92Y Raises Eyebrows With Appointment of Non-Jewish Henry Timms as New Chief

Manhattan Arts Institution Seeks To Put Scandal Behind


By Uriel Heilman

Published May 06, 2014.
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(JTA) — When the 92nd Street Y announced last week that it had hired a new executive director, Crain’s New York Business went with an eye-catching headline.

“It’s a goy! 92nd St. Y picks first non-Jewish chief.”

The announcement that Henry Timms would lead the famed Upper East Side cultural center represented the culmination of the Y’s effort to move past the scandal-tainted tenure of its previous director, Sol Adler, who was fired last July. Adler’s dismissal followed revelations that he had a long-term affair with his assistant, Catherine Marto, whose son-in-law was under investigation for allegedly taking part in a kickbacks scheme at the Y.

After Adler’s departure, Timms – at the time the Y’s deputy executive director for innovation, strategy and content – was named interim executive director.

But the move to make Timms’ position permanent is raising some eyebrows in Jewish philanthropic circles.

“Was I disappointed when I read the news? It’s fair to say that I was,” said Mark Charendoff, president of the Maimonides Fund and a former head of the Jewish Funders Network. “I don’t know the process they went through that led to this decision.”

Officials at the 92nd Street Y declined to be interviewed for this story or address questions on the subject by email. Phone calls to numerous Y board members also were not returned.

While it describes itself on its website as a “proudly Jewish organization,” the Y’s programming long has focused far more on the wider community than on Jewish culture. It serves primarily as a cultural center, hosting world-class artists, entertainers and public figures, along with some specifically Jewish programming. It also has many of the elements typical of JCCs and YMCAs: fitness programming, child care, a nursery school and activities for seniors.

The selection of a non-Jew to lead this major New York Jewish institution raises questions both about the character of the Y and about the larger issue of gentiles leading Jewish organizations.


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