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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The retirements come as Jewish fundraising generally, and federation fundraising in particular, faces a growing crisis. According to the Pew Research Center’s survey of American Jews, only 46% of Jews ages 18 to 49 reported donating to Jewish organizations, compared with 66% of Jews ages 50 and up. Meanwhile, only 14% of New York-area Jews ages 35 to 49 gave to the local federation in 2011, compared with 42% of people ages 75 and up.

Four of the 20 large community federations in JFNA’s network will be seeking a new executive director in 2014: New York City, Philadelphia, Greater MetroWest-New Jersey and the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties. Dallas’s federation, which is slightly smaller, is also hiring a top executive. That’s a large number of vacancies for top jobs at federations, where successful leaders often last decades.

The 2014 vacancies appear to be just the tip of a broad generational turnover. John Ruskay, who is retiring from the New York City federation, has held his job since 1999; Max Kleinman at MetroWest has been there since 1995. Other large federations seem likely to seek new executives soon: Barry Shrage has led the Boston federation since 1987; Steven Nasatir has led the Chicago federation since 1979, and Stephen Hoffman has led the Cleveland federation since 1983.

It’s not yet clear whether these leaders have cultivated replacements within their organizations. But it appears that the number of eligible, desirable applicants seeking major federation jobs like these is small.

“The challenge facing the Jewish community on the professional side is attracting top talent,” said Bradley Laye, interim CEO of the federation in Dallas, which is currently searching for a CEO. “There’s a dearth of quality professionals at these levels.”

CEO salaries paid by large federations vary widely. The best-paid large federation CEO, Stephen Hoffman in Cleveland, earned $722,000 in 2012; the worst paid, Jason Shames in Northern New Jersey, earned just $225,000.


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