Samuel J. Greenblatt recently offered some advice to volunteers and staff working on the 2006 annual campaign of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia: "Remember that what you are doing is important and good," stated the campaign chair. "Believe in what you do, and do it with enthusiasm."
Greenblatt, who has an undergraduate degree in business from Temple University and an MBA from Drexel University, is executive vice president of RAIT Investment Trust, a New York Stock Exchange company that does structured financing for commercial real estate. And he tends to follow the advice he gives.
"I've been very lucky in my personal life, in business, and as a volunteer and community leader. My family didn't have significant financial resources, and there were some hard financial times," said Greenblatt, who was born in Philadelphia and raised in Plainfield, N.J. "I've been fortunate to be married to my wife Jodi for 33 years, and we have two wonderful sons, Andy and Hal.
"That's why I want to give back."
Greenblatt's involvement with Federation began soon after he graduated Temple in 1972, and was working for First Pennsylvania Bank in its Real Estate division. "I was invited to a meeting of the campaign's Real Estate and Finance Division. Soon after that, I was approached to get involved with the Young Adult Division, and later became its chairman."
Moving forward, he was instrumental in forming what was then Federation's Young Leadership Council, now the Renaissance Group, and eventually became a recipient of the Meyer Feinstein Leadership Award. Greenblatt also served as a member of the national Young Leadership Cabinet of United Jewish Appeal.
Most recently, he has served as chairman of the Leadership Philanthropy division and vice chair of the overall campaign.
"The first time I was in Israel in 1980, I was overwhelmed with its history, archaeology, and above all, the people," he explained. "When I visited Beit Hatfutsot, the Diaspora museum in Tel Aviv, I saw how many times the Jews were the educated and the elite in the countries where they settled, and then were asked to leave or were wiped out.
"That's why Israel's permanence is so important," he stressed.
Greenblatt believes in the direction of Federation's strategic plan "100 percent."
"There's so much competition among nonprofits," he noted. "Donors today, especially young people, want to have a stake in their investments.
"They may not have as strong a connection to the community and to Israel as their parents did," he continued. "It is our responsibility to engage the next generation.
"Through Federation's three centers of excellence – the Center for Jewish Life and Learning, the Center for Social Responsibility, and the Center for Israel and Overseas – donors have the opportunity to make a significant impact on community priorities. They can follow their investments in our community."
In addition to being campaign chair, Greenblatt also co-chairs the Financial Resource Development Governance Committee with Gail Norry, which oversees the implementation of Strategic Philanthropy.
In addition, he has served as the general chairman of Israel Bonds, and is the chairman of the Philadelphia chapter of the American Associates of Ben-Gurion University; sat on the board of the Jewish Community Centers; and is now on the board of the Madlyn and Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life.
Commitment and Partnership
Looking ahead, the 2006 campaign chair hopes for more volunteers to step forward – including young leadership – and to "forge partnerships between professional and lay leadership."
That kind of commitment and partnership is also what will make for a successful Super Sunday on Feb. 12, stated Greenblatt.
"It's always a day for the community to come together – from every generation – and feel good, and for Federation to be seen as a community-builder.
"Simply put, the more volunteers we have, the more money will be raised."