When Leith Baletin moved to Scottsdale 19 years ago, he was retired and looking to boost his social life.
His goal, he said, was to meet people with similar interests — and he found just that and much more at Brandeis National Committee’s Phoenix Chapter.
BNC is an organization committed to providing philanthropic support to Brandeis University, a liberal arts and research university established in 1948.
The Phoenix Chapter happens to be the largest BNC chapter in the country with over 1,200 members — with more than half of those members, Baletin estimates, living in the Scottsdale area.
Across all 41 chapters nationwide, BNC has over 25,000 members.
Founded in 1950, the Phoenix chapter, like the rest of the chapters, raises money via events and study groups to help support Brandeis’ research, scholarships and the development of the university’s libraries.
“You have a feeling that you’re accomplishing something,” Baletin said of the fundraising efforts.
“It’s encouraging to know that you’re helping the next generations, the future of our country [who will] maybe, someday, discover something that will change our lives and our health,” he added.
Over the years, BNC has placed over 100 million books in the libraries and raised over $100 million for Brandeis.
“That is what we exist for, to raise money, but we do it in a way that people enjoy what they’re doing. Study groups are a big part of that,” said Baletin, now the co-vice president of the Phoenix chapter.
BNC’s study groups serve two purposes: They provide an array of activities for members, and through fees paid by members, they also help raise money for the university.
“It’s kind of a misnomer because it kind of [suggests] that we sit down in a classroom and we’re learning. Some of those things are like that, but study groups can take the form of entertainment; [they] can take the form of hiking, bowling, going to the movies,” Baletin clarified.
This 2019-2020 study group season, which begins in October, the chapter has 59 groups and over 80 facilitators, 20 of which are new.
Men of Brandeis is one of those 59 groups.
Baletin became one of the co-facilitators of the group one year after joining.
“We started with about 20 [members],” Baletin said. “I have now about 80 guys, mostly retired but not all retired.”
The MOB returns for its ninth year this year and already has a robust schedule of discussions and activity groups planned over the next few months.
“Men of Brandeis’ goal is to have a good social experience,” Baletin said. “We exist to provide a social atmosphere for our members, and we do it by visiting places of interest in the Valley and finding speakers with interesting subjects to speak to us.”
Starting in October, members of MOB will meet at the Valley of the Sun JCC in Scottsdale every two months on the second Wednesday to hear a variety of guest speakers.
BNC will also host its Fall Event on Oct. 11.
Neuroscientist and Brandeis University alumni Josh Trachtenberg will be the speaker for the event.
Baletin credits the study groups and BNC’s various events for attracting new members.
Last year, the Phoenix chapter increased membership by over 5 percent, and Baletin and Co-VP Carol Kadet were instrumental in growing said membership.
“We’re very proud of the fact that we attract people for the Study Groups,” he said.
As co-VP, Baletin oversees member socials and study group orientations for new members.
“I think what’s most important is that new members feel welcomed, and when they join, they are not left to their own devices,” he said. “We contact them. We make sure at program events they have a table to sit at if they don’t know anybody. We even created a table for new members to sit at.”
Baletin helps create and foster an active community of lifetime and new members — a community he searched for when he first moved to Scottsdale.
“It’s been very important [being a member of BNC],” he said. “I’ve met and now have friends that I didn’t have before.”
The cost per study group is $20 to $25, and the BNC membership fee is $60 per person or $100 per couple.