Who Will Head The Major Jewish Federations of America?

Federations Scramble To Replace Retiring Leaders

Kurt Hoffman

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published January 06, 2014, issue of January 10, 2014.
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Jewish federations are hiring. Does anyone want the job?

A wave of vacancies in top executive spots of North America’s largest Jewish federations is raising concerns about the Jewish community’s ability to replace a generation of federation CEOs on the brink of retirement.

Top executives at federations in New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Dallas have announced their departures in recent months. Jennifer Gorovitz, who leads the federation in San Francisco, added her name to the list on January 3, when she said she would be leaving her post in March.

Potentially complicating the replacement process is the wide range in salaries offered by the largest federations, and a seeming lack of accord as to how federation size should correlate with CEO compensation.

Officials and observers say that the salary discrepancies have yet to affect the hiring process. But some worry that, regardless of the salaries, the current applicant pool may be cause for concern. Observers say that the generation of charismatic federation officials who came to prominence during the Soviet Jewry movement and similar causes may give way to a duller bunch.

“They’re going to be less of an inspired, rally-the-donors kind of person, and more of a nonprofit manager,” said Mark I. Rosen, an assistant professor at the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University. “You want somebody who gets donors excited about whatever the cause is. I don’t know if the new generation can do that in the same way as the old generation.”

Others cast the turnover as a positive development. “It’s a good thing that we’re seeing new leadership,” said Joe Berkofsky, a spokesman for the Jewish Federations of North America. “I think our job is to help communities recruit and develop the next generation of leaders, and that’s what we’re doing.”


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