Jonathan Alexander is well-acquainted with the narrative that Judaism is restrictive. That Jewish people shouldn’t consume cheeseburgers and Jewish kids shouldn’t go to Little League practice on Saturdays.
Alexander has a different perspective.
“I like to think of [Judaism] in terms of the good things it brings. The values it brings. Why Shabbat is special,” he said.
Alexander, a 2007 Temple University graduate, has deep ties to the Jewish community. He said his mother was the former president of the Jewish Federation of Central New York and his father the former president of a local synagogue.
So when Alexander was approached to join the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Leadership Development Program in 2010, he jumped at the opportunity. He has since joined several other committees associated with Jewish Federation, to which he also donates.
“Jewish life and learning is very important to me, and helping people see the value and the fun that Judaism can be is always something I’ve been passionate about,” Alexander said.
That mindset carried into his college experience, when he served as president of Temple’s Alpha Epsilon Pi chapter. It was through AEPi that Alexander first got involved with Jewish Federation’s local efforts.
Now he plays a role in helping foster Jewish interest in the community. As a member of Jewish Federation’s commission for Jewish life and learning, he helps decide which groups should receive grants. He also serves as campaign chair of Jewish Federation’s NextGen committee.
When he’s not fostering Jewish pride, Alexander works as a financial planner at AXA Advisors. Based in Bala Cynwyd, Alexander provides financial guidance to clients from all walks, but focus on young professionals and people on the verge of retiring.
“I like working with the young professionals. I get a particular rise out of it because [they are] close to my age,” Alexander said. “They need the most help from a knowledge standpoint.”
He looks for “people that are embarking on a good career, have good income potential. Good people dedicated to advancing themselves and their careers, not just waiting for the clock to strike five,” Alexander said.
He noted that financial literacy in the United States is “terrible,” and that some of his clients have trouble writing checks or can’t tell the difference between stocks and bonds. Other people come to him with more refined requests, like those who wish to minimize the amount they pay in taxes after retiring.
Alexander enjoys his work, but looks forward to Shabbat every week. Sometimes that means going to synagogue. More often, though, he’ll close out the week with a relaxing dinner, surrounded by family and friends,
He encourages others to rethink the way they look at Shabbat, and find ways to see the fun in the weekly tradition. He offered a suggestion, grinning.
“It could be something as simple as having a nicer glass of wine or whiskey than you might typically have,” Alexander said.
This article is part of an occasional series of profiles of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia supporters.
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