It was 15 years ago when Ronald Dubrow received a phone call from Lewis Katz about a new idea.
The call started with Katz asking Dubrow whether he knew anything about Camden and the Boys and Girls Club. Katz had an idea and he wanted Dubrow to be a part of it.
“You couldn’t say no because you believed in him,” Dubrow said.
With the help of a number of close friends, Katz started the Boys and Girls Club of Camden County.
Dubrow, who serves as the club’s president today, told the story of its founding just two days after Katz was confirmed dead after the crash of a private jet in Massachusetts on Saturday. Katz, 72, was one of seven people who died in the crash.
Dubrow said the Boys and Girls Club was dear to Katz’s heart. Having grown up in Camden, he wanted to give the kids somewhere to go after school. There was nothing stopping Katz from starting the organization.
“He put it together,” Dubrow said. “He got us the first initial money to build us the first building. He created the Board of Trustees.”
The impact Katz had on the Boys and Girls Club, and in all of South Jersey, cannot be understated. Just two weeks ago, after the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City announced it was closing its doors, he stepped up to give the club’s children a place to go this summer.
“After some dialogue with our executive director, he was going to give money to the Katz JCC in Margate to help run the summer program for those children,” Dubrow said.
Katz’s impact ran deep in Cherry Hill’s Jewish community as well. Jennifer Dubrow-Weiss, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, said Katz wanted nothing more than to help those in need. He helped in a variety of ways with the federation’s services and programs.
“His whole mission was to help people who were less fortunate,” Dubrow-Weiss said. “He was so blessed to give back to the community because that’s what drove him.”
Some of the services Katz worked on included funding scholarships, donating food to families and providing housing for those with special needs.
“It’s hard to organize a program or an event without him,” Dubrow-Weiss said. “He really shared himself with the entire community.”
Katz was also the catalyst in keeping alive a local synagogue. It was in the 1990s when Congregation Beth El was suffering from a lack of young families at its synagogue. Located in Cherry Hill at the time, the synagogue was in danger of closing.
Katz originally grew up near the original Congregation Beth El in Camden and stepped up when he was informed of the synagogue’s dire status. Katz helped to orchestrate and fund the move to Congregation Beth El’s current location at the corner of Evesham and Kresson roads in Voorhees.
“He helped to build our education wing,” Dubrow said. “We moved our synagogue 10 to 12 years later. He was involved in every aspect.”
The move helped to grow Congregation Beth El’s community and increase enrollment at its Hebrew School. His name adorns the site of the new synagogue.
Katz not only served the Cherry Hill community, but he also lived and worked in the township for a number of years. He formerly served as chairman of Interstate Outdoor Advertising and founded the Katz Ettin and Levine law firm. Both are located on Kings Highway in Cherry Hill. Katz also served as the CEO of Kinney Parking Systems until its sale to Central Parking Corporation in 1998.
For all of the acts Katz was known for, there are countless other stories that will forever remain untold.
“He was the kind of person who did hundreds of things for people who no one ever knew about,” Dubrow said. “There were stories of people who were ill and he allowed them to use his plane to go receive treatments.”
Even for people in the most dire of situation, Katz wanted to give everyone a fighting chance to have a happy and successful life.
“He was also always able to make sure you saw a different perspective,” Dubrow-Weiss said. “He could always make you have hope.”