Search Begins for Jewish Federation CEO

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The first meeting of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s CEO search committee
The first meeting of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s CEO search committee (Photo by David Adelman)

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia announced on April 20 the formation of a search committee to find the organization’s next CEO, following the January resignation of Naomi Adler.

“It is a pivotal time to be searching for our next Jewish Federation CEO,” Board of Directors Chair Susanna Lachs Adler said. “While our organization continues to work with urgency and resolve to support our community during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will look to our next CEO to guide us into a new chapter. I look forward to supporting my trusted colleagues as we work to fill this critical role in our organization.”

The committee will be led by David Adelman, CEO of Campus Apartments, and Gail Norry, who already serves as a vice chair on the board of directors. They are joined by Daniel Erlbaum, Amir Goldman, Richard Green, Margie Honickman, Deborah Gordon Klehr, Rena Kopelman and Marc Prine. Additionally, Darrell Friedman, a former CEO of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, and the namesake of a professional development organization for Jewish communal professionals, will join the board as an adviser.


Lachs Adler, along with past board chair Bernard “Bud” Newman, will also join the search committee.

Norry is excited to help “chart the future for the Jewish Federation,” she said, and believes the diversity in the composition of the committee will help to ensure a wise choice. Committee members were selected from all walks of local Jewish life, in terms of sect, institutional affiliation and age. There are longtime members of Jewish Federation right alongside those from the NextGen leadership cohort.

“We really want somebody who is a visionary,” Norry said. “There is opportunity in Philadelphia.”

While the committee will certainly look to other Federations for hiring trends (as well as candidates), they are willing to look for leaders who have been successful in any venue. The new CEO should possess fundraising talents, Norry said, and should prioritize the development of the next generation of leaders.

Adelman has been involved with the Jewish Federation on-and-off for about 15 years. This is “a real critical moment,” he said, to think hard about the Jewish Federation that the community will need in 2030.

“I’m pretty focused on what that looks like,” he said.

Adelman would prefer that the next CEO has worked as a senior executive in some capacity. If they’ve been “the number one person” somewhere, great; if they’ve been the number two, that’s also acceptable. Adelman said that while there will certainly be a focus on nonprofit executives, he’s not opposed to considering someone from the business world.

“At the end of the day, this is a business,” he said.

He’s taken part in executive search committees before, and if he’s learned anything, it’s that he doesn’t want to rush the process. If it happens quickly, that’d be fine, but Adelman is willing to let the process have all the time that it needs.

One of Adelman’s key points had to do with the committee’s composition. It was important to him and Norry, he said, that younger community members be represented. The next CEO, he said, should be someone with the approval of people who are going to be active for the next 20 years.

“It’s not just buying into a leader,” he said. “It’s buying into a strategic plan, as well.”

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