Climbing Jacob’s Ladder

Even at a very young age, Brandon Fishman felt the excitement, validation and rewards that came from being an entrepreneur.

A graduate of Germantown Academy, Fishman was active in his local youth group and a member of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park. His dream was to be in business for himself.

And so, he invested in Waterfront Square Condominium and Spa, later featuring the development on his Web site,, now a premiere resource, he says, for marketing new and preconstruction condo developments, representing more than 20 complexes in Philadelphia alone.

"My partner, Brent Gleeson, and I created NewCondosOnline about three years ago. We are not developers, and we don't sell condos. We are pretty much an advertising service, now the largest online condo advertising service for developers, representing about 1,300 different projects around the world," he claims.

But business alone can't quite satisfy the soul, remarks Fishman. For example, he and his partner are involved in all kinds of charities, like the one they founded called Tutorzilla, a new global tutoring site.

Says Fishman: "We hope to create the largest online tutoring site in the world, teaming up with governments to put together programs for underperforming children to offer online education and very affordable tutoring by certifying tutors here and in other countries as well."

So when his aunt, Lori Sklar, died from breast cancer in 2006, it seemed only natural for Fishman to join forces with his mother, Debra, and other family members in an organization called JACOB International, a foundation dedicated to educating Jewish women about their risk for breast and ovarian cancer, and raise money for genetic testing.

JACOB — which stands for Jews Against Cancer of the Breast — was founded by Lori Sklar before she passed away on Dec. 30. Her mission to save lives continues today through the efforts of her husband, Bill; and her sisters, Linda Kivitz and Debra Fishman. Brandon Fishman and his mother sit on JACOB's board, along with doctors, religious leaders and businesspeople.

Education Equals Power
According to Debra Fishman, "We were all motivated to keep this going because Lori developed breast cancer at the age of 47, as a result of a gene mutation. We felt that if she had known about her genetic predisposition, she would have taken positive measures to reduce her risks."

In fact, Debra Fishman continues, one out of 40 Ashkenazi Jewish women have a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutation, which gives them a 33 percent to 50 percent risk of developing breast cancer by age 50, and 56 percent to 87 percent by age 70.

Additionally, one out of 40 Ashkenazi Jewish women have a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutation, which gives them a 27 percent to 44 percent risk of developing ovarian cancer by age 70.

"A simple blood test will tell you if you have either gene mutation," she explains. "So our mission today is to educate women relative to the benefits of genetic testing in order to identify the gene mutations that might place them at risk. With this information, women can take proactive steps to reduce these risks.

"We recognize the sensitivity of the subject of genetic testing, but Lori's story is one that could have been avoided had she been properly educated. We want women to remember that knowledge is power!"

Lori Sklar was in the real estate business, and she and Brandon sort of helped each other as they pursued their dreams. Today, Brandon Fishman feels he "owes" his aunt in more ways than one.

"In the case of JACOB, it's become a very personal need to recognize and honor my aunt for who and what she was."

Adds Debra Fishman: "This organization is really my sister's legacy and a way of continuing on with something she was so involved with. We know that knowledge is power. And, just as the Talmud tells us, if you can save one life, you've saved the world!"

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