Chaim Shmuel Schreiber was born in 1918 in Turka, a shtetl in Galicia on the river Stry in the Carpathian Mountains. At age 4 his family moved to Lemberg, as it was known under the Austro-Hungarian empire, then in Poland. Nowadays it’s Lviv in Western Ukraine. He had two brothers Yosef and Yehuda. He joined B’nei Akiva and his leader was Yitzchak Raphael – later a minister in Israel and a lifelong friend. Chaim was the only one of his family to survive the Shoa.
Chaim loved to sketch in the local museum and taught himself the art of wood inlay. He won a scholarship to study architecture in Vienna and lived there until World War II. He was saved by Leo Grahame in London, who guaranteed for him to settle as a refugee in England. During the War, Chaim used his skills with wood at De Havilland Industries designing the wings of the Mosquito fighter-bomber. During this period he also produced high-quality wood inlay pictures and had an exhibition at Harrods. Chaim married Sara Weinstock in 1942 and they started a business in their small flat in Tottenham making picture frames. They had three children.
Developing his knowledge of wood technology, he patented a process for moulding plywood and started producing cabinets for radio and later television. Chaim decided he wanted to produce his own end-product rather than be dependent on the large manufacturers of TVs and he went into the furniture business – first making self-assembly tables sold in Woolworths and later bedroom cabinet furniture and eventually furniture for all the home. Schreiber Furniture become the best-known and most trusted brand in UK furniture by the 1980’s.
He merged the company with GEC bringing Hotpoint, Morphy Richards and Schreiber under one management.
Schreiber was well ahead of his time in his enlightened policies towards his employees. He believed fervently in the integrity of the working man and built relationships with many thousands of employees on trust and in return earned outstanding loyalty, productivity and commitment. When he was ready to go to an IPO, he cancelled it at the last moment because the government ruled that his scheme to make all his employees shareholders was deemed to be a wage increase which, at that time, was not allowed.
His business was the focus of his life and he achieved success and satisfaction.
Chaim Schreiber died in 1984.
In addition to the naming of the Entrepreneurship Center in his honr, an annual Chaim Schreiber lecture on Halacha and Human Resource Management will be held at JCT.
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