JFed begins search for next executive director

JFed Executive Vice President; Contract ends in 2013

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

The quest for the next professional executive of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis has begun.

Earlier this month, the umbrella agency that represents dozens of local Judaic community institutions opened its search for a new leader with the appointment of an 11-member committee, the creation of a job description and the retention of the Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence, a national search firm.

The eventual candidate will replace Barry Rosenberg, the Federation’s current executive vice president. In January, he announced his intention to leave at the conclusion of his present contract. Rosenberg has been in the position since 1993.

“We hope to be interviewing candidates by the end of the summer,” said Bob Millstone, chair of the search committee.

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Millstone, who will also assume duties as chair of the Federation board at the organization’s annual meeting in September (see story on page 1), said he thinks a candidate could be selected by the end of the year. The Federation will consider individuals both within and outside the Jewish communal dynamic.

He noted that the new executive’s primary challenge will be implementing the Federation’s recently adopted strategic plan.

“We did some community interviews and met with key stakeholders, leaders of agencies, congregations. We asked people what is it that we should be looking for in a professional head of the organization,” Millstone said. “I think the job description captured that.”

Those interviews were conducted by the Mandel Center, which looked to find a broad array of voices from major donors to community rabbis.

In a Federation release issued earlier this month, Millstone said the job description describes a “dynamic change agent, who can build on successes of the past by being able to reshape and focus how Federation does business.”

After selection, the new executive will move into the position on an unspecified timeline as Rosenberg begins to transition into a special projects role that he will serve in for the remainder of his contract, which expires in 2013.

“We’re very fortunate that we’ve had Barry here for 18 years, 20 when he retires,” Millstone said. “He’s provided us with extraordinary leadership.”

The new executive will also have a new title: CEO.

“We believe that the professional leader of the organization should be responsible for overseeing the organization under the direction of the board,” Millstone said. “We think the title change reflects that in a way that is consistent with best practices and is understandable to the community.”

He said integrity and good listening skills will be important elements in the repertoire of the next Federation leader.

“It’s very important that we have an executive who can communicate well with people and can build confidence with a broad cross-section of the community both outside and inside the organization.”

Rosenberg said he has great confidence in the panel’s ability to produce his successor.

“We have an exceptionally strong search committee, a very diverse group with a lot of skill,” he said. “They’ve gone through a very careful and thoughtful process to define a job description and to get the community’s input. I think it bodes well for the search process.”

Lynn Wittels, president and CEO of the Jewish Community Center and a member of the committee said the group is open to input from everyone.

“Ultimately, the committee’s success will be determined by the outcome,” she said. “But I’m very excited about the process to date. The members represent a great cross-section of the community and I hope the community feels that they have a voice through the committee.”