Industry Luminaries Share Reasons Behind Generous Sponsorship of Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Real Estate and Construction (REC) Network Dinner to Honor Industry Icon Bob Hart
In the world of real estate, we tend to celebrate the big numbers, the big deals. But at the annual Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Real Estate and Construction (REC) Network dinner, the industry will be celebrating something even bigger. On June 1, 2023, guests will gather at the Beverly Hilton hotel to honor a true industry luminary: Robert “Bob” E. Hart, founder, CEO and president of TruAmerica Multifamily.
Hart is an industry icon, recognized not only for his career excellence as he has led his firm to become one of the most active multifamily investors in the United States, but also for the meaningful impact he has made through his tireless efforts and dedication to countless philanthropic organizations. Over the years Hart has given generously and also generated millions of additional dollars as an enthusiastic fundraiser. Giving back to help others is a cumulative effort that has built over time, Hart says. “It’s not as though a lightbulb went off one day and I began contributing. It’s been a lifelong progression of wanting to be involved in the community and doing things that would be to the betterment of humanity.”
His work with The Jewish Federation mirrors these values.
“The Federation mobilizes the whole Jewish community to repair the word, and I believe deeply in that premise and its outreach efforts, both in the Jewish community and beyond.”
But that’s just one of the organizations and causes he is involved in. “I consider myself both a humanitarian and a philanthropist,” he says. “When I see a need, I try to find ways to be responsive. Humanitarians care about society, working-class people, and those in need of assistance to improve their daily lives. My approach is to do things responsively to help those in need through organizations I’m affiliated with, whether that be education through Vista Del Mar, cancer research and healthcare delivery through the City of Hope and Cedars-Sinai, or homeless issues through Chrysalis, which has been a 20-year journey for me to help fight homelessness, such a critical issue in Los Angeles and other cities.”
He has also spent nearly two decades as a board member and chairman of the board with Chrysalis, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a pathway for homeless and low-income individuals to find and retain employment in Los Angeles.
An excellent example within the industry
Hart’s dedication has been an inspiration to others in both the real estate industry and the community at large. The REC dinner event is highly anticipated as a place to celebrate the real estate industry while networking with peers and, most importantly, raising funds for The Jewish Federation and its important mission.
Hart has found that his philanthropic work aligns well with his business endeavors, mirroring one of his favorite sayings that “You can do good while you’re doing well,” which is ingrained into TruAmerica’s core purpose.
“What we mean by that is you can make community service and philanthropy part of your DNA while you’re building a business. We operate TruAmerica in a very ethical way. We work hard to live up to what we say we’re going to do, and we do it in an honest, purposeful way. That has been the foundation of how we’ve built our business around a portfolio of workforce housing, which promotes social responsibility.”
He believes charitable efforts can strengthen the industry too, citing the example of how over time, the west coast commercial real estate industry has adopted Chrysalis. That process started 20 years ago when he first became involved in the organization and began inviting colleagues from his network to witness the work of Chrysalis at its annual charity gala, the Butterfly Ball. That event has become a substantial component of Chrysalis’ budget and has shifted from being almost exclusively an entertainment industry-driven event to one that the real estate industry supports in a significant way.
“It’s important to expose people to the benefits of being charitable. When they hear firsthand what it’s like to be homeless and to emerge from that, it becomes a powerful message. When people see the work that organizations like The Jewish Federation do to help families in need, whether that be supporting elderly people, helping send kids to camps, or other efforts to build a better community, it often becomes a compelling motivation to engage with the organization, learn more, attend events, and get involved through a combination of time and money.”
For Hart, supporting worthy causes means looking at the world through a different lens, which expands one’s appreciation of the importance and value of doing work that improves the lives of others. “People tend to take fewer things for granted, too, when they get involved in a charity and often become stronger leaders within their own company.”
Sponsors are key to REC event’s success
This annual celebration couldn’t happen without the remarkable support of a cadre of generous sponsors and Hart has had the honor and responsibility of leading the fundraising process this year for the event.
“It became a challenge for me that was both rewarding and meaningful as we reached out to our network of industry friends and colleagues. I was not surprised to see how they positively responded, both those from the Jewish and non-Jewish communities to the benefit of The Jewish Federation,” he says, adding that he finds many times people just need to learn how to give. “They need to move past any reluctance they have and embrace the thought of giving to an organization. I tell them, ‘It’s a great thing and it only hurts for a minute. Once you give, you realize how good it feels,” he says.
That attitude and Hart’s strong leadership have led to record-breaking fundraising. The Real Deal sat down to talk with the sponsors and find out why they find this organization and event so meaningful and what philanthropy means to them.
Ken Kahan, President of California Landmark, has been involved with REC for approximately 20 years and currently serves as a Jewish Federation board member and RPO member. He appreciates the way this vibrant real estate networking group brings together professionals from all aspects of real estate. “The REC Dinner is, by far, the single biggest real estate event in the Los Angeles area and possibly on the west coast,” he says, adding that the highlight is the role it plays in assisting the Jewish community locally, nationally, and abroad, wherever and whenever there is a need.
