JFed to begin search for next executive leader

INFORMATION COURTESY JEWISH FEDERATION

With a new strategic plan about to be implemented and Barry Rosenberg approaching the end of a 20-year run as Executive Vice President, the Jewish Federation of St. Louis Board of Directors has voted to begin executive succession planning.

The Federation’s board has voted to form a search committee to guide the process. Federation President Sanford Neuman said he will appoint the committee shortly and hopes it will begin work within weeks.

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“This is the right time for us to begin this process,” Neuman said. “Thanks in large part to Barry, we have a new strategic plan that we are ready to begin implementing. We think that process will be more effective if the person in charge ‘owns’ the plan and is accountable for its implementation – for a number of years.

“Unfortunately,” Neuman continued, “that person can’t be Barry, because he wants to move on to a new phase in his life in 2013, when his contract with us runs out after two decades of terrific leadership. So we need to begin looking for his successor.”

“Best practices require a pro-active approach to succession planning,” said Rosenberg, 60. “I think it makes all the sense in the world for Federation to start the process now, especially given the tight executive labor market in the Jewish non-profit world.”

With Baby Boomers beginning to retire, many Jewish and non-Jewish non-profits are beginning to lose their top professionals, said Debbie Smith, a consultant to the Jewish Federations of North America who has been working with Jewish Federation of St. Louis in recent weeks on this issue. As a result, the competition to fill the new vacancies is expected to be fierce, she said.

“St. Louis is wise to start the search now,” she said. “Identifying the right person to succeed Barry and then bringing that person to St. Louis could be a protracted process. I think that by starting early, St. Louis is really setting a national example for thoughtful, responsible succession planning.”

The board voted Sunday, January 9, to begin the search process after hearing a report from its Structural Alignment Task Force, which Neuman appointed last fall. Neuman chairs the Task Force, whose other members are Patty Croughan, John Kalishman, Robert Millstone, Heschel Raskas, Rosenberg, and Todd Siwak.

The Task Force had met five times to examine how the Federation should align its organizational structure and operations to support Federation’s new Strategic Plan, which was adopted last summer. Plans for implementing the new strategy are under way now, with major elements, including fundraising and allocations, expected to begin next fall and winter.

“The question I really posed to the Task Force,” Neuman said, “was, ‘How do we adapt our organizational structure and operations to ensure that they maximize the success of our new plan?’ As they thought through the issues and especially the context in which we’re operating – Barry’s personal plans and the national leadership shortage – they soon recognized that the first thing we need to address is executive succession planning.

“The sooner Federation can hire a new chief professional,” Neuman added, “the sooner that person can also begin to develop relationships with the new lay administration that Federation will elect next fall. Creating that ‘alignment’ should also pay dividends,” he said.

No matter when a new chief professional comes on board, Neuman said, Rosenberg will remain at Federation until his contract expires in 2013. That means Rosenberg will be available to help his successor with the transition and to begin carrying out some new assignments as that successor begins to shoulder more and more responsibility.

When Rosenberg joined Federation, Neuman noted, he became its sixth director in 10 years. “Barry has given us not only the stability we desperately needed, but smart, creative leadership. We’ll honor him at the appropriate time, further down the road.

“In the meantime, we think this is a prudent, well-thought-out plan. Given economic conditions of the last few years, a lot of Federations are in retreat. We’re not. We’re making exciting plans. And the leadership plan our board has approved will enable us to move ahead boldly and effectively, while also giving us continuity in our transition.”