Rich Topaz graduated from high school in New York City, then went to Philadelphia for his bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania. Topaz then went back to New York City to attend Fordham University School of Law.
In 2014, Topaz moved to Pikesville.
Now 37, Topaz works as a real estate attorney at Saul Ewing LLP. He and his wife, Heidi Topaz, live in Pikesville with their two sons and belong to Chizuk Amuno Congregation.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
We get the kids out the door to school first thing in the morning. Then typically I’m in the office. At work, we do a lot of contract work for leases, review a lot of leases, purchases and sales of properties, and some loan work. So, we work with clients who are doing complex real estate transactions to help however we can. Then, either come home for dinner, or often I’ll have a board meeting at night. I am very involved in The Associated: [Jewish Federation of Baltimore], so there’s sometimes board meetings at night. But, if I’m not doing that, I try to be home for dinner and get the kids down for bed.
How did you get into this work?
When I came out of law school, I was living in New York. I was a litigator for two years in New York because when everybody is in law school, the only thing they really teach you is litigation. Everybody thinks that being a lawyer is being on “Law & Order.” We joked that transactional attorneys are recovering litigators. When I decided that litigation wasn’t what I wanted to do, it coincided with the same time that my wife and I were moving to Baltimore to be closer to her family. I had some experience doing real estate in New York, and my father-in-law is in the real estate industry. So, I thought that was a good switch. I joined a firm here doing real estate work. I’ve been in Baltimore for over nine years now, and I’ve been doing real estate law ever since.
Do you like living in Baltimore?
I love living in Baltimore. It’s definitely a different pace than I’m used to, growing up in New York City. This is the first house I’ve ever lived in. I’d only ever lived in apartments before, but I like the quality of life, the pace here, and my blood pressure dropped within a couple weeks of us moving here. I love the community, the people. I’m really proud of the roots that we’ve put down in our time here so far.
How would you describe your relationship with Judaism?
I’m not the most religious person. I love all the holidays and traditions and try to keep those alive and vibrant in our family as much as we can. Those traditions are really some of my favorite days of the year and some of my favorite things that we do. Other than that, it’s really trying to be involved in the Jewish community and support Jews, help other Jews and engage Jews as much as we can in the community to make sure that it’s really thriving.
Do you have any hobbies?
I’m big into sports, so I’m usually cheering on my New York teams whenever they come to town. When we moved down to Baltimore, one of the conditions of moving was that we raised our hypothetical kids as Yankees fans. So, it’s starting to get challenging now that my sons are at the age where they’re getting some peer pressure at school. But so far, we’ve made good on that promise. They’re both at McDonogh School.
Do you feel like education is important?
I definitely do. My wife went to McDonogh as well. We knew the school, and we’re really happy there. Education is incredibly important. We send [the kids] to Hebrew school on the weekends and a weeknight so that they get Jewish education as well. We like making sure that you get the balance of having the Jewish education at Hebrew school [and secular education at McDonogh].
Do you do any volunteer work?
In addition to The Associated, I’m involved with CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc.
It’s an agency of The Associated that assists with housing resources, especially for the elderly community. I’m really involved with our young adult division in The Associated. I’ve actually chaired the annual campaign for the young adult division for the last three years, and I co-chair the board there. When I moved here, I didn’t know anybody besides my wife’s family and a couple of her friends. The Associated and the Jewish community really opened its doors to me.
I try to give back as much as I can. I’m particularly passionate about making sure that everybody’s engaged and feels welcome. I work on finding those people like me who moved here and may not have found their place in Baltimore yet.