Ron Hoffman became involved with Reena back in the 1980’s because of his best friend at the time, Marshall Gottlieb. “He had a son with challenges,” says Ron, “and they were doing everything they could possibly do. Because of our relationship, I paid attention because I understood.” The Gottlieb’s found Reena, and their son, Stevie Gottlieb, eventually came to live in a Reena group home. “I was community oriented, so I said let’s see what we can do about raising money for Reena so we can do more of these group homes and have more resources. Sandy (Keshen) was all over that. At the time, she was getting money from the government but not so much from donors.” And that is just what Ron Hoffman did, ultimately ending up as Chair of Reena Foundation from 1994-1997.
Ron became involved in Reena Foundation and organizing Reena dinners with chairs who could draw people from the greater community. Over the years, those gala dinners attracted many of the city’s biggest philanthropists according to Ron. At the height of the bevy of fundraising and charity dinners, Ron remembers organizing one fundraising dinner that charged per plate…there was actually no dinner…they just sold the plate! “You had all the competition from other Jewish charities and that was always a challenge for Reena. If you didn’t know someone who is challenged, you wouldn’t necessarily say that this is the first organization that I’m going to support.”
In fact, Ron says, even he was unsure of himself in the beginning. “I was never really, really comfortable around individuals with diverse abilities…because I didn’t grow up around anyone who was challenged, and it was always like how do you communicate? how do you talk to them? But the truth of the matter is you talk to them just like you talk to anyone else.” Ron became more familiar with the population by visiting homes and interacting with individuals involved in committees and meetings. One of his most vivid memories is of the annual Reena Purim party. “The Purim party was so revealing was because everybody would come in costume…sponsors, parents, employees, and individuals would all come in costume. And what I discovered was you could not tell who was who. It was an amazing revelation. And I thought that is what it is really about. It was the ultimate inclusion…The ultimate way of recognizing that everybody is the same.”
During his time as Foundation Chair, Ron also worked closely with Sandy Keshen, former Reena CEO, who he calls an extraordinary woman. “Sandy had these great, big ideas for Reena…she said, ‘we’re going to create a home, a big place and not a little place because we’re big.”
Not only has Ron Hoffman worked diligently helping to build Reena into the sector leader it is today, but he also helped recruit friends who would do the same and take on leadership roles at Reena themselves including past Reena Board, Foundation and Batay Reena leaders like Gerald Hartman, Harold Seidel, and Irving Feldman. Ron’s work for the Jewish community at large has also included time as president of JNF. In fact, he is proud to have helped facilitate the inclusion of Reena supported individuals on JNF’s annual trips to Israel.
Helping people is just Ron Hoffman’s way, “I was a lawyer, then in the laboratory business…both ways of helping people.”