B&P groups aim to make community connections

Corner Office panel

The panelists in the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix’s “Corner Office: Lessons from Jewish Business Leaders” event on April 16 were (in front row, from left) Anthony Wanger, president of IO; Tammy Weinbaum, senior vice president and general manager at American Express; and Craig Weiss, chairman of Njoy. In back, from left, are Adam Goodman, president and CEO at Goodmans Interior Structures, who was the moderator; Eliot Kaplan, chair of the federation’s Business & Professionals Division; and Steven Schwarz, federation board chair. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix

Back in the day, I was involved in the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix’s Young Leadership Division, as a program participant and then as a board member and Mazelpalooza co-chair. Then, I had kids and shifted my focus elsewhere. Now that my children are a little older and I occasionally have some opportunities to get out a little more, I no longer fit in the “young adult” mode of YLD, which is now Young Jewish Phoenix (YJP). But fortunately, for those in my age range, the federation has relaunched its Business and Professional (or “B&P”) Division.

At the “Corner Office: Lessons from Jewish Business Leaders” event on April 16, it felt like a program for those who “aged out” of YLD (or YJP). And I mean that in a good way. I saw a couple of people who I used to see often at YLD events and even someone who I went to camp with up at Camp Charles Pearlstein (now Camp Stein) back in high school.

As Eliot Kaplan, chair of the Business and Professionals Division, said in his introduction that night, B&P groups are “a way to connect on a smaller level.”

“It’s a way to interact with other individuals that are doing what you’re doing, but also a way to connect to the Jewish community in Phoenix,” Kaplan told Jewish News. “What I’m hoping this is, is a way for us to reach out to many Jews in the community who just haven’t connected with the Jewish community yet. We have an untapped amount of people that I’m not sure that any of us know who they are or how many of them there are.

“My sense is that they exist and there’s a lot of them and if we can provide easy opportunities for them to enjoy themselves and hang out, that may be a way of getting them involved and ultimately that’s our goal: to have the Jewish community connect with each other so ultimately we’re helping all the charities [the federation is] supporting.”

Before the recession, the federation had several flourishing professional groups – one for doctors, one for lawyers and one for those in the real estate and finance industries. But after the recession hit, they just kind of fizzled out. “Nothing was happening, so they just sort of died from neglect more than anything else,” Kaplan says.

But last year, the federation relaunched the groups. The Cardozo Society – for lawyers – had a successful event in January 2014, which featured retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Then in June, the group held a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) event about “Legal Ethics on the Tube” and a November cocktail and networking reception. Earlier this year, the group held a CLE general counsel forum featuring general counsel panelists from companies such as American Airlines and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The federation also relaunched programs for real estate professionals in January 2014, beginning with the fitting topic of “Surviving a Real Estate Depression & Looking to the Future,” with Mark Sklar, managing director and partner of DMB Associates, a private real estate investment and development company. Another program highlighted new development in downtown Tempe and another in downtown Scottsdale. The group’s next event is next week: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 5, at Butterfly Wonderland, 9500 E. Via de Ventura, Scottsdale. The program is called “Cutting-edge development in Indian Country.”

Each group has its own infrastructure, Kaplan says. “Our goal is to keep these groups up and sustainable on their own so we want them to have strong leadership in each group.”

This week, the B&P Division is launching a third group: Chai Tech, for professionals in the technology and engineering fields. The launch party is 6:30-8:30 p.m. this Thursday, April 30, at Toasted Cork, 4301 N. Civic Center Plaza, Scottsdale. To register, visit jewishphoenix.org or contact Amanda Garcia at 480-634-4900, ext. 1202 or professionals@jewishphoenix.org.

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