Talk about connections: Play Jewish geography with Matt Ran and you’re bound to find people in common: from boyhood friends at Congregation Shaarey Zedek and Andover High School to true love at Camp Tamakwa in Canada; from college roommates and frat brothers at MSU, USC and Wayne State U, to close colleagues in business at Telemus. From generation to generation, with family and friends in Detroit, L.A, Seattle and newly discovered in Tel Aviv – Matt has gained an ever-widening sphere of influence in Jewish Detroit. It comes as no surprise that Matt is the recipient of Federation’s 2019 Mark-Lis Young Leadership Award.
On the Telemus team since returning to Detroit in 2008, Matt has earned his place as a trusted advisor to clients – most recently stepping into the role of Director of Growth and Development. A graduate of Wayne State University with a B.A. in Economics, Matt describes an itinerate college experience. “I started out at Michigan State University with a four-point average in my first year, took a summer class in Accounting at the London School of Economics and Political Science, then transferred to the University of Southern California for three years, and finished my degree at Wayne State. Recently, I’ve earned my M.B.A. online at the Jack Welch Management Institute.”
Self-described as an obsessed sports fanatic, Matt grew up playing basketball with his dad, Gary, and brothers, Jeffrey and Michael, on their home court in Bloomfield Hills. From a family of longtime Camp Tamakwa alums, Matt met his wife, Jodie, working there in the summer of 2007. “I was a 21-year-old sports director. She was an 18-year-old counselor. We started dating in January 2009 and were married in 2016.
A pre-school teacher at Hillel Day School, Jodie still heads up to Tamakwa every summer, now as Director of the Girls Camp. Last year, she had 9-week old Kaia in tow and Matt spent long weekends in commute. “Tamakwa has been our summer home and workplace,” says Matt. “I was glad to discover that the cell service at camp works better than here at home.” When not enjoying their unique four-generation family camping experience at Tamakwa, Matt and Jodie are residents of Bloomfield Hills.
In conversation with Matt Ran
Five words that describe you:
Outgoing. Community-oriented. Family-first.
On early influences and family partnerships
As you wish, please share a little about your family.
Where do I start? Which generation? Let’s go back to the 50’s with my paternal great-grandfather, whose name you’ll find in the lobby of the Max M. Fisher Federation Building. A recipient of Federation’s highly esteemed Butzel Award, Phillip Stollman was a prominent Detroit builder and visionary communal leader known for developing Somerset in partnership with Sam Frankel, in Troy, and for co-founding Bar-Ilan University is Israel.
My great grandfather was my dad’s best friend; he was best man at my dad’s wedding; and my dad always planned to get into the real estate business with him. The year was 1979; my dad had a semester in college when the real estate business took a nosedive. As a result, there was no longer a spot for him in the family business. With that, he immediately left school, turned to investing which had been something of a hobby for him, and went into business on his own.
My grandmother is Annette Stollman – Phillip’s daughter, now 85. She’s an artist, a skilled weaver, very independent, lives on an 8-acre property and maintains a home she custom built 20 years ago on Bainbridge Island.
In Detroit, my mother’s family has shaped me since childhood, and with whom I work at Telemus every day. (My father, Gary, co-founded his company with my mother’s brother, Robert Stone, and (ex)brother-in-law, Lyle Wolberg. My mom’s family roots run deep in the community and nearly every holiday is spent gathered around the tables of my mom’s family and lifelong friends. My grandfather, Ronald Stone ( z”l), is a Past President of JARC and my uncle, Robert Stone, is the current President of U. of M. Hillel.
With the names Stollman, Stone and Singer in your family, how did you get the last name of Ran?
My paternal grandfather was Israeli; he fought for Israel’s independence in 1948. The family surname was Singer, but after the war, when Ben Gurion declared Hebrew the official language of Israel, he changed all the Russian names of the soldiers in the army to Hebrew. Hence, the name “Singer” became the Hebrew name “Ran.”
You have a long history of family engagement in the Jewish community. How did that translate to your experience growing up?
I have a mix of backgrounds and Jewish role models in my family. My dad grew up Modern Orthodox and was a student at Hillel Day School in one of the first classes to enroll back in the early 60’s. My mom grew up at Temple Israel, so my parents chose the Conservative alternative, Congregation Shaarey Zedek, where I attended Hebrew school and celebrated my Bar Mitzvah.
I joke that Camp Tamakwa was basically my Jew-ish experience growing up – with emphasis on the ish. I would say I am committed to the belief that our Jewish traditions are what define our Jewish identity and keep us together.
On work at Telemus and lifelong connections to Jewish Detroit
Everything about your upbringing and education pointed to your returning to Detroit. What were some of the challenges of coming home as the second generation in a family business?
The biggest challenge, first of all, was the timing: I came back to Detroit from L.A. in September 2008 – a bad time for all business, but especial for the finance business. While many of my friends were having a tough time landing their first jobs, I was one of the lucky ones. I had my family. I had Jodie, who was a student at U of M at the time, and we still had our summers at Tamakwa.
