to bring goodness into the world. I believe this company will provide the cure for those with the deadliest cancers. That’s a great reason to go to work every day.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

There’s a lot of divide right now in our world. I’d want to find a way to break down walls and bring people together to learn from one another.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I don’t have social media but they can follow our company’s channels on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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