Books and papers blanket every surface of Melissa S. “Missy” Johnson’s office at Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood — a decade’s worth of memories.
Johnson, Main Line Reform Temple’s executive director, has a rich history with the synagogue. She was Bat Mitzvahed there, Rabbi Hausen married her and her husband, Howard, and their children became B’nai Mitzvahs there. Serving as the executive director was a natural fit. But the time has come for her to embark on her next adventure, at least professionally: On June 3, Johnson will start her new job as the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s chief planning and strategy officer.
“It’s been the privilege of my life,” she said. “So many milestones have occurred here for me, so leaving was more than just a decision to change jobs. The [Jewish] Federation as an organization and as a mission is so important to me, the work that it does is such a critical mission, especially at this juncture in time.”
Johnson is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., with a bachelor’s degree in justice and public affairs. She earned a doctor of jurisprudence as well as a doctorate of clinical psychology from Widener University School of Law School of Law and a master’s from the Widener University Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology.
Throughout her career, Johnson has put her degrees to good use. She was a labor and employment attorney for Blank Rome LLP and McCausland Keen + Buckman. She was also the general counsel and vice president of human resources for Strategic Management Group and served as general counsel and vice president of human resources and senior development officer for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania.
She serves on the board of trustees of the National Association for Temple Administration. Johnson also serves on the congregational ethics task force for the Union for Reform Judaism and is a board member of Women’s Philanthropy of Jewish Federation.
Jewish Federation began its search for a new chief planning and strategy officer in January. At that time, Johnson said, she wasn’t looking for a new job, but applied after a friend emailed her the application and gave some encouragement.
“The most compelling thing was the opportunity to have a much greater impact on a wider expanse of the Jewish community,” Johnson said. “I’ve been involved and committed to this mission for a very long time, and so it feels so comfortable, so natural to now take my experience, my education, my skills and be using them to apply to this work. So I’m very excited.”
Naomi Adler, Jewish Federation’s CEO, said many people applied for the job, but Johnson stood out from the crowd due to her ability to not only handle the day-to-day aspects of the job, but long-term planning as well.
“Missy is someone who is well-respected, who is inspirational, who is thoughtful and ethical, and has great, long relationships with many people within the community,” Adler said. “She has a real love for Judaism and the Jewish community of Philadelphia. So I’m extremely excited that she’s coming, not only with great experience from a professional point of view, but also as someone who’s been a wonderful community volunteer for so many years.”
Johnson will replace Rabbi Deborah Glanzberg-Krainin, who held the position from 2015 until earlier this year. She said her goal is to use her experience in strategic planning, operations, program development, engagement, fund development and human resources to help people see the Jewish Federation not only as a fundraising tool, but as a force to engage the local Jewish community.
Main Line Reform will host a farewell party for Johnson in June. An interim replacement for her starts on May 24. As for Johnson, she plans on being a temple member and helping wherever she can.
“I am deeply passionate about serving the needs of the Jewish community,” she said.
“And I approach all of my work, and all of my relationships, with the highest degree of integrity and I’m very excited and grateful for this opportunity to work with the professional staff and leadership of the [Jewish] Federation.”
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