The hardest challenge by far in being in a family business continues to be proving that I belong there. Obviously, I didn’t get the job as most people would by putting in a resumé. It’s expected that I have the credentials for filling each of the roles I have had . . . but it’s true that I still have to run faster and work harder to assert my own identity at the office. My career trajectory has never wavered. My focus remains on building the company.
Describe your brand. What makes Telemus unique?
I would say it’s our team approach and the depth and breadth of experience from our staff. We work in teams; each focusing on a specialty: investment and wealth management, financial life planning and insurance.
What are the most satisfying aspects of being a financial advisor?
I joke that if I had not gotten into the business of finance for love of finance, I would have followed my family into business in any field. I came to Telemus to work with my family. Going into the office every day feels like a family dinner.
Who have been your mentors?
My family for sure. My dad is Number One.
When I first came into the business, I shared an office with my dad. As President of Michigan ORT and a member of the Federation Board, he had his hand on the pulse of the Jewish community and urged me to get involved in volunteer work – because, among other benefits, it was “good for business.”
And there’s Josh Levine, my father’s fourth partner, and my peer just three offices down the hall. From the start, Josh has been both a good friend and mentor, particularly regarding Federation – a significant aspect of my community work.
On Federation connections, missions and more
Ten years ago, when I first asked Josh where to start in getting involved in the community, all he said to me was, “Just settle in, I’ll let you know when the time is right.”
A year and a half later, Josh was Chair of the Federation’s first All-Star Mission to Israel sponsored by Adam and Jodi Becker. Participants in the Becker Mission earned their spots through volunteer community work – and their pledge to continue active leadership in what was the start of the newly branded NEXTGen Detroit.
I had been to Israel with my family to celebrate my Bar Mitzvah; in college I was a part of Birthright Israel; Jodie and I were in Tel Aviv when we got engaged. But the Becker Mission in 2010 really awakened me to the purpose for Federation, the needs we serve, and the impact of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). After the Becker Mission, I joined Federation Board, and Co-chaired the first EPIC event, a success that drew numbers beyond everyone’s wildest expectations
In 2015, I had the opportunity to chair Federation’s first Mission to Cuba – another extraordinary experience, and an opportunity to see the JDC at work to provide support to vulnerable Jewish communities. Cuba is a country where the average person is allotted a third of a pound of meat per month. The JDC provides about that same amount of chicken for a Shabbat meal for every Jew who wishes to partake.
Also in 2015, I returned to Israel on an Emerging Leaders and Philanthropists Mission; and the following year, Jodie and I chaired a NEXTGen Detroit Couples Mission to Israel.
On work/life balance
How has your career path influenced or enhanced your communal work? Or vice versa?
I believe my professional and volunteer work are really one in the same. At Telemus our business is to help people. And that’s the mission of Federation. We’re here to help and that’s what I most enjoy doing.
What do you do to relax and unwind?
I’m a sports nut. Having my wife at camp is a blessing and a curse. I play a lot of basketball, golf, tennis, squash and soccer. At home, Jodie and I enjoy watching the best of Netflix and HBO together.
On giving back and what’s next for NEXTGen Detroit
In all your roles as a community leader, what has community service given back to you?
When people ask how I have the time to do all that I do, I think of all the opportunities I’ve had, all the people I’ve met and continue to meet along the journey I’ve taken so far. How can I say no to all of that?
I’ve been a part of NEXTGen Detroit at an amazing time – at its inception. And when you think about the span of life experience we encompass in NEXTGen Detroit — from 21 to 45 – it’s incredible how many life changing events take place during those years, as we graduate from college, find jobs, find our partners, start families and move up in our careers. When you try to package that into one organization called NEXTGen Detroit, it’s nearly impossible to reach everyone effectively. So, I think the next iteration of our activity – and what we’ve just started to do – is to develop affinity groups representing slices of the community where members can relate and coalesce. I think our micro-communities are the next step in young adult engagement.
Restaurants: Mabel Grey (We’re foodies, thanks to my brother, Michael, a former professional chef, with Michael Solomonov of Zahav in Philadelphia. Michael has returned to Detroit to work at Telemus, but it’s great to have a chef in the family.)
Building in the Detroit skyline: The new Shinola Hotel is incredible; and San Morello is a fantastic restaurant.
Place to take kids/ visitors: The Detroit Zoo, for sure. We’re frequent visitors. We also spend a lot of time at the Franklin Hills Country Club.
Vacation places: L.A. – my youngest brother and Jodie’s brother live there. My favorite city is Tel Aviv.
Sports: Basketball! (Golf, tennis, squash and soccer, too.)
Jewish Food: My mom’s coffee cake, a recipe from the Zahav Cookbook
Jewish Expression: Oy vey. (I was a big tennis play in high school, playing in a tournament. every time I missed a shot, I’d say oy. Now my daughter recently learned oy vey.)
Guilty pleasures: Sweets – my mom and wife are both bakers.
Watching now: Billions and The Wire – an all-time favorite
Never leave home without (besides your phone): Air pods—podcasts – anything to make my mind go dull
Reading now: Howard Stern Comes Again, by Howard Stern
Words to live by:
Do what you love and love what you do.
Don’t do tomorrow what you can do today . . .