No one in his family is quite sure of the origins of Philip M. Shiekman’s strong Jewish commitment.
His older brother, 94-year-old Morton, said their parents weren’t particularly religious and, while both he and Phil had Bar Mitzvahs at Har Zion Temple, the topic never came up.
His son, Steve, believed it may have been connected to some of the legal work he did with building developers like the late Joel Gershman.
Regardless, it was certainly a big part of Shiekman, former president of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Philadelphia and vice president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, who died Feb. 6 in Miami at 91.
“His work with [Jewish] Federation and the JCC was as or more important to him than his law career,” said Steve Shiekman of his father, an avid athlete, who began running marathons when he turned 60, including both the famed New York and Boston races. “He led numerous missions to Israel and, while we were growing up, as president of the JCC and the YM and YWHA, would travel to [Jewish] Federation meetings.
“As he met people over his lifetime, he became more involved with raising money for Israel.”
That passion carried over to his work, with Shiekman specializing in corporate tax law. That blended his early designs of becoming an accountant — having graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania — with the law.
“He was a guy who had a tremendous client loyalty,” Fox Rothschild partner Sandy Mozes said. “He had a forceful personality, was direct with people and gave sound advice.
“He always had a joke or knew of a great place to eat. Clients really loved him.”
After growing up in Wynnefield, Shiekman graduated from Overbrook High School in 1942, joined the Army and was part of the 1944 Battle for Brest on the Western Front. Following the war, he attended Penn, then went on to Harvard Law School.
After stints at two New York law firms, Shiekman returned to Philadelphia as a name partner at Cohen, Shapiro, Polisher, Shiekman & Cohen. While there, his commitment to the Jewish community began to deepen.
“When I began, Sylvan Cohen, the senior partner, urged us to affiliate with and give to [Jewish] Federation’s annual campaign,” he told the Jewish Exponent in 2012 prior to receiving the first Edward N. Polisher Award for generating endowments. “It was part of the firm’s culture, and I wanted to be involved.
“From my earliest connections to this day, I give my support and time because I care deeply about the survival of our people, and about my grandchildren living in a world where they can be observant Jews.”
In tribute to that commitment, Shiekman received the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Philadelphia Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998 and the Jewish Community Centers Association’s Frank L. Weil Award in 2002.
Following his retirement and the 2003 death of his wife, Judith, he moved to Florida with his second wife, Irene Wattenburg.
“He had a good life,” Morton Shiekman said, “but when you lose a brother, you miss half your life.”
Philip Shiekman is survived by wife Irene, son Steve, daughters Carol Slosberg and Sally Shiekman-Miller, brother Mort, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0729