MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Irwin Shipper, 87
Irwin Shipper’s passion for the Jewish people is reflected in his deep respect for those professionals who dedicate their lives to teaching.
“What CJE does with its teacher education programs is vital because if we don’t educate the children in a way that is enjoyable and meaningful, we’re just going to lose them when they become adults,” says Shipper, 87.
The Friedman Commission for Jewish Education (CJE) is honoring Shipper, a longtime supporter of Jewish education in the Palm Beaches, at its inaugural Champions of Jewish Education event on Tuesday at the Hilton West Palm Beach.
As the agency’s inaugural honoree, Shipper will be recognized for three decades of community service to CJE and many other vital national and local Jewish organizations, including Temple Beth David, Alpert Jewish Family & Children’s Service and the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.
“If we want to keep as many of our kids Jewish as we can, which is not easy, we have to give them the background, we have to make them feel good about their religion, that they’re getting something from it, that it’s interesting,” Shipper said. “If you don’t get them when they’re young, it’s much more difficult to get them when they’re older. Professional development for teachers is so important because if children have a good start, then it’s much easier to keep them engaged.”
Shipper noted that it’s not just Judaism that is waning among young people, but churches and religion as a whole, as kids get more involved with sports, technology and other pursuits.
“You have to find people that have an interest in becoming involved in charities,” he said. “Churches and synagogues are having difficulty getting members, so you try to encourage people who would be able to help.”
Shipper, who’s lived in Palm Beach Gardens for 34 years, was born in Brooklyn borough of New York City and lived in New Jersey and Manhattan before moving to Palm Beach County.
He’s been married to his wife, Florence, for 67 years and has two sons, 60 and 63, and two grandchildren in their twenties.
Shipper worked in the cemetery business for many years and spent some time in real estate.
“It’s one of the the most complicated business one could be in,” said Shipper, who also graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1982.
But his three decades of work for Jewish education is what he holds most dear.
“My hope is that more people get to understand the need for education for the Jewish people,” Shipper said. “Religion in general is less supported than in the past. My hope is that more Jewish people will recognize the need for Jewish education for this generation.”
Who is your hero?
My parents, Isidor and Gussie Shipper.
What is your favorite movie?
I’m not a real movie buff, but I love comedies.
What are your hobbies?
Golf, and sports in general. I had a tryout with the (then Brooklyn) Dodgers (baseball team) when I was 16 as a shortstop. Currently, I spend a lot of time with charities for Jewish education. I also read a lot.
What do you do to get away or take a break?
I travel a lot. I’ve been to Europe more than 40 times. My favorite place is Italy. I love Rome and Florence.
If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
What is the best advice you ever received?
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” (by) my father. I learned about charity from my father. He was able to raise funds for synagogues and schools. It was ingrained in me from a young age and I never forget it.
What event in history would you have liked to have witnessed?
I was at the Bobby Thomson home run game at the Polo Grounds, but I wish I wasn’t because I’m a Dodgers fan. I was sick after that.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
I was very involved in sports and that’s what I remember the most.