When Frederick Strober was at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, he didn’t see a whole lot of other students like him.
He was in his 30s and studying at night, and it took him four years to earn his law degree, not the usual three because he was still working his day job.
Strober’s path was hardly traditional, but it allowed him to build his foundation as a real estate and construction law giant in the Philadelphia area. A partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP, where he’s worked for 40 years, Strober has led projects in the nonprofit sector with the mission of “seeking justice” for his clients and those they serve.
“I would rather be working for institutions that have the mission to serve people, whether it’s in the health care, or educational or cultural sphere,” Strober said.
Strober also served as chair and president of American Jewish Committee Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey from 2014-’16 and 2016-’18, respectively. He served as president of Congregation Rodeph Shalom and has served on the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s board of trustees three times over three decades.
AJC Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey will present Strober the 2022 Judge Learned Hand Award at a virtual event on March 9 to honor his work at AJC, in the community and beyond.
“Fred brings a high level of knowledge, ethics and integrity to his work at AJC and has the ability to affect those around him positively,” AJC Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey Regional Director Marcia Bronstein said. “He works outside the spotlight and helps others to find a place at AJC both locally and nationally. He engenders trust and respect from his fellow board members as a leader who sets the tone for community work.”
The Judge Learned Hand Award was created in 1964 to “honor those who have contributed meaningfully to the legal profession and whose work reflects the integrity and broad humanitarian ideals exemplified by Judge Learned Hand,” Bronstein said.
As a real estate and construction lawyer, Strober is tasked with representing clients buying and selling commercial properties, most of whom are nonprofits.
For 15 years, Strober oversaw the redevelopment of the Philadelphia Shipyard. Counseling Philadelphia Shipyard Development Corp., a nonprofit corporation created by the city, Strober helped the corporation ensure that it was abiding by the appropriate environmental agreements and aligning with the vision the city and commonwealth have for the commercial space.
Most recently, Strober has taken on the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue complex as a pro bono client, where he is assisting in its “Remember, Renew, Rebuild” initiative to construct a Holocaust remembrance center and a center to combat hate and antisemitism.
“It didn’t take me a nanosecond to say ‘yes,’” he said. “The ability to work with Tree of Life … is to me, at this point of my career, just something I couldn’t pass up.”
But real estate law was not Strober’s passion growing up. Strober, a New York native, moved to Philadelphia after high school, where he received a bachelor’s in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania in 1970 and a master’s in educational administration from Temple University in 1977.
Strober became a teacher at Greene Street Friends School before teaching at Green Tree School, a small Quaker school, where he taught students with disabilities. He eventually became the director of development there, where he learned grant writing and public relations.
But the experience from Strober’s pre-law days that gets him talking the most is his year in Israel, where he lived on a kibbutz and paid visits to his aunts in Jerusalem.
“I was single, I was 25, and I had a lot of relatives in Israel,” Strober said.
Strober’s roots in Israel run deep. His family first moved to Jerusalem in 1809, and his mother’s family, the Rivlins, stayed while Strober’s mother moved to New York. Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s 10th president from 2014-’21, is Strober’s cousin.
“He could be considered a Jerusalemite,” Rivlin, who will speak at the AJC’s virtual event, said of Strober.
Strober’s time in Israel in 1973-’74 coincided with the Yom Kippur War, when there was a shortage of men able to work in kibbutzim. The kibbutzim at which Strober worked comprised mostly of young Germans, and Strober spent the year with the children of Holocaust refugees.
When he returned to the states, Strober continued his path in education, but ultimately decided to become a lawyer, something he had wanted to be since childhood but didn’t seriously consider pursuing until adulthood.
“It’s been a great ride,” Strober said.