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John Ruskay

John Ruskay is leaving them wanting more.

After 15 years heading the UJA-Federation of New York — one of the largest charities in the Jewish communal constellation — Ruskay, 67, has announced he will retire in mid-2014. The announcement comes with his standing still high in the eyes of New York Jews.

That’s something of an achievement in a year when two long-reigning New York Jewish communal CEOs were dismissed in disgrace.

Ruskay, for his part, has been a successful leader of the Federation despite a challenging economic environment. The organization says it raised $2.7 billion over the course of Ruskay’s tenure, and the group’s endowment has grown dramatically over the same period. The Federation regularly funds a large network of Jewish groups in the area and makes short-term grants to many more.

In 2012, Federation released a major survey that showed rising levels of poverty among New York City Jews. Among other findings, the survey also showed that the fastest-growing Jewish population in the city, the Orthodox, have little connection to the Federation, which could pose a challenge to Ruskay’s successor.

Prior to arriving at UJA-Federation in 1993, Ruskay earned a doctorate in political science at Columbia University. He was an activist with Breira, a short-lived left-wing Jewish group formed in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War to advocate for mutual recognition between Israelis and Palestinians.

“This has been a fabulous, wonderful professional journey,” Ruskay told the Forward in April. “It’s also time to move on a little bit, to create some room for others.”

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