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Jeff Bartos: A Philanthropist Who Leads By Example
Respect for the dignity of others is both the guiding force behind the Jewish approach to philanthropy and the manner in which Jeff Bartos conducts himself in his professional and personal relationships. Bartos, the North American CEO of Mark Group, Inc., learned this value through the example set by the philanthropy of his in-laws, Lewis and Roberta Gaines, and the strong leadership within Greater Philadelphia’s Jewish community.
Bartos is the great-grandson of an Orthodox rabbi, yet his own family emphasized adherence to Jewish values and customs more than ritual observance. “My hometown of Reading, Pa., does not have a large Jewish community, but our family celebrated all of the Jewish holidays together, and Jewish summer camp was very important to us,” he said.
He met his wife, Sheryl, at the University of Virginia, where Jeff earned a law degree and Sheryl a M.Ed. “Sheryl was raised in Allentown and, after playing many games of ‘Jewish geography,’ we discovered we shared common friends and common values,” he remembered.
After graduation, they married and moved to the Philadelphia area, where they set down roots in Bala Cynwyd. Here, they welcomed two daughters, Emily, 13, and Sarah, 11. As their daughters have grown, the couples’ commitment to Judaism has strengthened. “We joined a chavurah in Narberth, where Emily recently celebrated her Bat Mitzvah, and we looked for ways to volunteer together and help make a difference in the lives of other Jewish families,” he explained.
When the girls were 7 and 5, the family found the perfect opportunity with the Jewish Relief Agency, where they had a regular route in the agency’s monthly food distribution drive. “JRA does a wonderful job of building relationships between donors and service recipients, ensuring that everyone involved in the process is treated with dignity and respect,” he said.
2010 was a year of transition and renewal for Bartos, who opened the North American headquarters of Mark Group’s global energy efficiency business at the Philadelphia Navy Yard with just seven employees. Despite a demanding work schedule, he accepted the invitation of friends and fellow Green Valley Country Club members David Adelman and Bill Glazer to join the Executive Committee of Jewish Federation Real Estate (JFRE).
“David and Bill are both past presidents of JFRE and lead by example,” he said. “When they said that it was time to step up and become more active in the community, I couldn’t say no.”
Through his JFRE involvement, he has learned more about Federation’s mission and the critical services it funds both here in Greater Philadelphia and across the globe. Last fall, he put together a team of Mark Group technicians (the company has grown to more than 170 employees since 2010) to perform an energy audit at Federation Housing, Inc.’s Robert Saligman House and helped secure a $116,000 grant to install a new rooftop HVAC unit and energy-efficient refrigerators for 160 residents.
“It was very gratifying to see our company help Federation Housing and the residents to enjoy a more comfortable building and save over $10,000 per year on their electric bills,” he said.
He credits Alex Stroker, Federation’s interim CEO, with introducing him to Federation’s mission of funding initiatives that build Jewish identity and continuity, help the elderly lead lives of purpose and dignity, maintain strong connections with the land and people of Israel, and provide a lifeline to Jews in need around the world. “Alex helped me realize that I should give more and do more within the Jewish community,” he said.
Bartos also realized that it was time to fulfill a lifelong dream of visiting Israel. He seized this opportunity last spring when he was asked to join a delegation of young entrepreneurs led by David Adelman and Wayne Kimmel on a whirlwind five-day mission there. “The experience was emotionally overwhelming and fueled me with the determination to have a greater impact in our community,” he said.
He returned to Israel just last month with Sheryl, the girls and his in-laws. They spent two weeks on a mission arranged by Pam Pearlmutter, Federation’s Israel Experiences manager. The itinerary included visits to historic, arts and cultural sites, conversations with Israeli soldiers, volunteerism, tours of Israel’s borders with Gaza, Egypt, Jor-dan and Syria and home hospitality with residents of Netivot-Sedot Negev, Federation’s Partnership2Gether community.
Bartos had three goals for the family mission. “I wanted our girls to come away from their first Israel experience with an understanding that Israel is a small country, an appreciation that it is located in a very rough neighborhood” and “an awareness that — despite these challenges — Israelis celebrate life with incredible productivity, energy and joy,” he enthused.
Bartos and his family plan to return to Israel to continue learning and to volunteer time at projects that the family helps to fund.
Bartos’ personal and corporate commitment to community service extends to Habitat for Humanity. Last fall, Mark Group helped the organization complete its pilot Home Repair and Weatherization Program in North Philadelphia. This program helps low-income homeowners make repairs needed to live safely and with dignity in affordable homes.
Bartos authorized the donation of more than 120 hours of skilled Mark Group labor to seal and insulate five homes to meet Energy Star standards and helped to develop educational literature for volunteers about implementing energy savings in their homes.
These upgrades will save each homeowner approximately $200 in heating costs, with a lifetime savings of approximately $4,000.