Jon B. Singer, House of Hope founder

Successful businessman devoted his life to helping others recover from addiction or be successful in new businesses

  • Jon B. Singer
Jon B. Singer
September 15, 2014|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | The Baltimore Sun

Jon B. Singer, a successful Baltimore businessman who was active in Jewish philanthropic causes that ranged from helping those suffering from drug abuse to mentoring young men and women starting businesses, died of pancreatic cancer Aug. 31 at his Pikesville home. He was 71.

"His compassion and generosity knew no bounds. Even though he ran several businesses and was a devoted family man, he always found time to help those who were in need," said Jerry Sutton, who was executive director of House of Hope, a Reisterstown Road recovery facility that Mr. Singer founded for Jewish men struggling to overcome drug addiction and substance abuse.

The son of Dr. Lee Singer, a dentist, and Jean Singer, a homemaker, Jon Barry Singer was born in Baltimore and raised on Fairview Avenue in Forest Park.

He attended City College and graduated in 1960 from Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Wayne, Pa. He was a 1962 graduate of Valley Forge Junior College.

"He always credited Valley Forge Military Academy with saving his life. He was raised in difficult circumstances in a tumultuous and chaotic household," said his daughter, Meredith Singer of Arlington, Va.

He served with the Army Reserves as a cook before being discharged in 1971.

Mr. Singer was the founder and owner of Premier Management Group, a real estate service provider that employed more than 1,800 workers. After the business was sold to a British firm in 1989, he retired.

"Jon's community service work spanned a wide variety of activities and at the center was his deep commitment to Judaism," said Mark Bayer, his son-in-law who lives in Arlington, Va. "He lived the Jewish principle of 'Tikkun olam,' to 'save the world,' which holds that if you save one life, it is as if you have saved the entire world."

In 1997, Mr. Singer converted a building he owned in Northwest Baltimore into the House of Hope.

"He'd be at the House of Hope well after midnight, or he'd just drop by to hang out with the residents," said Mr. Sutton. "The addicts he saved numbered in the thousands, and once they were clean and sober, they got good jobs and married. Without him, many families wouldn't exist."

Matthews R. Bark, who is now a successful criminal defense lawyer in Orlando, Fla., had first gotten to know Mr. Singer when he was 14 and played basketball with his son.

"At 22, I was addicted to alcohol and I moved into the House of Hope," said Mr. Bark. "It was certainly a transitional part of my life. It was the lowest point of my life, but House of Hope gave me structure, and Jon was encouraging along the way."

"He was a very humble man. At his funeral, Dr. Sheldon H. Gottlieb [a Baltimore cardiologist] said, 'Jon saw things in people that they could not see in themselves,' '' said Mr. Bark. "Today, I am married and expecting my first child. That would not have happened without Jon and the House of Hope."

House of Hope, which closed in 2012, "saved the lives of many of its residents who went from living on the street to establishing successful careers," said Mr. Bayer.

When an older brother needed a stem cell transplant, Mr. Singer readily volunteered.

"He said, 'If someone on the street needed stem calls, I'd do it.' He was an extraordinary man. He'd give until it hurt," said his daughter.

He helped found the Jewish Center for Business Development that helped mentor young men and women who were trying to establish businesses.

He also spearheaded the effort that saved the former Liberty Jewish Center, now the Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Congregation in Pikesville, from bankruptcy and foreclosure.

For more than 30 years, Mr. Singer traveled to the Maryland Correctional Facility in Hagerstown, where he visited Jewish inmates and would "bring the Jewish holidays and ritual to those who would not otherwise be able to celebrate them," said Mr. Bayer.

In addition to his voluntarism in the Jewish community, Mr. Singer had been chairman of the board of the Maryland affiliate of the American Heart Association and led the effort to renovate its Charles Street headquarters. He also had been on the board of directors and alumni board of directors of Valley Forge Military Academy and College.

In 1970, he married Ina Kaplan, whom he had met at a family wedding in Rochester, N.Y.

"They found themselves assigned to the same table," said Mr. Bayer. "Jon told Ina that she would have more fun at the reception if she sat next to him, which sparked a relationship that blossomed into a beautiful, loving marriage."

Mr. Singer, who was an excellent cook, family members said, enjoyed planning sumptuous dinner parties that he and his wife held at their Pikesville home.

He was known for his caviar and egg salad, crab and oyster dishes, said his son-in-law, who added, "He was also a master oyster shucker."

Mr. Singer was a member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation and Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Congregation.

Services were held Sept. 1 at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.

In addition to his wife, daughter and son-in-law, Mr. Singer is survived by a son, Michael Singer of Baltimore; a brother, Alan Singer of Catonsville; and four grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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