How one young business leader found his way to Israel
For Brad Hoffman, a Pittsburgh native, real exposure to Jewish community life began in Philadelphia’s Temple University, where he studied international business and finance from 2004-2008. During this time, he was involved in the prominent Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, while being extensively involved in the Hillel, a center for Jewish life common in many universities around the world. Today, after over a decade of involvement, he continues to work with AlmaLinks and the Jewish Relief Agency (JRA), a charitable group committed to helping Jewish people in need throughout the United States.
“I came to Temple (University) because I saw it as a Jewish school” he says. “I didn’t see it as an urban, diverse school, I hadn’t thought about it too much. I just wanted to go to school in a different city and not pay out of state tuition.”
However, his time in Temple would play a pivotal role in shaping Brad’s career trajectory, as well as his relationship with his faith, leading him to an involved and auspicious career in community life.
“Growing up reform, I really didn’t know much about Israel.” He explains. “I knew a lot about the Middle East, like Yasser Arafat. All you would see was the bad things… I got to Temple and realized how different Judaism is. For me it had just been Hebrew school, twice a week. I didn’t understand much about cultural Judaism. Like what does it mean to actually be a part of the Jewish community.”
Following his time in university, the insights he acquired would serve him well. Hoffman received his international finance degree in the midst of one of the most volatile economic periods of American history. He got his foot in the door in multinational professional services firm PWC, where he pursued IT rather than finance, figuring he would learn quickly and enjoy better job security in such a position during the Global Financial Crisis. His intuition paid off and he would ultimately spend seven years in the company before moving into insurance firm, Global Indemnity.
By late 2012, Hoffman had begun working with AlmaLinks through Randy Schultz, a prominent member in the Philadelphia chapter, shortly before being sent to Australia. By the time he returned to Philadelphia in 2015, the local AlmaLinks chapter saw him as the ideal candidate to expand and attract young professionals. Under his increasing involvement, the Philadelphia chapter would become one of the nation’s most prominent and dynamic. It was also here that Hoffman would meet Daniel Erlbaum and Fred Fox, forming the partnerships, which would pave the way for his work in the JRA, which continues until this day.
“Daniel and I instantly saw each other’s passion and worked together to grow AlmaLinks, while I also joined the JRA’s leadership development program.” Said Hoffman of Daniel Erlbaum. The organization’s operations range from something as small as helping the elderly change a light bulb, to major food drives. “We’re touching lives” he continues enthusiastically. His charisma radiates there is a sincere belief behind those words combined with the hunger to do more. In addition to Daniel, Hoffman is currently partnering with Fred Fox, a prominent Philadelphia entrepreneur, on a mentorship program to match younger entrepreneurs with experienced, successful entrepreneurs.
Based on the range of operations Brad described, one would be forgiven for thinking that his work in AlmaLinks and JRA are his primary occupation. However, this is far from the case. Hoffman spends most of his time as a Senior Manager in the Technology Risk function of Australian financial services firm, Macquarie Group, an institution, which has been described at the Goldman Sachs of Australia. Rather than sounding strained by his workload, Brad sounds energized by the amount he is doing within the Jewish community. “I get to the end of the day and I have a hard time sleeping” he admits. “My head is just spinning with stuff to do” “It’s just one of those things where you want to make a lasting impact in the world, I’m not really sure how, but I just know that there is some way I’m going to make an impact and AlmaLinks is an important building block on this journey.”