They say millennials don’t have their lives together, but these three young Jews are exceptions to that stereotype.
Matt Shipon, 32, Jan Kushner, 36, and Tamar Silberberg Shiffman, 39, are the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s young leadership award winners for 2021. They will be recognized at the Jewish Federation’s board of trustees meeting on Sept. 30.
All three area residents are successful young professionals who have taken the very adult step of doing charitable work in their community. For their efforts, Shipon, Kushner and Silberberg Shiffman were identified as potential leaders of the future.
Shipon won the Jack Goldenberg Young Leadership Award, Kushner the Myer and Rosaline Feinstein Young Leadership Award and Silberberg Shiffman the Mrs. Blanche Wolfe Kohn Young Leadership Award.
The three young Jews talked about how they grew into leaders.
Shipon, a real estate developer, got involved with the Jewish Federation at age 24.
After focusing more on Greek life than Hillel at Penn State University, Shipon graduated and went to Israel via Birthright.
The trip was the first time since summer camp as a kid that Shipon was surrounded by Jews. He also said he was inspired after meeting with Israeli soldiers.
“I felt like I lost that connection when I went to college,” Shipon added. “I felt a need to reconnect.”
Shipon came home and started volunteering with the Jewish Federation.
For a couple of years, he helped run the leadership development program, a several-month class that taught students “everything about the [Jewish] Federation,” including how to raise money and how to allocate it, according to Shipon.
After that, Shipon joined NextGen, the branch of the Jewish Federation for Jews in their 20s and 30s. As chair, he helped build an at-large board that created 40 new leadership positions.
Essentially, Shipon was creating space for his leadership students to become actual leaders.
“It’s going to be our generation that needs to make changes for the future,” Shipon said.
According to the 32-year-old, though, millennial Jews aren’t yet falling into the typical synagogue models. So, he thinks that the Jewish Federation needs to lean into nontraditional methods.
“Our generation is interested in volunteering. Our generation wants to know where dollars are going,” he said. “Maybe it’s getting people involved through volunteering and keeping them informed.”
Kushner, a CPA, spent the early years of her career working in consulting and traveling.
But in 2017, she left consulting and got a job as head of tax for a not-for-profit organization. She also took a trip to Israel through the Jewish Federations of North America.
Afterward, Kushner wanted to get more involved where she lived. National Jewish Federation leaders told the Lawrenceville, New Jersey, resident to join the local branch, and she did.
Kushner joined Partnership Together, the Jewish Federation group that provides support to the Netivot region in Israel. As an accountant, she felt she could add to a process designed to create economic opportunities.
Later, the CPA also became part of the Jewish Federation’s finance committee, which provides financial oversight of the organization’s activities.
Last year during COVID, she helped the JFNA assist rabbis, Hebrew school principals and other Jewish organization leaders in applying for federal government loans through the Paycheck Protection Program.
“Wherever my talents could best be used,” Kushner said.
Moving forward, Kushner will try to use her talents to galvanize other young Jews.
“What do they need from the [Jewish] Federation? What do they need from their synagogues?” she said. “Those are the questions that should be asked.”
Tamar Silberberg Shiffman
Between 2016-18, Silberberg Shiffman had her last of four children and started a new insurance company, Concierge Insurance Solutions.
The Wynnewood resident had dug deep roots in her community, and now she wanted to contribute to it, too. So, she got more involved with the Jewish Federation.
Silberberg Shiffman described herself as “a passive supporter” of the Jewish Federation before; but around 2018, she became active in leadership roles. In 2021, she is on the Jewish Federation’s young leadership cabinet and executive team. She is also serving as its engagement chair.
“The [Jewish] Federation is a staple within the Jewish community,” Silberberg Shiffman said.
It’s also important to preserve that staple through a difficult time, she said.
With the recent rise in antisemitism, Silberberg Shiffman believes that young Jews need to maintain a strong community with significant financial backing. She views the Jewish Federation as essential to that effort.