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Wayne Kimmel: 'It's Cool to Be Jewish'

February 21, 2008 By:
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Wayne D. Kimmel

Wayne D. Kimmel is an overachiever. The 37-year-old serves as managing partner of ETF Venture Funds and finds time during his busy schedule to be a good husband, father, son and a leader within the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community.

Since 2000, his venture capital firm has spawned several successful companies like SeamlessWeb (sold to ARAMARK), Take Care Health Systems (sold to Walgreens) and led to the resurgence of NutriSystem, ranked by Forbes as the best small company in the United States.

"I am extremely passionate about investing in companies and helping them to become successful," Kimmel said. "I have been honored to work closely with my partners, Ian J. Berg and Tony Bifano, as well as business leaders such as Hal Rosenbluth, Chairman, Take Care Health Systems; Jason Finger, CEO, SeamlessWeb; Brian Tierney, CEO, The Philadelphia Inquirer; Michael Hagan, CEO, NutriSystem; and Stephen Goodman, Esquire, Morgan Lewis & Bockius to create industry-leading companies."

Philadelphia Business Journal recognized Kimmel as one of the region's emerging leaders and he was named by Philadelphia Magazine as one of "Philly's People to Watch": "one of 76 fascinating people whose moves, ideas, innovations and boldness will shape -- and change -- our lives over the next decade."

Yet, the award that is displayed most prominently in his West Conshohocken office is the one he recently received from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia -- the Jack Goldenberg Young Leadership Award. It is presented to the rising stars of the Jewish community -- men and women who have demonstrated their commitment to the Jewish people through community involvement as well as individual achievements.

The Wilmington native, who received a distinguished alumni award from the Tatnall School, has made his mark in the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community over the past seven years. At Federation, he serves as a member of the Board of Directors and as chairman of both the Men's Cabinet and the Renaissance Group, a cadre of young Jewish professionals ages 25 to 45. Howard Smith, a member of Men's Cabinet, and Scott Bohrer, a member of Renaissance's Leadership Development Program, are both integral team members of Kimmel's fund.

In his work with Renaissance, Kimmel says he relishes the opportunity to communicate to other aspiring Jewish leaders that "it is cool to be Jewish."

Through his Federation involvement, Kimmel has met and developed relationships with many other young leaders "who I have learned a lot from and bring tremendous talent and energy to the table." He is grateful to Federation for giving him the opportunity to "get to know these extraordinary individuals on many different levels -- personally and as fellow business and philanthropic leaders."

Kimmel feels a strong sense of camaraderie with his Federation peers, many of whom are juggling successful careers with demanding personal lives. "All of us make time in our crazy schedules for Jewish community involvement because it is important to us," he said, adding that "giving back to the community is an honor and a responsibility for those of us privileged to be Jewish."

Kimmel is honored to be a participant in the United Jewish Communities' Lunch with a Legend program, a special opportunity from Federation's national body for high-potential young leaders to meet with major national Jewish leaders and philanthropists. He still is processing all he learned from his conversation in Austin, TX with Dell Computer founder Michael Dell. "I was impressed that he cared so deeply about the Jewish community," he commented, awed that one of the world's wealthiest businessmen was so down to earth.

"Michael Dell spoke to us about the importance of acknowledging that within each of us is a Jewish soul and it is important for us to determine how we want to direct our Jewish passions to best make an impact." He looks forward to traveling to New York next month for the next session in this four-part lunch series featuring Edgar Bronfman and his son Adam.

Kimmel's Federation involvement, as well as his service as a trustee of Albert Einstein Healthcare Network and a board member of the Jewish Relief Agency, honors the values of his parents, Morton and Marcia Kimmel, who taught him that "being Jewish is a unique and special bond that connects us one to the other."

Kimmel views Federation as the "No. 1 Jewish community organization."

"Through its partnership with agencies and organizations here in Greater Philadelphia, in Israel and around the world, Federation does great things for our Jewish people," he said.

He has watched with excitement as Federation instituted a strategic philanthropy plan that's now being implemented under the leadership of Federation board chair Leonard Barrack, Federation campaign chair Michael Coslov, and Federation president and CEO Ira M. Schwartz. "I admire what these great men have done to make Federation more cost effective, transparent and responsive to donors," he said, adding that "thanks to these innovations, I can now clearly communicate where the needs are and where the money goes."

Kimmel believes that existing and emerging leaders have much to learn from one another. "It is important for young professionals like us to forge a true connection with Federation's top leaders," he said. "If we engage more men and women of my generation in Federation leadership roles, the Jewish community will become even stronger."

Like many young families, Kimmel and his wife, Kimberly, are devoted to their children and take great pleasure in sharing Shabbat and other Jewish holiday celebrations in their home. "Each Friday night, we light the candles and make the motzi. My son has enjoyed sharing with my daughter the songs and blessings he has learned at Har Zion [Temple] preschool," he said. "My daughter told my wife and me that she wanted to go to a Jewish school, so we enrolled her in the first grade at Perelman Jewish Day School, and it's been a great experience for her."

Kimmel is continuing his Jewish education as well. "Through my involvement with Federation, I learned how to bless my children on Friday nights," he said, commenting that this weekly ritual that he first saw Bill and Paula Glazer do with their children has brought his family even closer.

Like Perelman, the Barrack Hebrew Academy is supported by Federation funds. Kimmel is pleased that Barrack, formerly known as Akiba Hebrew Academy, will be the lead tenant in Federation's new Radnor Campus, especially since his wife is an alum of the Akiba class of 1988. "The campus will allow our Jewish educational organizations to enrich the lives of our children, our children's children and generations to come," he said.

Kimmel is optimistic about the future of the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community. "I believe that all the education and outreach programs are in place to articulate the tremendous local and global Jewish needs and mobilize resources to meet them," he said, expressing confidence that "now is the time for Federation to make a huge impact, both today and in the future."


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