Meet Neil Katz

Neil and Bonnie Katz

When asked to describe himself, Neil Katz will say that he is a connector — he loves people. High energy. Driven. Good at solving problems. All traits that have served him well during his extensive career in both the commercial real estate business and as an entrepreneurial investor. 

These are also traits that have proven effective in other aspects of his life, not just his business career. These characteristics have helped him take on numerous leadership positions in the community in his quest to “make a difference”.   

For this Baltimore native (OK … not technically … his family moved here when he was two), Neil has been changing lives since the late 70’s as president of his B’nai B’rith Chapter, Chesapeake AZA, in his school and then president of his fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, at the University of Delaware in the early ‘80s. Upon graduation, this self-declared workaholic began a successful real estate career, but after a couple years, he realized something was missing.   

 His Journey Begins “Big” 

“I was working 12+ hours a day, and I enjoyed my work, yet I instinctively knew that I needed something else in my life,” he recalls. So, he contacted the Jewish Big Brother & Big Sister League through what was then Jewish Family Services (now Jewish Community Services).  

Soon he was a ‘Big’ to Joe, a young 8-year-old boy who had lost his father, hanging out with him every weekend going to sporting events, playing games, or whatever. That commitment — which was supposed to last two years — lasted until Joe turned 18 and went off to college. 

Joe is now 45, married and his two kids of his own. They remain very close and recently helped Joe and his family celebrate their oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah. “I am so proud of the man Joe has become”. 

“We changed each other’s lives,” he adds. “And for me, in particular, it put my life in perspective and gave it meaning.” 

That spurred a lifetime of giving back, having since sat on more than 25 boards, one-half in the Jewish community and the balance focused primarily in the education and business/entrepreneurship arenas. It also meant becoming more active in The Associated. 

“Marcy Kolodny, who chaired Big Brother Big Sister League at the time, suggested I join Young Leadership Council at The Associated. I’ve been active with The Associated ever since — and have loved every minute of it. I get to work with awesome people that are part of an awesome organization that is truly making a difference.” 

Finding His Beshert 

In fact, it was his involvement with The Associated that led him to meet Bonnie Katz (yes, same last name), who would become his future wife. It was 1991, and the two were both part of the planning committee for a future Young Leadership Mission to Israel.  

“Howard Friedman called me up one day and said ‘Do you know Bonnie Katz — she’s a cute girl and very smart (CPA) too – you should go out with her. You guys would be good together.’ He then called Bonnie and more or less said the same thing to her.” 

Two years later they were married.  And guess where they spent the first part of their honeymoon? On that Young Leadership Mission to Israel — with 20 of their best friends!!! 

The Next Generation 

Neil will readily admit that his passion is working with the next generation and that is reflected in many of his volunteer interests. He enjoys teaching, mentoring and sharing business and life experiences with others and that has fueled much of his volunteerism. 

He’s served on business advisory and entrepreneurship boards at UMBC, Villa Julie, the University of Delaware, Baltimore City Community College and was chairman of the Foundation Board at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). He aslo sat on the Hillel boards at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Delaware Hillel and was co-chair of the Associated’s Baltimore-Odessa Partnership. In fact, The Associated helped him arrange a video mentoring program with a dozen young entrepreneurial adults living in Odessa, Ukraine — translator and all.    

Having been very engaged with the Jewish community as a young adult in high school and college, Neil loves working with and finding creative ways to engage the next generation so they can capture the same passion for Judaism that he has. His current role as chair of The Associated’s Jewish Life Managing Council actually which works with all five Maryland Hillels and enables Neil to “spread his wings throughout the region to the leaders of tomorrow.” 

Baltimore: Where Everyone Knows Everyone Else 

In addition, this year, Neil is serving as the co-chair of The Associated’s Attracting Young Adults to Baltimore Subcommittee. 

“Although Baltimore has some challenges, there is so much to love about it.” he says. “For one, it’s a city of ethnicities, of tight knit communities that thrive off their heritage and culture. The Jewish community of Baltimore is a recognized leader and one of the strongest Jewish communities in the nation. I love being a part of this great community – so many great selfless people doing so much for the greater good.” 

Unlike some people who don’t love the fact that everyone knows everyone in Baltimore, Neil sees it as a strength. “I love it.  What could be greater than spending all your time with great people doing great things!”  

Home is Where the Heart is 

For all Neil’s commitment to work and doing good, family remains at the center. Married 28 years, he and Bonnie balance each other out nicely.  

“I tend to go in lots of directions and Bonnie keeps pulling me back onto the path. We are blessed to have two amazing children that make us so proud. Bonnie is definitely the glue that keeps me (her third child), our kids and our entire extended family together.”   

Travel tops his list of interests.   

“Bonnie and I have a couple big trips planned. COVID threw us a bit of a curveball.” he says.   

And as his two children were growing up, he would take one-on-one trips with each of them that spoke to their interests. That meant summer trips to baseball stadiums with his son Jordan (they visited all 30 stadiums over 10 years) and adventure and music focused trips with his daughter Alyson to such places as Mount  Rushmore and the Black Hills in South Dakota.  Given their mutual love of music, they also traveled to Nashville together to catch some good country tunes. 

Quotes Maya Angelou and Jim Valvano  

Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” … 

Jim Valvano:  The late North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano once said, “To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think and Number three is that you should have your emotions move you to tears.  If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.” 

These are the quotes that Neil says he lives by.   

“A perfect day for me is when I can make people laugh, connect with them, and perhaps share with them some knowledge or experience that will help them grow in some positive way.”  At the same time, I am so often moved to tears when I mentor and work with someone who wasn’t blessed with the opportunities I had. How unbelievable is it to positively impact someone’s life? Doing great things with great people and helping others is what it’s all about!”  

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The Associated is a home for everyone in the Baltimore Jewish community. We offer several email lists to help people find a community, engage with their peers and support Jewish journeys around the world.

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