Outgoing NextGen chair Matt Shipon is one of Philadelphia's best-known young leaders. After completing a successful third year of a traditional two-year term as NextGen Chair, Matt is ready to pass the baton to Adam Klazmer, who will be installed in September.
Shipon, a NextGen Leadership Development Program (LDP) graduate, is on the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Board of Trustees, Jewish Population Study Committee, and Planning and Resourcing Commission. He co-owns Hatched, a boutique real estate development company, and is also an active member of the Jewish Federation Real Estate Group (JFRE).
In recognition of his unparalleled leadership, Matt was recently selected to receive this year’s prestigious Jack Goldenberg Young Leadership Award.
We spoke with the outgoing NextGen Chair to learn more about his journey and some of his proudest moments over these past three years.
What will you take away from your time as NextGen Chair?
My time as Chair of NextGen has truly been the honor of my life and I was extremely fortunate to work alongside an incredible cohort of like-minded young Jewish leaders who are passionate about helping our community thrive. The people I have met and the experiences I have had as the representative of NextGen have helped me grow as a person and as a leader, and I look forward to continuing to support NextGen however I can.
How did you build the NextGen community during the pandemic?
From breaking bread on Shabbat, to chatting about life and family or sharing a couple of laughs, NextGen events have always brought the cohort together in meaningful ways that build friendships and strengthen our community.
When the pandemic first began, we all felt scared, isolated and unsure of what each day would bring. Our community came together like never before and quickly adapted to a virtual world. We hosted Shabbat zoom events, game nights and happy hours, and the cohort reached out to check-in on one another to make sure they were doing ok. I saw gifts pour into the Jewish Federation’s Emergency Fund to address the immediate needs of our community. There was an immense feeling of togetherness, even though we were apart.
Despite the struggles, and the eventual Zoom fatigue, NextGen members continued to step up philanthropically to help those in need through their annual gifts to the Jewish Community Fund - even in a year with so much economic uncertainty.
What was one of your most memorable experiences as NextGen Chair?
My most memorable experience as NextGen Chair was working with our NextGen leadership to launch the Levin Society. Named in honor of local hero and fallen lone IDF soldier, Michael Levin (1984-2006), the Levin Society recognizes young leaders (ages 21-45) who are committed to Jewish continuity through an annual gift of $2,500 or more to the Jewish Federation.
From my first trip to Israel on Birthright when I visited Michael’s grave, Michael’s story has continued to inspire me to do what I can to help our Jewish community. I am honored to be a small part of his enduring legacy here in Philadelphia, and I look forward to seeing the Levin Society grow in the years to come.
What is one of your proudest accomplishments as NextGen Chair?
One of my proudest accomplishments was the formation of our At-Large Board which created over 40 new NextGen leadership positions. At my first Board meeting as Chair, I said that I felt our biggest responsibility was to build a pipeline of leaders to eventually replace ourselves and ensure the continuity of young Jewish leadership.
The At-Large Board provides a great opportunity for anyone who is looking to take their involvement to the next level. Our board has always consisted of Executive Committee members who would each have specific responsibilities within the board, and today the At-Large Board members join them as ambassadors, leaders and thought partners within the community. At-Large members can go on to be leaders on our Executive Committee or on other committees throughout Jewish Federation.
What advice would you give a NextGen newbie who aspires to become a leader?
My best advice for people new to NextGen is to say “yes.” Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Go to a happy hour even if you might not know anyone going. Sign up for a committee or volunteer event that you are passionate about. Join the Leadership Development Program. Travel to Israel with NextGen. The opportunities are endless for those who seek them out.
Why do you give to the Jewish Federation?
I give because I have seen firsthand how the Jewish Federation makes a difference in peoples’ lives. I have been to JRA where we boxed meals and delivered them to those in need. I visited the Mitzvah Food Program and saw how revolutionary their food selection system was. I listened to a speaker from the JDC about how they help the most vulnerable Jews in the world. I have seen the grants we give to help kids go to summer camps, which was a huge part of my own life.
What do you hope for the future of NextGen?
I hope that NextGen continues to play a major role in shaping the future of Jewish leadership in Philadelphia. Our community is vibrant, motivated, and compassionate, and NextGen, to me, is the place where we all come together to pool our talents and resources and make an impact. As long as we continue to bring people together, inform people about the needs of our community, and provide experiences that connect people to the cause, then NextGen will continue to prosper.
What is something people probably don't know about you?
When I was young, I was very shy and lacked self-confidence. Surprisingly enough, the big turning point for me was when I picked up the hobby of magic. When I first saw a close-up magician at a local restaurant, I was absolutely amazed and fell in love with the art. My parents bought me some magic kits and I would just practice and practice every day. Through performing for friends and family, and even at nursing homes for my Bar Mitzvah project, I gained the much needed confidence to feel comfortable in crowds. While today, magic has mainly become a fun party trick here and there for me, the art of magic really had a profound impact on who I have become.
NextGen is the young professional affinity group of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. To learn more about NextGen, please email Max Moline at firstname.lastname@example.org and friend us on Facebook.