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JDC announces its first female CEO after a tumultuous search process

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee announced on Sunday the appointment of Ariel Zwang as their new CEO, who will be the first woman to lead the global Jewish nonprofit in its more than 100-year history.

Zwang was nominated with a unanimous vote of the JDC’s Search and Executive Committees, and will begin her tenure on January 1, 2021.

She will be coming to the JDC after 12 years as CEO of Safe Horizon, a New York-based nonprofit which provides services to victims of violent crime, and seven years at New York Cares, which organizes volunteers to address social issues in New York City.

The JDC, often called the Joint, was founded in 1914 by wealthy Jacob Schiff, an American-Jewish philanthropist, and Henry Morgenthau, U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, to provide much needed aid to the struggling Jewish settlement in Palestine.

With a $373 million dollar budget, it operates in more than 70 countries and provides funding and aid to support Jewish life and communities, mostly in Israel and the former Soviet Union.

“Today’s work — building the future of the global Jewish people, support for those in economic distress, including the elderly and Holocaust survivors, and working with Israel to provide opportunity for its vulnerable — is profoundly meaningful to me,” Zwang said in a statement.

Like many legacy Jewish charities, including the Anti-Defamation League, HIAS and the UJA-Federation of New York, the JDC has never had a female CEO.

Zwang’s appointment comes at the end of a tumultuous hiring process.

The JDC’s last full CEO was David Schizer, a former dean of Columbia Law School. In 2019, after three years, he returned to Columbia. Since then, two interim CEOs led the group.

This summer, another female candidate for the role, Sarah Eisenman, withdrew her candidacy. She still leads the group’s young professional arm, JDC Entwine.

In September, a letter signed by 16 of the board’s 188 members and shared with the Forward accused the board chair, of “breach of trust” and “poor governance” for his alleged interference in the CEO selection process.

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