NEW YORK, Sept. 30 (JTA) Ivan Michael Schaeffer learned the value of Jewish philanthropy and Jewish community around his family’s kitchen table.
In the years following the Holocaust, Schaeffer’s parents hosted distant relatives and their friends for weekly Sunday brunches in their Long Island home.
“You didn’t need an invitation,” Schaeffer recalls. “My parents impressed upon us that there were people who were in greater need than us,” he says.
Schaeffer has adhered to that childhood lesson with a lifelong commitment to Jewish philanthropy the latest chapter of which is his service as the president of JTA The Global News Service of the Jewish People. He was elected to the post at JTA’s recent annual meeting, succeeding Shoshana Cardin, who becomes chairman of the JTA Board of Directors.
“Ivan brings to this position a powerful mix of business acumen and philanthropic experience that will benefit JTA enormously,” said Mark Joffe, JTA’s executive editor and publisher. “I look forward to working closely with him to expand both JTA’s financial base and its product offerings.”
Schaeffer is excited about the technological challenges and opportunities that JTA will be facing in the next few years.
JTA “has already established itself for authoritative and qualitative Jewish news, no matter where it happens around the world. The challenge that we face on the horizon is to make that news available to as many people as possible in as many different formats as possible,” Schaeffer says.
“I bet we’ll look back 10 years from now and say, ‘Do you believe how rudimentary we were?’ ” he says.
Founded in 1917, JTA serves as a primary source of news, analysis and feature stories for some 120 Jewish publications and Web sites around the world. Its daily, weekly and monthly publications keep communal, religious and political decision-makers informed of important news developments and issues affecting world Jewry.
The agency also produces a daily e-mail briefing and maintains a full-fledged news site on the World Wide Web, which can be found at jta.org.
Since those childhood Sunday brunches, Schaeffer has been an active participant in the Jewish world. As a youngster, he was involved in two youth groups, the National Conference of Synagogue Youth and the United Synagogue Youth.
He later served as a legislative aide to Rep. Herbert Tenzer, the first Orthodox Jew to serve in Congress. Among his duties was to lobby other lawmakers on material and military support for Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
During his younger days, Schaeffer says religion and Israel were the two motivating forces in his Jewish involvement.
After he got married and began to raise his two sons Avi, now 29, and Jonathan, now 21 he again became involved in the Jewish world, adding domestic concerns to his agenda.
Since then, he has served the Jewish community in a variety of capacities, including as the director of the Hebrew Day Institute in suburban Washington, where he lives, and various positions with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, culminating in two years as president, from 1997 to 1999.
Schaeffer had previously been involved with Jewish life on a national level, but he and his wife, Esther, intensified their national service after that stint.
“After you become president of a federation, the federation has to find something for you to do,” he quips.
Schaeffer first learned about JTA when he served on the National Funding Councils, which allocate moneys to national agencies on behalf of over 40 community federations.
“I was tremendously impressed with the high quality, in-depth coverage that was really the cornerstone of Jewish news,” which JTA provides “with almost no money,” Schaeffer says.
Most recently, Schaeffer has served as a member of the Special Allocations Committee of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Board of Governors and as a board member of the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization for the North American federation movement.
A native of New York, Schaeffer graduated from Yeshiva University and received a law degree from the American University in Washington. Most recently, he graduated from the Advanced Management Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
Schaeffer recently retired from a successful career as the president and CEO of Radius, a global travel company, and plans to move into academia.
But, he admits, serving the Jewish community has become his full-time job.