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'It Makes Me Feel Like a Whole Person'

August 18, 2005 By:
Zara Myers, JE Feature
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Jeff Newman lights the Chanukah candles with his granddaughter Sydney in tow.

Growing up in Wynnefield, a neighborhood that was once mainly Jewish, was kind of idyllic, according to H. Jeffrey Newman.

"I really didn't experience any anti-Semitism until I was a new hire, eating lunch in the executive dining room at Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati," he said.

Having earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA at the Wharton School of Business, the former annual campaign chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and longtime leader did a stint in the army as a medic before joining the Proctor & Gamble's foods division.

"An older employee sat down next to me and complained that the company was hiring too many blacks (that's not the word he used) and too many Jews (also not the word)," said Newman.

Newman told the man he was Jewish - and what he thought of his remarks.

Soon after, he returned to Philadelphia with his wife, Judy, and went into the family electrical business. He eventually sold that to Cooper Electric Supply Co., serving as a regional vice president until he retired last year.

His Federation "career," began with affinity groups - annual campaign divisions made up of various professions.

"My uncle and father got me involved, and eventually, I chaired the electrical group and then the one for building trades. Eventually, the affinity groups were disbanded," he said with some dismay, remembering boisterous card-calling sessions.

As to why he, personally, made a gift to the campaign then and has continued to give, Newman pointed out that his parents and grandparents instilled in him "an obligation to take care of our own. No one else helps our Jewish brothers and sisters."

Another reason he gives: "It makes me feel like a whole person."

Through the years, Newman has headed missions to Washington, D.C., and held various positions in the annual campaign before assuming its leadership. He is a member of Temple Sholom in Broomall and a board member of the Anti-Defamation League.

He also chaired FAJA Day at Radnor Country Club. This year, in addition to contributing to a significant increase for the annual campaign, club members - aided by Newman - raised $27,875 for a special project that purchased two ambucycles for Jerusalem.

"Federation dollars are about saving lives, whether it's Operation Exodus or helping 'Goldie' - who really affected me - in Northeast Philadelphia.

"I met her on a local mission to what was then the Jewish Community Centers' Neumann Senior Center. She told me she had been so lonely that she didn't want to get up in the morning. A neighbor brought her to the center, and when I met her, she was leading exercise classes. She said it saved her life."

The Newmans are the parents of three and grandparents of one: Sydney Hannah Kaplan, 2.

"When she says, 'I love you Pop-Pop,' I melt. For Judy and me, grandchildren are truly the bonus of life."

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