When Matt Shipon speaks of his Jewish identity, the conversation turns to family history.
One grandfather emigrated from Poland in 1938. His entire family died there, and he built a life for himself from nothing. His other grandfather, Nathan Shipon, emigrated from Russia and opened a grocery store in Queen Village called Nate’s Southern Food Center. When he bought the surrounding properties to prevent competition from moving in, there was no way he could have known the impact it would have on his grandson.
Decades later, Matt Shipon co-owns AaronRob Properties with his brother, and they are developing those next-door properties into mixed-use buildings. And after serving as the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s NextGen vice chair for outreach for the past two years, Shipon will step into the role as chair this summer.
“My main goals are really to increase outreach and engagement and get more people involved,” Shipon said. “We do so much as an organization, but there are so many people out there who have no clue what we do or who we are.”
Shipon’s involvement in the Jewish Federation goes back five years, through the leadership development program. After he emerged from the program, he took a position on the board.
As NextGen chair, Shipon hopes to convert more people into Jewish Federation donors. As someone who both donates and holds a position, he gets to see first hand that money’s reach. For example, when he visited the Israeli town of Netivot on a Birthright trip he staffed, he witnessed the people’s connection with their sister city, Philadelphia. He also saw a Liberty Bell replica in town.
“Being able to listen to the people who are recipients of the aid that [Jewish] Federation gives has been a great experience and really opened my eyes to the needs of the Jewish population here in Philadelphia and around the world,” he said.
Growing up, he attended George School, and his family worshipped at Congregation Kol Emet in Yardley. He studied finance at Penn State. After graduating and working in finance for a few months, Shipon’s older brother invited him to join the family business, which was then Shipon’s Chicken. When Matt Shipon’s father took over the grocery store, he transformed it into a chicken cheesesteak provider. The two brothers joined that business, eventually developing the properties surrounding it.
As the real estate business grew, they started working on development almost exclusively.
Besides his work at Aaron Rob Properties and Jewish Federation, Shipon has served as president of the young professionals committee for The Barkann Family Healing Hearts Foundation, where he helped local families during times of hardship.
“I’ve been so fortunate in my life, having a great family, great parents who’ve provided for me throughout my life,” Shipon said. “I just know how lucky I am and how unlucky some other people are, and I feel compassion for them, and I just want to do what I can.”
This article is part of an occasional series of profiles of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia supporters.
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