Eric Goldstein, New York Federation Chief, Is Not Outsider His Profile Suggests

Orthodox Wall St. Lawyer Has History as Lay Leader

New Man: Eric Goldstein, right, receives award from American Friends of Hebrew University. The lawyer has been picked to lead the New York UJA-Federation.
New Man: Eric Goldstein, right, receives award from American Friends of Hebrew University. The lawyer has been picked to lead the New York UJA-Federation.

By Nathan Guttman

Published January 31, 2014, issue of February 07, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

As if the responsibility of running America’s largest Jewish federation were not enough, Eric “Ricky” Goldstein, who was chosen January 23 as the next CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, bears an additional burden: He is seen as the symbol of a new generation of leaders coming to the fore in the Jewish community.

Goldstein, who is 54, is the first to take his place on a growing list of top federation positions waiting to be filled. As such, he offers two surprises: Goldstein is Orthodox, and he does not come from within the Jewish professional world.

“It is very significant that the largest and most important federation in the United States went outside the system to appoint its CEO,” said Jacob Ukeles, a policy analyst who consults for Jewish organizations. “It’s a very big move.”

Still, many agree that the selection of the Wall Street lawyer, who served for many years as a senior lay leader in the federation, is consistent with the philanthropy’s current aim of holding on to major donors at a time of decline in federation participation. Goldstein, some believe, could also offer a new opportunity to reach out to New York’s growing ultra-Orthodox community, which has not been as involved in federation activity.

Goldstein will take over the helm of the New York federation on July 1, replacing veteran executive vice president and CEO John Ruskay, who is stepping down after 15 years. Speaking on a press call with reporters following the federation’s announcement, Goldstein alluded to his possible role as a bridge to Orthodox New Yorkers, stressing the need to build a kehila, a community, in which all members of the diverse New York Jewish population can cooperate. The New York federation, which serves as a central address for the state’s Jewish philanthropy, currently serves more than 100 beneficiary agencies and has an annual budget of $220 million.

At first glance, the differences between Goldstein and his predecessor are quite striking. Ruskay came from the ranks of the Jewish communal establishment, filling top positions in Jewish educational and cultural institutions before joining the federation. Goldstein comes from the business and legal world, where he has been a partner in the corporate law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. There, Goldstein specialized in securities litigation and in defending financial corporations and white-collar criminals.

Ruskay’s progressive ideological background was also clear: He was among the founders of Briera, a left-wing organization that supported a two-state solution to Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians decades before the mainstream adopted the idea. Goldstein has had little involvement in ideological issues.

But a closer look at the incoming CEO indicates that his selection is no radical change of course. Though not from the ranks of Jewish communal professionals, Goldstein has been deeply involved in communal activities as a lay leader. And while his Orthodox background could suggest a more conservative approach, Goldstein has played a key role in standing up to discriminatory practices of Israel’s Orthodox rabbinate.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.