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L.A. Federation Chief Out Amid Big Changes

Los Angeles — In the midst of sweeping changes at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the charity’s long-serving president, John Fishel, is resigning.

Fishel, 60, announced January 26 that he would step down as president of this city’s central Jewish charity when his contract expires at the end of December. He has served as the federation’s president for the past 17 years.

Fishel’s departure is yet another sign that the federation, which lost $6.4 million in the Bernard Madoff scandal, is moving in a new direction. In the past year, it has seen major structural changes. In January 2008, Stanley Gold, CEO of Disney’s investment company, Shamrock Holdings, took over as board chairman. He has slashed the number of board members and retooled the charity’s relationships with the agencies it funds.

Fishel said that his departure was not directly linked to Gold’s tenure, which ends in December. After 17 years in the federation’s top post, Fishel said, he simply felt it was time to move on. He added, “I think for the institution, it’s probably healthy.”

Fishel served for nine years as the top executive at Montreal’s Jewish federation before moving to L.A. in 1992.

Gerald Bubis, a longtime federation observer, said that while Fishel “has done wonderful things,” he never managed to succeed in building loyalty.

“For whatever set of reasons, there was not as much loyalty to him from within the federation as one hoped would be the case,” Bubis said. “As a result, there weren’t as many people truly supporting him, or working alongside whatever he was envisioning.”

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