What (or Who) is JFRE: The Mogul Mensches of Philadelphia


On a recent morning at the luxe new Center City apartment building 1213 Walnut, nearly 150 real estate professionals gathered to network for charity’s sake — a typical event held by Jewish Federation Real Estate (JFRE). This particular event was sponsored by The Goldenberg Group, the co-developer of 1213 Walnut.

Relaxed chatter filled the high-ceilinged space as people wound their way through the crowd introducing themselves, exchanging business cards and getting exclusive tours of the property.

“This is the typical JFRE vibe. It’s very collegial — it’s filled with people you know and people that you would like to know,” said JFRE Chairman Michael Markman, surveying the scene. “Most people are in this room to create business opportunities. So to get them together while also raising money for charity allows them to combine interests in a way that’s unmatched in Philadelphia.”

Markman checked the time; Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney was about to arrive to discuss his newly unveiled city budget.

This is JFRE, pronounced “Jeffrey,” an affinity group of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which brings together the Philadelphia real estate community — developers, attorneys, financiers, vendors and the like — for volunteer opportunities, fundraising, education and networking.

Since JFRE’s founding in 2008, it has contributed $1.4 million to good causes, especially those that help the disadvantaged or older adults. Last year alone it donated $500,000 to 14 different projects, including funding home repairs for Holocaust survivors in Northeast Philadelphia and in Israel.

JFRE’s philanthropic impact has made it an important contributor to our Jewish communities. But as a powerful networking group whose members, attendees and sponsors often come from outside the Jewish communities, its unique approach to Jewish philanthropy sets it apart.

“Probably a fourth of the people in this room aren’t Jewish,” Markman said. “It shows our collective power for charitable giving. We’re leveraging our business connections and helping Jewish Federation at the same time.”

It’s a win-win for all involved, he explained: To be involved in JFRE, many real estate businesses or professionals make charitable gifts to the Jewish Federation, a thought that otherwise may not have occurred to them.

Of all of JFRE’s networking and fundraising events, the biggest by far is its annual Legends and Leaders, to be held on May 4 at the Crystal Tea Room, which brings together the region’s most brilliant real estate minds to talk about the hottest real estate trends; this year’s theme is “Disruption in Real Estate.” Hundreds of professionals from across Greater Philadelphia come for the roundtable panels, where they hear directly from some of the area’s most distinguished real estate moguls.

“You don’t normally get access to people like that, let alone to ask them questions and spend time with them,” JFRE executive committee member Jeremy Fogel said.

For more information about attending or sponsoring the upcoming seventh annual Legends and Leaders, please contact Rachel Sigman, senior development officer, at [email protected] or 215.832.0153.

The JFRE Impact

JFRE members make a difference in millions of lives. Each year, JFRE invests hundreds of thousands of dollars in critical projects to support Jewish communities in Greater Philadelphia and in Israel through the JFRE Fund. In 2017-2018, JFRE provided more than $500,000 to 14 critical projects, including:

Habitat for Humanity Rebuild

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Northeast NORC supports older adults living in Northeast Philadelphia to age safely and with dignity in their own homes. The rebuild project will partner with Habitat for Humanity and Jewish Federation volunteers to perform necessary home repairs and provide basic home maintenance. Volunteers provide essential services from changing lightbulbs to repairing roofs, enabling clients to safely remain in their own homes as they age.

Home Repair for Holocaust Survivors

Our local Jewish community is fortunate to have among us hundreds of Holocaust survivors living and thriving. While the Claims Conference pays for home care and chore services, many survivors live in Northeast Philadelphia rowhomes desperate for major home repair and modifications such as a new roof, windows, stair glides, plumbing problems and more. Home repairs were completed for 15 survivors.

Grow for a Friend Expansion

KleinLife provides social, educational, and cultural programs, as well as vital social and medical services for people living in Northeast Philadelphia. With JFRE’s assistance, the organization will increase its production by planting a small orchard, building an additional hoop house, and installing a harvest washing station. With this investment, Grow for a Friend will dramatically expand its ability to promote healthy eating, provide fresh and nutritious food to an at-risk population, and build community with many volunteer

Digital Choice System Enhancements

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Mitzvah Food Program provides basic pantry staples for food insecure individuals and families living in the Greater Philadelphia area. This project will develop a web-based system for clients to order food remotely, instead of visiting a pantry, increasing accessibility for homebound clients who would not otherwise be able to travel to pantry sites.

Emergency Rent Grant

Golden Slipper Gems provides services for low-income older adults including social activities, educational classes and nutritious lunches. This project will provide funding to cover the increased rent cost for the senior center’s Wynnefield Heights location. This funding will ensure older adults can remain fully engaged in life as they age in their own homes.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here