If anyone knows how to harness the power of networking, it’s Eliot Kaplan, a Perkins Coie corporate and tax attorney, as well as chair of the steadily-evolving Business & Professionals Group, (B&P) a division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix. The group is dedicated to professional networking, philanthropy and engagement in the Jewish community. The incipient “new kid on the block,” the group is in its third year and chugging along at an impressive clip. Kaplan is always searching for ways to make the group more vibrant, enriching and meaningful to its members, whether through speaker series, networking receptions, happy hours, lively discussions, dinners or informative lectures. It is the ideal vehicle for Jewish professionals on any level of the career ladder, in addition to those making a foray into the world of business.
The trio of groups making up the B&P includes the Cardozo Society for legal professionals, the Real Estate & Finance Division, and Chai Tech, for those wanting to plug into the technology industry.
Kaplan credits the group’s success to the supportive team he works with: Adam Goodman, who is instrumental in general B&P events, Steven Schwarz, current president of the Federation board (and a member of the Real Estate & Finance Division), and Jonny Basha, chair of Chai Tech.
Members have a unique opportunity to glean keen insights from prominent local Jewish business leaders who have worked diligently, taken risks and are at the apex of their careers. In addition to the passion Kaplan possesses for the B&P, he is equally excited about the Federation. “It’s extremely important to me that the Phoenix Jewish community supports the Federation, which supports many local Jewish institutions as well as Israel,” he explains. “I want my kids to have the opportunity to be part of a greater Phoenix Jewish community. If we cannot connect local Jews to each other and the larger community, our local Jewish community is not likely to survive generation to generation. Hopefully, B&P is a ripple effect that will help connect all of us.”
Kaplan grew up in Phoenix and is well steeped in the Jewish community. He attended summer camp at the JCC for many years and became a bar mitzvah at Congregation Beth Israel. His deep roots were part of the motivation to start the B&P. “When the recession hit,” explains Kaplan, “the Federation was really struggling. The Cardozo and Real Estate groups were created by this time, but they went dark. When we came out of the recession, I was worried. It seemed like the Jewish organizations were decimated and this was a way to get our community back together.”
When Don Schon, who was chair of the Federation’s Community Planning Commission, asked him to get involved in the Federation, Kaplan jumped at the chance. That opportunity resulted in Kaplan joining the 2014 Campaign Cabinet, which segued to 2014 Annual Campaign chairs Shari and Irwin Kanefsky asking him to revitalize the B&P, and start a real estate group and Cardozo Society. “We called people who were involved before it went dark, and over time we figured out the right people to run each division,” says Kaplan. “The results have been very impressive. Most recently the real estate group hosted the 2016 Economic Forecast of the Phoenix area. Elliot Pollack, an economist who runs his own company and is well known in the community, was the keynote speaker. It was a huge success that attracted more than 80 real estate and financial professionals.”
“The Federation is the driving force behind all these groups,” says Kaplan. “Most events are not fundraisers, but outreach to connect Jews to the larger Jewish community and the Federation. If you connect community; they will care about these institutions. The way to start is outreach to make sure everyone is connected with everyone else.”
As appeared in the April 2016 issue of Arizona Jewish Life Magazine