Atlanta native Jack Halpern serves as chairman of Halpern Enterprises, Inc., a family-owned business that develops, leases and manages shopping centers as long-term investments.
A graduate of The Westminster Schools, Harvard College and the University of Georgia Law School, he and his wife, Lynne, have three children and five grandchildren.
Halpern is active in the Jewish community, having served as co-chair of the Marcus Jewish Community Center, and on the boards of The Epstein School, The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, the Westminster Schools, the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League and numerous other nonprofits.
Halpern was the founding chairman of the Doraville Downtown Development Authority, and was named 2015 Citizen of the Year by the City of Smyrna, Ga.
He practiced law in Atlanta before joining his father, Bernard, at Halpern Enterprises.
Along with his sister, Carolyn, Halpern has helped to grow the company into one of Atlanta’s leading commercial real estate firms, with a portfolio of more than 50 shopping centers in Georgia and neighboring states. Five members of the third generation currently work at the business, where Halpern’s primary responsibility is to increase the chances that the company will endure for generations to come. Read on to learn what makes Jack Halpern tick.
What was it like growing up during the 1950s and 1960s?
Our family lived in Morningside, home to a large number of Jewish families, which was part of the reason that my parents chose to settle there. I felt like I knew all the other Jews in town who were around my age. We felt safe walking the streets, day or night, organized our own pick-up ball games, and rode the bus downtown alone to go to the movies. It was a great way to grow up.
What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I was the undefeated Georgia wrestling champion at 108 pounds during my senior year in high school. That was many years and many weight classes ago, but I at least had the experience, at that point, of being mentally disciplined and in great physical condition.
What did you learn at Harvard?
Humility. I learned that there will always be people more talented and accomplished than I am, so I should try to surround myself with smart people from whom I can learn useful lessons.
You are streaming?
Favorite COVID-era TV series: “A French Village,” “1883,” “Tehran,” “Hell on Wheels.”
What was the most unusual job you’ve ever had?
I spent a year between college and law school traveling around the western United States in a VW van, staying with friends near Aspen. My job was bussing tables and throwing out the trash at the Timber Mill Inn, an after-ski restaurant/bar in Snowmass. I can’t say that this job represented the best use of my Harvard degree, but it enabled me to live as a ski-bum for a few months — and gave me valuable insights into how challenging it can be for people to get by while earning minimum wage.
Your guilty pleasure?
Nestle Little Drumsticks Ice Cream (vanilla or chocolate), one each night.
What was your most exotic vacation?
My wife, Lynne, and I, along with 72 other people, took a 25-day journey around the world on a chartered plane, sponsored by National Geographic. We visited Machu Picchu, Easter Island, Samoa, Australia, Cambodia, Nepal, Tibet, the Taj Mahal, Tanzania, Petra and Morocco. The trip took place shortly before COVID-19, so it will likely turn out to be a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience. I came away with a renewed appreciation for how lucky we are to live in the United States.
“Great Circle,” “The Lincoln Conspiracy.”
Who had the greatest influence on your life and career?
That was my father, Bernard Halpern, who was 16 years old when he immigrated here from Poland in 1938, leaving behind parents who were murdered in the Holocaust. Bernard had a tremendous work ethic and an engaging personality. He believed in sharing his good fortune and earned an unblemished reputation for integrity. Even though he died of cancer at only 58, Bernard’s generosity and high ethical standards continue to serve as a guide for me and our family.
How did you get involved with Jewish community organizations?
My parents were generous contributors to Jewish causes, so they set great examples. In my early 30s, I participated in a leadership development program at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, through which I was exposed to their varied agencies and organizations. After that, I was invited to serve on various boards and was introduced to Jewish community leaders. I developed a tolerance for sitting through long meetings and learned how to build consensus within volunteer organizations. Because I kept saying “yes” I was given more responsibility. My life has been greatly enriched as a result, although I’m amazed at how quickly I’ve gone from being the youngest person in the room to the oldest.
What do your grandchildren call you?
Papa – by far the best role that I’ve ever gotten to play.
- The Lowdown
- Jack Halpern
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Harvard College
- University of Georgia Law School
- Marcus Jewish Community Center
- The Epstein School
- the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta
- The Westminster Schools
- the American Jewish Committee
- Anti-Defamation League
- Doraville Downtown Development Authority
- Nestle Little Drumsticks Ice Cream
- National Geographic
- Machu Picchu
- Easter Island
- the Taj Mahal