Kahan says his personal goal is to make a difference in the community, regardless of how one defines the geography. “I have been fortunate to have acquired resources to be able to give back, and during my journey as a philanthropist have found many others with similar goals who also see that giving back is simply the corollary to getting.” He believes that mindset is common in the real estate industry. “Philanthropy is part of our business. Making money without a purpose—in other words, simply acquiring wealth—is an empty goal. Using real estate wealth to change the world gives it purpose.”
For Jesse Sharf, Partner at Gibson Dunn, RPO member and past Campaign Chair, being involved with The Jewish Federation and REC is personal. “My mother is a Holocaust survivor who was kept alive by my grandmother, and my parents came to this country as immigrants (both from Israel after Poland) without any education. They were part of a community—family members, friends, and strangers who came from ‘the old country’ and helped each other as a support system whenever anyone had a need.”
At a young age, it became obvious to Sharf that not everyone was lucky enough to be part of such a system, and that the Jewish community needed a centralized resource to take care of other Jews, especially those in need. He and his family became involved, and later he realized they also needed resources to give young Jews an opportunity to be “Jewishly involved”—to enhance the likelihood of Jewish continuity—and to achieve goals in the broader community that are consistent with Jewish values, which is what the Federation does.
“REC makes it easy to get to know others in related industries who are similarly inclined and to leverage our resources to have maximum impact,” Sharf says, adding that he and his wife Stacy have been fortunate to meet some their closest friends there. He sees the annual dinner as an opportunity to celebrate a deserving member of the community—in this case, Bob Hart.
In addition, Sharf says that REC gives young real estate professionals and entrepreneurs an easy vehicle to get involved at whatever level suits them. “They can write a check, attend events, recruit and/or share ideas. The need across multiple communities is as high as I’ve ever seen it, and the real estate industry in Los Angeles tends to be very effective at raising money and helping those less fortunate than them.”
Stanley Iezman, Chairman and CEO for ARA Capital and RPO member, became involved in the REC network when he was launching his legal and real estate career and was seeking ways to establish himself in the industry. “I found that leaders of our community who were shaping the real estate landscape were also contributors to the Jewish community and held philanthropy as an integral part of their mission. That realization had a significant impact on my joining and supporting the REC and combining my personal and professional goals,” he says. Recognizing his good fortune to have so many mentors, Iezman has since returned the favor by becoming a mentor for younger real estate professionals, citing this multi-generation connection as part of the REC’s DNA.
He urges his colleagues in the real estate industry to be mindful that leadership is more than building a company that is financially successful because real success is measured by far more. “At American Realty Advisors, we strive to create high-quality investments that serve the communities in which they are located, as well as support organizations that invest in underserved populations,” Iezman says. “We see it as both an honor and an obligation to be part of the greater solutions to the challenging issues our communities face and believe our success is intertwined in the success of others who do not have the same advantages we’ve had.”
David Schwartzman, President and CEO of Harridge Development Group and REC Network Chair, has long been a mentor to young professionals through another Federation program and has enjoyed using his life experiences to help others. With the increasing antisemitism in today’s world, he was drawn to the mission of the REC. “This is a place where people can come together to work toward solutions and uplift both the Jewish community and the local economy. Real estate is a key driver to business and can improve the lives of society,” he says.
Like the other leaders, Schwartzman values philanthropy as a whole and specifically through the work The Jewish Federation does. “When you have done well, it is good to give back. Everyone in life needs a guardian angel, and I feel the Federation and other just causes help to lift people up and improve the world,” he says.
Schwartzman also believes it’s important for his colleagues to remember the importance of being courteous and helping those who are just beginning their careers. “Remember they are someone’s children, and I hope that how I treat young people starting out will be how my kids are treated when they venture out into the real world.”
Samuel Averbach, Managing Director of Ares Management and REC Network Co-Chair, says his parents instilled in him from an early age the importance of being involved in the Jewish community. “As a kid, I would make calls on behalf of the Federation on Super Sunday, attend Israel events, and meet with Holocaust survivors living at the Jewish Home,” he says. “The REC is the best way for me to continue this support of and involvement in the community while also building lasting relationships with real estate industry leaders.”
The real estate industry shapes the built environment of our community, he notes. “The investments we make in physical infrastructure need to be paired with philanthropic investments—and leadership—in communal infrastructure to maintain our prominence as a dynamic, world-class city.”
“The REC is fortunate to be aligned with such generous sponsors who help make this event a success, along with all the members of the real estate industry joining us to honor a truly deserving individual, Bob Hart,” notes the team at The Jewish Federation. “We are proud to partner with industry leaders who share our commitment to giving back and making a positive difference. Together, we can continue to make a lasting impact on the lives of those in need and demonstrate our industry commitment to supporting worthy causes and improving the lives of our neighbors and community.”
For Hart, this honor from The Jewish Federation is particularly thrilling because the Federation aligns so well with his philanthropic values and also allows him to be involved in the industry where he has built his life’s work. “I am super appreciative that the commercial real estate industry is willing to support The Jewish Federation. It just tells me that we have a remarkable industry and outstanding people who care about others in it.”