Gail Norry (left) and David Adelman (right) bring sharply different skill sets to their roles as the first-ever co-chairs of the board of directors of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia — and that’s part of the plan.
“We balance each other so well,” Norry said, adding that Jewish Federations in other parts of the country have successfully adopted a co-chair model. “We have already developed a good relationship … There’s strength in numbers.”
Norry, 55, and Adelman, 48, succeed Susanna Lachs Adler, who will complete her three-year term in August.
“It has been my honor and privilege to have served as the board chair for our Jewish Federation for the last three years, and to have had the opportunity in these unprecedented times to provide a strong foundation of best practices and preparedness for Gail and David as the incoming co-chairs,” Lachs Adler said. “On behalf of our board, we welcome their experience, energy and know-how, their positive thought leadership and connectivity.”
Both Norry and Adelman are familiar faces in the Jewish community in general, and Jewish Federation to be specific.
Adelman, who is the CEO of Campus Apartments, co-founder of FS Investment, a private investor and chair of the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, among other interests, has a definite goal for his tenure.
“I’m looking to bring a business approach,” he said. “We need to be efficient. We need to deliver the proper message to our donors.”
Adelman said that might involve some hard choices, noting that the world is changing and Jewish Federation must do so, too.
“We have to focus on a few things and do them well,” he said. “We have to show we can evolve with the times.”
One thing Adelman doesn’t want Jewish Federation to involve itself in is politics.
“What people do and believe in their personal life belongs in their personal life,” he said.
Meantime, Norry believes her overall involvement with the community, including social issues, will mesh nicely with Adelman’s abilities. She previously served as a vice chair for the Jewish Federation board of directors and chaired the National Women’s Philanthropy and National Young Leadership of the Jewish Federations of North America, among other leadership positions.
“First and foremost, we’re a fundraising organization,” said Norry, who founded OROT in 1999. The program helps to educate children with learning differences that are outside the scope of Jewish day schools. “The more money we raise, the more we’re able to give out to our programs.”
Jewish Federation has the capability to improve its fundraising, Norry said, mentioning a role for the organization as a community convener. The $1.7 million raised for COVID-19 assistance is an example of that, she said.
Even at a time dominated by a pandemic and social unrest, there is opportunity for Jewish Federation, Norry said.
“It enables us to be a leader in the community and galvanize people — and show they care,” she said.
Norry also aims to continue leadership development for the Jewish community and Jewish Federation, strengthening a future pipeline for the next generation.
Alan Hoffman, who chaired Jewish Federation’s board chair nominating committee, said a 16-member committee that included three former board chairs, began meeting in November to choose Lachs Adler’s successors, with attention paid to prior history of donating to Jewish Federation, passion and integrity to lead, and the time and talent to inspire others to donate at a six-figure level.
The idea of co-chairs was considered because the list of responsibilities is possibly growing too large for one person, he said.
Norry and Adelman met all the requirements and had lengthy histories of achievement, Hoffman said.
“We thought both would be great leaders and inspire others to become involved with our (Jewish) Federation,” he said. “The leadership positions they held in the past demonstrated their abilities.”