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Steve Iser: A Federation and MCA Builder

By Marc Rosenweig

For Steve Iser, the journey from Brooklyn to Nyack, New York and on to Naples, is a great adventure.

He’s best known by many for his strong support of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples, which led to the naming of the new Nina Iser Jewish Cultural Center in honor of his late wife.

Nina Iser was a leader in the Jewish communities of Naples and Nyack. She was especially interested in the building of the cultural center. It was natural for Steve to also get involved in the project as someone who spent his career building homes.

“The results are great,” he said, of the center which opened in January. “It’s so good to see people going in and out (of the building) and being so happy. I hope it will eventually need expansion.”

It’s been a long journey for Steve Iser---filled with hard work.

“I grew up in Brooklyn, East Flatbush,” said Iser.” It was very Jewish. On the high holidays you would hardly see a car going down the street.”

His grandfather was in the plumbing business. On Saturdays he’d join his grandfather, who was replacing plumbing in old tenement buildings. He helped recycle the old plumbing fixtures that were removed from the buildings.

“The building industry was ingrained in me at an early age,” said Iser, who later also worked with his father in his building business. “I was building in the summer. There was no summer camp.”

Iser earned an Associates Degree in building technology from New York City Community College followed by a Bachelors from Pratt Institute and a Masters in urban planning from NYU. The last two were night programs.

Iser started building homes in the 1970’s. “Life was a lot easier then,” he quipped. You worked hard all day and maybe made a few phone calls at night. But there were no cell phones. We somehow made it work.”

Iser’s work resulted in extensivehousing developments in Rockland County, New

York. He says he managed to navigate through several recessions that hit the housing industry. He was eventually named President of the Rockland County Builder’s Association.

“My parents liked the east coast,” said Iser,whose parents lived near Ft. Lauderdale. “We hated it.”

So about 18 years ago, Steve and Nina first spent a month in Naples. That expanded when they bought their first home 16 years ago. Theyalso became big supporters of the Naples Botanical Garden.

“Nina got involved in WCA. Then I got involved in MCA,” said Iser. They met many people through the WCA canasta group and other events.

“You can be involved in activities all day long. There’s something for everybody. People are friendly. It’s a great resource. You make friends. I’m amazed at what we do. But it’s nice to be home at least one night a week”.

Some of his favorite MCA activities have included kayaking and bocce. He also gets great joy from cruising on his boat. It’s his second one. He lost the first one to Superstorm Sandy.

“In the late 90’s my aunt passed away and I got a check, said Iser. “I used it to buy the first boat. I finally had money for it.” He describes his current boat as “a traditional powerboat---very suitable for long-term cruising.” It’s 40 feet long.

“When I was growing up, I thought New York State had no redeeming value,” said Iser. “But traveling up the Hudson River I found that upstate New York is beautiful. I appreciate the beauty of this country.” He often takes 10-15 mile bike trips when his boat stops along the way.

He doesn’t agree with the old saying that “the two best days are the day you buy the boat and the day you sell it.”

One of his most memorable cruises was just before Covid hit. He traveled up the Hudson River, through Lake Champlain, up the Richelieu River and down the St. Lawrence to Prince Edward Island and Halifax, Nova Scotia. But then Covid closed down Canada. He had to leave his boat there for about two years.

But boating is now back in Steve Iser’s life. He has a love for adventure along with his love of the Naples and Nyack Jewish communities.  

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