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Law Firm Continues a Long Tradition of Giving

July 27, 2006 By:
Lauren Pound Somers, JF Feature
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Gary Goldenberg

The concept of l'dor v'dor, "from generation to generation," usually refers to traditions handed down from family to family, but can it ring true for businesses as well? At one local law firm, the answer is a resounding "yes."

"The interests of our founding partners have been passed down from one generation to the next, so giving back to the community is a big part of who we are," says Gary Goldenberg, a partner with Blank Rome LLP. "We encourage our attorneys to get involved in a significant way."

One of the firm's key beneficiaries is the Jewish community. For years, Blank Rome has lent regular financial support to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia so it can strengthen the community by caring for those at risk, inspiring participation in Jewish life and learning, and connecting people here and throughout the world.

Ande Adelman, Federation's senior vice president of Financial Resource Development, hails Blank Rome's largess as "an absolutely wonderful measure of support" from a major law firm in the city.

"This ongoing commitment ensures that we can carry out our community's priorities every year," she says. "It's terrific to be able to count on the firm, whose leaders understand the needs of the Jewish community and are willing to support them with long-standing gifts."

Fred Blume, Blank Rome's chairman emeritus, says that giving to Federation is simply a more efficient way to continue the firm's tradition of support.

"We could clearly give to a bunch of agencies throughout the city, but we'd have to figure out how to allocate the resources. Federation is better able to do that -- and they're good at it," says Blume, named one of this year's "Best Lawyers in America." He is also heavily involved with institutions such as the National Museum of Jewish American History and Akiba Hebrew Academy.

Blank Rome was founded in 1946 by lawyers who were barred from joining many established Philadelphia law firms solely because of their ethnicity, a fact that underscores its commitment to diversity, both internally and in the communities it serves. Today, it boasts nine offices located in seven states, with about 240 attorneys in the Philadelphia office alone. That success has contributed to its ability to support both the Philadelphia federation and other Jewish federations in New York; Cherry Hill, N.J.; and Florida, along with many other Jewish and non-Jewish groups here and elsewhere.

"Helping children, the elderly and those in dire need -- all these things are very meaningful to us," stresses Goldenberg, a member of Federation's Board of Trustees and the board of its Center for Israel and Overseas, Har Zion Temple's Board of Directors, the Republican Jewish Coalition and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "It's a significant responsibility, and Federation does a wonderful job. We're proud to be a part of what they do; they're doing the job for all of us."

Blank Rome's support for Federation is not limited to an annual donation. After the 2002 Passover massacre by a suicide bomber in a Netanya resort hotel, the firm agreed to match -- without limit -- any gifts its partner attorneys made to the Israel Emergency Fund. A short while later, Federation leaders were presented with a check for nearly $240,000 by Blank Rome -- the only Philadelphia-based firm to offer such a large amount.

"So many people, including Jewish and non-Jewish attorneys, were so willing to give more," attests Goldenberg, who serves as a founding member of the Philadelphia Israel Network. "It was a very inspirational moment."

Pro Bono Work

Dedication to pro bono work is also prevalent at Blank Rome, which has always been heavily involved with various nonprofit organizations, such as HIAS & Council Migration Service of Greater Philadelphia.

In recognition of the firm's 60th anniversary, each of its attorneys is being asked to provide 60 hours of pro bono service for a variety of nonprofits, with a projected total of 30,000 hours.

Noting that most Blank Rome attorneys volunteer for community service of some kind, Blume reports that those involved with Jewish-related causes include Mark Rabinowitz, Roger Braunfeld, David Abrams, Bernard Glassman, Steve Weinstein, Adam Laver, Steve Miller, Ray Shapiro, Joel Shapiro and Joan Stern, among others.

Goldenberg particularly praises the efforts of Sam Rabinowitz, a former Federation trustee and officer who was a leader with the Jewish Community Centers and other organizations right up until his death in June.

Members of the Blank Rome team also support the Jewish Relief Agency, serving on its Board and helping to collect, pack and deliver food to those in need. The firm additionally sponsors events like Federation's Super Sunday fundraisers and Israel Independence Day celebrations.

Blume acknowledges that it is a rare event that doesn't feature a Blank Rome table, sponsorship or attorneys serving on the board.

"That's the culture throughout the entire firm," he states. "All of us expect to continue this tradition for many years to come, as the firm continues to grow both nationally and internationally."

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