Meet Daniel Klein

Growing up Reform, in a culturally Jewish environment, Daniel Klein always felt the pull of his Jewish roots.

Perhaps it was the weekly Friday night dinners that no one ever missed or the antisemitism his grandparents faced that helped define who they became.

It could have been the Big Brother he received when he was in elementary school that showed how much the Jewish community was there to help. Or the sense of Jewish values instilled in him watching his grandparents give back.

Today, as Daniel Klein takes the helm as Major Giving Chair for The Associated, there is so much he can say about what got him where he is today. Yet underlying it all is his family – and the values and traditions they shared.

In some ways, his grandparents, Phil and Harriet Klein, were at the center of his life. Every Friday evening, the family would gather at their home for what they called “Friday Night dinner” or what he later realized was a commitment to Shabbat.

His grandparents, who were actively involved in the Jewish community, were shaped in part by the antisemitism they faced earlier in life. His grandfather’s family owned a general story in West Virginia and were run out of town by the Ku Klux Klan. The family moved to Maryland where it was safer when his grandfather was a child.

His grandmother, meanwhile, faced antisemitism growing up in a small Irish Catholic town outside of Boston. As a result, Daniel says, “my grandmother wore a Star of David, so people always knew she was Jewish. In fact, it was her Star that my grandfather first noticed when he met her.”

Upon graduating from the Park School, Daniel spent a year at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. He faced some antisemitism and recalls he was one of the first Jews many of his friends had ever met. It was this experience that was instrumental in his decision to attend Boston University – it had a strong Jewish population.

It was there that he really embraced his Judaism, regularly attending Shabbat dinners with Jews from 28 countries, became president of the Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi), and went on Taglit-Birthright prior to his senior year. That was his second trip to Israel – the first, on an Associated family mission when he was five– and solidified his love for the Jewish state.

When, he returned to Baltimore after college, he immediately reached out to Jewish Community Services to become a Big Brother. Having lost his father at the age of four, his Big Brother had an enormous influence on him, and Daniel wanted to do the same for another boy.

“When I became a Big Brother, I began to make the connection between The Associated and my life. And I began to realize what The Associated needs to provide these services.”

At the same time, his grandfather set up lunch with Marc Terrill, who was toying around with creating a real estate division at the time. Marc linked Daniel up with Michael Saxon and the two helped launch the Real Estate Investment Group (REIG) affinity.

As he became more involved with The Associated – and even pursued leadership through Wexner – Judaism continued to play a big role in his family. His children attend Jewish private school. His wife, Anna, grew up Modern Orthodox. Her grandfather was a Holocaust survivor saved by Oscar Schindler.

“I was fortunate enough to build a relationship with Anna’s late grandfather, Nathan Krieger. Nathan was a Holocaust survivor who was saved by Oscar Schindler. He only one of eight siblings to survive, he shared his intimate holocaust stories with me in a way that I couldn’t previously understand with American-born grandparents. I felt his pain, but also the miracle and the beauty of Jewish continuity, which was so important to him,” he says.

And that, he says, leads to one of his goals to engage more individuals under the age of 40. “If we want the Jewish community to thrive, they are our future,” he says.

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