There are some drawbacks to Rachel Calman’s impending move to New York. For one thing, she’ll have to leave behind her spacious office looking out on the Philadelphia skyline.
“I’m very nervous to see what I’m going to get in New York,” she said, laughing. “I think I’ve already been told that I’m going to have to share my office.”
Since January 2016, Calman has served as the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s director of marketing and communications. Her last day is Sept. 28, after which she’ll move on to her new role as director of U.S. marketing for the Jewish Agency for Israel.
She’s excited to help build a marketing team, much as she did in Philadelphia.
“I’ve handpicked every single one of them to be a part of this team. It’s bittersweet to leave them,” Calman said. “This next step for me, in my career, is a great opportunity. It allows me to take on more.”
While attending the Hartford Art School, her goal was to get a job as a photographer for a nonprofit. She wanted to put a face to the people who were being helped.
One summer she worked as a volunteer in Rwanda for Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, which partnered with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. She took a job as a marketing assistant at the JDC in August 2011.
She worked there for about five years, rising to video and project manager by the time she left for Philly. In her new administrative role, Calman stowed away her camera and took on more leadership responsibility. She set out to create a more vigorous marketing team.
“It was pretty bare-bones for an organization of this size,” Calman said. “The people that had been originally part of the team didn’t all have the skill set to accomplish what a true marketing program needed.”
Steven Rosenberg, Jewish Federation’s chief marketing officer, hired Calman. He pointed to the Jewish Federation’s recent rebranding effort as indicative of the success Calman had.
“She was very much an out-of-the-box candidate, but I knew she had the capability to help me build and lead a team that would include rebranding a large organziation like the Jewish Federation, which she did like a superstar,” Rosenberg said. “We look at it as an incredible honor that the Jewish Agency would pick someone from the Jewish Federation to take on this role.”
Calman noted that before her arrival, the Jewish Federation suffered a communications problem. Many didn’t appreciate the magnitude of the Jewish Federation’s work.
“When we were doing the rebranding, we heard a lot of, ‘You’re not transparent’; ‘You’re the big black hole’; ‘I don’t know where my money goes,’” Calman said.
She worked on distilling the Jewish Federation’s message — that it serves vulnerable populations, supports Jewish life and learning and inspires community engagement. She made sure Jewish Federation’s logo was displayed prominently and she helped redesign the website.
She’s ready to have a similar impact with JAFI.
“The first year I was working here I was working from 8:30 [a.m.] till 11:30 at night almost every day. It was exhausting. And it was brutal. But now I have a full team and it’s all working and functioning,” Calman said.
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