Staff Writer, Jewish Press
The Jewish Business Leaders (JBL) third annual Hall of Fame Breakfast will take place Oct. 23 from 7:30-9 a.m. at the Happy Hollow Club (1701 S. 105th Street).
An initiative of the Jewish Federation of Omaha, JBL strives to bring Omaha’s Jewish businesses together to highlight the entrepreneurs, founders and change makers in our community while creating opportunities to connect, teach and leverage relationships to build a stronger Jewish Omaha.
Founded three years ago by Alex Epstein, this initiative is nearly 100 members strong and growing. “Jewish Business Leaders is an important outlet for the people in our community to connect and have a place to do business with one another. This has gone on for generations within our community; now we have an intentional outlet for it. The other reason JBL is successful is because our community enjoys learning about one another’s business ventures and hearing the stories from what often are multi-generational companies,” Epstein said.
This year’s JBL board members include Epstein, Tamara Draeger, Adam Kirshenbaum, Jerry Slusky, Alan Tipp and Steve Levinger. Each year the board considers companies and business professionals for induction into the Hall of Fame and are pleased to announce that this year’s inductees are Ted Seldin, Stanley Silverman (of blessed memory) and The Seldin Company.
Steve Levinger, JFO Chief Development Officer shares that Seldin Company’s selection as this year’s inductee to the JBL Hall of Fame was because it “stands out as such an iconic Omaha business that has had significant and meaningful impact in our community for decades.”
Founded by World War I veteran Ben I. Seldin in 1923, the firm began as a one-man insurance company in Council Bluffs, Iowa. In the years since its inception, Seldin Company, an award- winning multifamily management organization headquartered in Omaha, has emerged as a leader in home building, diversified property development and asset management, creating housing for a wide range of clientele across seven states.
According to the company website, Seldin Company’s mission “is to preserve and nurture our presence in the community by providing quality comprehensive real estate and property asset management services in an ethical and professional manner.” This mission stays true to Ben Seldin’s original business ideal that a “deal must be fair to both parties or it’s not good for either parties.”
Ben Seldin grew his business and earned his real estate license in 1940. He was joined soon afterwards by his sons Ted and Millard and son-in-law Stanley Silverman after they completed service in the United States Air Force and Navy, respectively. As a business born of service men, hard work, dedication, loyalty and service are an integral part of this company’s fabric. The company continues to grow with generations of the Seldin family working together to operate various facets of the business drawing on the Jewish tradition of L’dor V’dor.
“It’s a privilege to induct Seldin Companies into the Hall of Fame,” explains Epstein. “Ted Seldin, the late Stan Silverman, and their families have had a remarkable run in real estate for generations. The reputation of their company is that of class and doing things the right way. The company’s roots from 1923 to now are special as they continue to be family owned and now have a third generation involved. The company continues to grow at a rapid pace. JBL is honored to have the opportunity to induct such a storied company run by two brilliant families who have had a remarkable impact on Greater Omaha and beyond.”
Ted Seldin was born and raised in Council Bluffs. He earned a BA in economics from the University of Iowa and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Iowa Law School before joining the Air Force. After his active duty ended, he remained in the reserves for 16 years, until his honorable discharge in 1968. After moving to Omaha with his wife, Sarah, the Seldins became active members of the Jewish Community.
Selected as the JFO Humanitarian of the Year in 2015, Ted Seldin’s contributions to Omaha are numerous. He has served on the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Housing Committee and its Board of Directors as well as on a variety of other boards, including Temple Israel, where he was President. Seldin also served as President of the Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation from 1994-1996 and continues his role as a board member to this day.
His influence on the Omaha landscape through both his company’s real estate development and his volunteer work cannot be overstated. Seldin’s career always focused on so much more than the work itself; for Ted Seldin, community engagement is obviously a high priority.
In a 2010 Jewish Press article, Bert Lewis wrote, “In spite of all Ted Seldin’s accomplishments, he remains humble and likes to point the spotlight away from himself.” In 2012, Seldin was inducted into the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and in 2013 The University of Iowa Alumni Association presented him with the Distinguished Alumni Award, calling him “an entrepreneur with a social conscience.”
Stanley Silverman was born in 1922 to David and Bessie Silverman of Omaha. A graduate of Central High School, Silverman graduated from Iowa State Collage with a BS in Chemical Engineering.
Throughout his life, Silverman worked many jobs and was not afraid of hard work. In his autobiography, he shares many details of jobs he held from a young age, such as delivering groceries and newspapers, canning pickles and learning halachic slaughter of chickens to digging trenches at Offut Air Force Base and working in packinghouses as a young adult.
Upon his graduation from Iowa State in December of 1943, Stanley took a position at Phillips Petroleum in Oklahoma. While home for a few weeks between graduating college and starting his new job in January 1944, Stanley met Norma Seldin and the two began dating. Over the next few months, they maintained a long distance relationship, and enjoyed occasional visits. By August, the couple was married and Silverman had enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After his time in the service, Silverman found work in Chicago before his own young and growing family returned to Omaha where he worked for the city’s smoke abatement department and as a chemist for Quaker Oats. He also began helping at his father-in-law’s insurance and home building company, eventually joining the family business at the Seldin Company full time.
Over a career spanning 50 years, Silverman worked his way up from writing newspaper ads for new builds, to helping guide the Seldin Company as Secretary, Treasurer, senior Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer. Working closely with brother-in-law Ted, Stanley helped the Seldin Company create the legacy it has today. Silverman passed away in September 2016, just before his 94th birthday.
Alan Potash, JFO CEO calls the Seldins “Strong community builders, not just in commercial and residential building but strong supporters of the Jewish community in Omaha and Council Bluffs and many other institutions.” Potash added, “In conversations with people that know the Seldin family, one hears about the contributions they have made throughout the years. Their involvement ranges from supporting the Jewish Federation of Omaha and its agencies, the ADL and the Institute for Holocaust Education, Temple Israel, UNO, to the cemetery in Council Bluffs. Ted has been a mentor for me in many different areas.”
Seldin is a company that cares about its people, and it shows. As one of the earliest providers of benefits and health insurance to employees and their families, Seldin also gave back to their communities by donating land for schools, fire stations, community centers, libraries and places of worship. In addition to building many familiar Omaha family neighborhoods, like Montclair, Royalwood Estates and Westwood, Seldin Company is a leader in providing dignified and quality senior living options for a broad range of demographics. Among the most important real estate work Ted Seldin has been involved in is the development and management of low-income senior housing, including Livingston Plaza, on the JCC campus. Early on, he saw the need for decent places where seniors can live in dignity and security, and fought hard for FHA housing assistance for seniors.
The thoughtful investments of the Seldin Company into not only the Jewish Community, but into the neighborhoods of greater Omaha, are just a few examples of what makes the Jewish Federation of Omaha and the JBL proud to name Ted, Stanley and the Seldin Company as the 2019 Jewish Business Leaders Hall of Fame inductees.