Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has announced that Michael Balaban, president and CEO of Jewish Federation of Broward County, will become its new president and CEO on June 1.
“He has a proven track record in building community, both within the Jewish community and outside the Jewish community, and he has been a very accomplished fundraiser and manager,” said Gail Norry, a search committee co-chair and Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia board co-chair.
Balaban has more than 30 years of experience in nonprofit administration. Under his leadership in Broward County, Federation increased its fundraising and supported the community through crises including Hurricane Irma and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
Prior to Broward, he served as the chief development officer for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. He also has served the Jewish Alliance of Rhode Island, the Columbus Jewish Federation and Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles in senior financial resource management and community planning roles.
“What really attracted us to him is he’s just a really seasoned executive, really built for our forward-thinking [Jewish] Federation,” said David Adelman, a search committee co-chair and Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia board co-chair. “He’s a real builder of relationships, which we felt was important.”
Although his work has taken him all over the country, Balaban has strong ties to Philadelphia. His wife, Lynne Zeiger Balaban, is a Philadelphia native, and the couple raised their three children in Huntingdon Valley. He previously worked as director of development for Penn Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
“My family is fortunate to have two homes: the world Jewish community and Philadelphia,” he said. “Our careers have often taken us away from the deep roots of our family. These experiences have been amazing, but it is an honor to return and fully weave ourselves into the community that has given us so much.”
Balaban will spend his first 90 days embarking on a community listening tour to learn more about stakeholders’ priorities. He is looking forward to using his experience to support the community and change people’s perceptions of what Jewish Federation can be.
“We at the [Jewish] Federation have to be thought leaders in providing solutions and opportunities. And that’s what’s going to really make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.
He believes Jewish Federation must move from being a sales organization primarily known for fundraisers like Super Sunday to being a service organization.
“I don’t believe people give to us because they want us to be their tzedakah box,” he said. “They want to know that the vulnerable are being cared for, that we can help ensure their grandchildren will be Jewish, that someone will combat the rise in anti-Semitism, for Israel to be safe and secure.”
He noted the importance of combating poverty and providing support for those with disabilities, citing findings from Jewish Federation’s Community Portrait demographic study that showed one in seven Jewish households in the Philadelphia area live in poverty and four in seven have a member living with a mental, behavioral or developmental disorder.
Inclusivity, both within and beyond the Jewish community, is also a priority in Balaban’s vision. In addition to forming strong partnerships with outside secular and faith-based groups, he wants Jewish Federation to feel accessible to Jews from all backgrounds.
“We’ve got to understand that Jews and Judaism aren’t a monolith, one size doesn’t fit all, and that people seek entry into the Jewish community for a multiplicity of reasons at various times of their lives,” he said. “Our job is to guarantee that when a person wishes to access the diversity of the Jewish experience, these mechanisms and responses are in place to enchant and captivate them at all stages of their life.”
Balaban replaces Naomi Adler, who resigned Feb. 1, 2020.
3/18/21: This story has been updated to include more quotes from Balaban.