Eric Goldstein, a financial litigation lawyer and communal lay leader, has been chosen to head the UJA-Federation of New York, the nation’s largest Jewish federation, sources say.
The federation’s board is expected to formally approve the choice later this week, which will make Goldstein the new CEO of the $220 million New York philanthropy. He replaces John Ruskay who has held the position since 1999 and announced last year that he would retire this June.
Two informed sourced confirmed to the Forward that Goldstein has been picked by the federation’s search committee to succeed Ruskay, but the federation has yet to formally announce the choice and would not confirm to the Forward that he will serve as the next CEO.
Goldstein, who could not be reached for comment, is a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison LLP, a law firm in New York, specializing in litigation involving financial institutions, securities and white collar crime.
According to his professional resume he has represented many high profile Wall Street clients, including JPMorgan Chase, which he defended from class action suits after the 2008 collapse of Bear Stearns. Goldstein represented junk bond billionaire Michael Milken who, in a plea deal, was convicted of securities fraud in 1990. Goldstein also defended Milken against numerous civil cases and a class action suit filed against him in connection with this case.
Goldstein has been involved in Jewish communal activity for years. He has served since July 2013 as vice chair of the New York federation and prior to that chaired the federation’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal. In addition to his federation activity, Goldstein also chaired the board of the Manhattan Day School, was president of the Beth Din of America and was a founding board member of Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education & Administration.
Goldstein, who is expected to take over at the helm of the federation in mid-2014, will head an organization that serves a Jewish community of more than 4.5 million and is the largest community-based philanthropic organization in the world. In 2012 the federation raised $212 million and spent the same amount on program services.
During his tenure, Ruskay has raised $2.7 billion, mostly for the federation’s endowment fund. He also succeeded in keeping the federation afloat during and after the 2008 economic downturn, when other charities experienced a plunge in donations.
Though he has served as a charity lay leader, Goldstein does not come from the not-for-profit world, based on his public resume. Nor does he have prior experience in managing charitable organizations. He will be entering at a time when the entire federation system is undergoing a generational shift, with several long-serving CEO’s retiring and with federations facing increasing difficulties in raising funds.
The New York federation’s choice of Goldstein continues to leave the federation system nationwide with no women heading a major federation. Jennifer Gorovitz, who was appointed CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco in 2010 — making her the first such woman — resigned her post in January.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.