Bill Glazer and a dozen of his peers started Jewish Federation Real Estate (JFRE) after he was approached by lay leaders to see if he would consider taking on the real estate division of Jewish Federation.
Bill Glazer took advantage of some prime real estate for an organization within the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia back in around 2008 — literally.
He and a dozen of his peers started Jewish Federation Real Estate (JFRE) after he was approached by lay leaders to see if he would consider taking on the real estate division of Jewish Federation.
Glazer, who also is president and CEO of Keystone Property Group, accepted the challenge and pulled together a group — from other key leaders such as Brad Krouse, Dave Adelman and Rob Zuritsky — who “helped form the nucleus of a pretty enjoyable group.”
Nearly 10 years later, the group still has a lot of fun, Glazer said. Part of that is because of the team that JFRE has formed and the shared enthusiasm and passion for the work they do.
“It’s one of the most rewarding philanthropic missions that I have been a part of,” Glazer reflected. “Anything that is Jewish Philadelphia real estate, we can have massive influence over because there’s no one in the Philadelphia Jewish real estate community that isn’t one degree of separation from our executive committee or our membership, so it has become very influential and very effective.”
Over the years, JFRE has been able to fundraise more through various events and fundraisers — a key one being the annual Legends and Leaders breakfast event, which is coming up May 6 — and create enough capital that they can distribute funds to the Jewish organizations and projects as they see fit. JFRE has helped fund projects from a new playground at a day school to dock repairs at an overnight camp.
JFRE has given close to $650,000 to the community for various projects since 2009, said Rachel Sigman, senior development officer of Jewish Federation as well as the staff person for JFRE.
The distinction, she explained, is that these funds support projects and programs that are not supported financially by the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Fund and “finding resources to meet those needs.”
In the past two years, JFRE has “amped up” giving, Sigman added. In the 2014 year, JFRE gave $225,000; in 2015 it gave $228,000 and is “on track to continue to exceed that this year.”
“It’s a testament to people understanding what JFRE does and wanting to support the missions,” Sigman said.
For Glazer, the key aspect of the money the group raises and allocates to the projects they choose is that it is their own choice.
“The nice thing,” he said, “is it’s capital that we raised and that we have discretion to spend, and we can be very nimble about sending it to projects that have immediate needs.”
Paraphrasing something Dave Adelman told him, Glazer added, “We can sprinkle it like pixie dust across a number of projects rather than doing all the work for one project.”
“It’s created a real cachet around being involved in Federation,” he said, “and it’s galvanized a whole group of people to really to be active in both Federation and the community.”
Glazer’s interest in real estate and the industry came as a kind of rebellion. Growing up in a family of doctors, Glazer followed his own passions — away from the medical field.
He served as the first chair of JFRE for three years. This experience helping JFRE get off its feet and create an impact in the community was something that still resonates with him — having fun in the process was a bonus.
“I couldn’t have imagined that it was as much as fun as it was when the original 12 of us got together and as much fun as it is for the 1,000-plus members, and that’s exciting,” said Glazer, who, like other past chairs, is still active with JFRE and serves on its executive board. “It’s cool that there’s something that makes it really enjoyable and it pulls so many threads together in one direction.
“It is so much fun being in a room with your peers who are likeminded and have a common interest and drive and success.”
For him, watching the organization grow and fund more projects and have a greater impact on the community is something he has greatly enjoyed and hopes only expands.
“I’d like to see it grow in strength and size so it can do more good around Philadelphia, around our region and be more of a force in the community,” he said.
Rob Zuritsky only recently stepped out of his role as chair, which lasted for two terms in 2014 and 2015; like Glazer, he takes pride in what JFRE has been able to accomplish.
“I’m most proud of having the confidence of the group, the board of directors, the executive committee and being able to lead such a terrific group of real estate professionals at a very exciting time for the real estate community in Philadelphia,” Zuritsky said.
He cited articles about how Philadelphia is becoming the top city for millennials to live in. With the city attracting a younger crowd, so too is JFRE.
“We started a group that is of new younger leaders and they have been involved with events and fundraising and really starting to take a lead in the organization, as well as a women’s division,” Zuritsky said. “We’re engaging a lot of new people into JFRE. We were able to increase fundraising, as well as funding of projects to a scale that we haven’t been able to reach in the past.”
Zuritsky, who was one of the founding members of JFRE, grew up with a familial passion for real estate. Now serving as president of his family business, Parkway Corp., he gets to work with his father and grandfather, which was always his dream and goal.
Working with JFRE has provided a “unique” way of being able to get involved with the larger community.
A big part of that is how much they have been able to fundraise recently and how many more projects they are able to support.
“The fact that we have autonomy to create our own educational events and way of fundraising as well as the disposition of funds to the community, I think really is almost unique to us in the country,” Zuritsky said. “Where we’re able to direct funds where we see fit to help the Jewish community — it’s very exciting and I think it’s unique.”
What makes their funding different is that they aren’t focusing on completely funding just one project — he echoed with a laugh the notion of “sprinkling pixie dust.”
“A lot of times we will do starter funds or challenge funds, where we’ll give you a quarter or third of the money if you raise the rest of the money that you need,” he explained.
The amounts they have been able to raise and distribute might be a little different, but it shows how widespread their impact is given how much more they’ve been able to raise — especially, he noted, when you look back at where they started.
The majority of the money they have raised has come from sponsorships at events, and a lot of that has even come from non-Jewish areas where businesses and individuals want to be involved with the JFRE community.
“When we really started giving to where we are now to giving away hundreds of thousands — it’s amazing,” he said. “It’s a little bit of an unorthodox way of distributing funds, but if you see where the money is going, it’s making a larger impact.”
This way, too, they can expand the organizations they can support, he added, from camps to schools, to Israeli army bases, to home reparations.
From its beginnings to now, the passion and energy of the group is what has kept it growing and makes it still enjoyable.
“In some ways, it hasn’t really changed a lot. It’s still kind of new and fun, which is what it’s always been,” he said. “We’re trying new things, we’re bringing new people in, there’s a real energy in the group.”
Jeff Bartos served as allocations chair before stepping into his current role as chair in September. He had been a part of the executive committee for six years.
He enjoys — much like the others — the work JFRE does, working with other real estate leaders and the mission to address the “critical needs” of the community.
Bartos, who has been in the real estate industry in the greater Philadelphia region for 15 years, said a lot of the work JFRE has been able to accomplish is owed to its leadership and “a vision a bunch of guys had eight or nine years ago” to make an impact in the community.
He is only hoping to continue building on their achievements year after year.
“The most gratifying aspect is to spend time with an incredible group of community leaders who work together to raise funds and address important projects for members of our community,” he said. “It’s fun, it’s rewarding and it’s a challenge that we all love to tackle.”
There have been plenty of new developments for JFRE, including its newly launched women’s division that has held two events, as well as a programs committee, Sigman said.
The programs committee works on building attendance for different events and has started doing more community service projects, as well. They are often tied to projects that JFRE has financially funded.
“It’s a group of men who came together,” she said of the executive committee, “and have been tremendously successful and saw JFRE as a way to give back to the community. They’ve set a good example [of how] to be successful and to do good.”
For Bartos, JFRE’s work and impact on the community can only continue to grow.
“There’s a never-ending real estate need in greater Philadelphia and Israel,” Bartos said, “and our hope and our goal is to continue to make a real impact — and to make an impact that will help us raise more dollars and fund more projects.”