On a recent morning at the luxe new Center City apartment building 1213 Walnut Street, nearly 150 real estate professionals gathered to network for charity’s sake — a typical event held by Jewish Federation Real Estate (JFRE). Relaxed chatter filled the high-ceilinged space as people wound their way through the crowd introducing themselves, exchanging business cards and getting exclusive tours of the property. “This is the typical JFRE vibe. It’s very collegial — it’s filled with people you know and people that you would like to know,” said JFRE Chairman Michael Markman, surveying the scene. “Most people are in this room to create business opportunities. So to get them together while also raising money for charity allows them to combine interests in a way that’s unmatched in Philadelphia.” Michael checked the time; Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney was about to arrive to discuss his newly unveiled city budget.

This is JFRE, pronounced “Jeffrey,” an affinity group of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which brings together the Philadelphia real estate community — developers, attorneys, financiers, vendors and the like — for volunteer opportunities, fundraising, education and networking. Since JFRE’s founding in 2008, it has contributed $1.4 million to good causes, especially those that help the disadvantaged or older adults; last year alone, it donated $500,000 to 14 different projects, including funding home repairs for Holocaust survivors in Northeast Philadelphia and in Israel.

JFRE’s philanthropic impact has made it an important contributor to our Jewish communities. But as a powerful networking group whose members, attendees and sponsors often come from outside the Jewish communities, its unique approach to Jewish philanthropy sets it apart. “Probably a third of the people in this room aren’t Jewish,” says Michael, scanning the event. “It shows our collective power for charitable giving. We’re leveraging our business connections and helping Jewish Federation at the same time.” It’s a win-win for all involved, he explains: In order to be involved in JFRE, many real estate businesses or professionals make charitable gifts to the Jewish Federation, a thought that otherwise may not have occurred to them.

Of all of JFRE’s networking and fundraising events, the biggest by far is its annual “Legends and Leaders,” to be held on May 4th at the Crystal Tea Room, which brings together the region’s most brilliant real estate minds to talk about the hottest real estate trends; this year’s theme is “Disruption in Real Estate.” Hundreds of professionals from across Greater Philadelphia come for the round-table panels, where they hear directly from some of the area’s most distinguished real estate moguls. “You don’t normally get access to people like that, let alone to ask them questions and spend time with them,” notes JFRE executive committee member Jeremy Fogel. For more information about attending or sponsoring the upcoming 7th annual Legends and Leaders, click here or contact rsigman@jewishphilly.org.