Tidewater Jewish Foundation poised for growth

October 16, 2015

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Scott Kaplan

Scott Kaplan

The “millennial-aged” organization of Tidewater’s Jewish community, the 31-year-old Tidewater Jewish Foundation embodies the attitude of a young adult who views his career with endless opportunities, new ventures to be established and relationships to be expanded—all enacted with smart strategies.

The arrival just over 11 months ago of Scott Kaplan as president and CEO marks the latest in TJF’s board’s commitment to continue to innovate and look to future growth.

“I’ve been taking it all in,” says Kaplan. “The past year has been sort of an orientation.”

While Kaplan says he “hasn’t met everyone yet,” he’s devoted a lot of time and energy to meeting synagogue and community leaders, donors and members. “This is a marathon, not a sprint,” he notes.

A self-proclaimed “Jewish mutt” (he became a Bar Mitzvah through the Conservative movement, attended a Zionist Jewish summer camp, was very active in the Union for Reform Judaism’s youth group –NFTY, lived in Israel for a year during college, and observes several Jewish holidays with modern Orthodox family members), Kaplan believes in creating an inclusive and collegial environment. In fact, he views TJF as an integral part of a “Jewish eco-system (all of Tidewater’s Jewish organizations) that requires patience, balance and cultivation with each component living off of one another.“The Foundation’s role is to secure the future and in a way that is best for the eco-system,” he says.

Kaplan sees his job’s current goal is to plan for the next 10 years. “I’m coming into TJF standing on the shoulders of giants—Hal Sacks and Philip Rovner, the first two heads of the foundation—and the dedicated families whose vision and dollars built this place.”

Kaplan clearly understands the value of “listening and understanding.” After earning a psychology degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (during which he studied abroad for a year in Israel at Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and an MBA with a concentration in organizational development from Boston College, Kaplan worked for Mass Mutual Financial Group recruiting and developing high potential managers for its Executive Development Program.

Living in Western Mass, Kaplan attended a Havdalah program at Harold Grinspoon and Diane Troderman’s home. The Harold Grinspoon Foundation, a private family foundation, created the PJ Library program and JCamp 180 and funds numerous other Jewish programs throughout the world.

Kaplan and Grinspoon met, they “walked and talked” and Kaplan soon became the associate director of the Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy, later renamed JCamp 180. Tasked with improving Jewish overnight camps through board development, strategic planning and fundraising consulting, his fire was lit and he transitioned from the Fortune 500 environment to the Jewish non-profit world.

After three years of travel and realizing he wanted to be home more with his young family, he left the Harold Grinspoon Foundation for the Jewish Federation of Western Mass where he served as the endowment director for seven years.

Now, he brings this experience, along with new ideas and twists on old programs to TJF.

“I want to re-launch, revive, rebuild and re-energize the Create a Jewish Legacy program. We’ll do it one person, one family at a time, working with each organization to build endowments.”

Another focus is the revised Legacy Match Life Insurance Program. “It will help promote gifts to benefit our Jewish community fueled by matching funds from TJF,” says Kaplan.

He also hopes to launch a teen philanthropy program. Mini-donor advised funds established at a teen’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah, this program intersects families, synagogues and TJF.

“This program engages the next generation,” says Kaplan, “and not necessarily with people who are already part of UJFT or TJF. It should strengthen the Foundation/ Synagogue partnerships.”

Kaplan’s list of potential community impact programs and funds is long, his strategies are developed and while he’s listening, he’s embracing Tidewater’s current and future leaders.

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