Founder Jacob Kaplan was a native New Yorker whose parents had emigrated from Russia. (He was born in 1891 on the Lower East Side, on Essex Street in a building that is still in use.) When the eight first met in 1909, Kaplan was one of those looking to the future—as did Hyman Jacobson—and seeing in this first effort something that would grow and attract many more. These were exceptional young men, visionaries.
With the advent of Beta chapter less than 2 years later, it was Fra Kaplan who saw the immediate need for a broader scope of organization because ΣΑΜ was no longer a local fraternity. He became chairman of the original Blue Book committee, a fitting assignment because he had had his eye on expansion from the beginning. He was a Consul, then Supreme Recorder after World War I when growth necessitated revision of codes and laws. Later he helped conceive the first Life Membership Plan. Jack Kaplan has been described as warm, convivial, kind and witty and bright, cultured and well-read. Yet, like his fellow Founders, he didn't take himself too seriously. When he spoke at the annual New York Founders Banquet—which he never missed—he maintained a light touch. He was learned in the law. For 40 years after his graduation from New York Law School until his death in 1957 he was a practitioner of the law in Manhattan. He was president of the Independent Justice Lodge, a lawyers’ group, and was active in New York City legal circles.