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CJP Greater Boston faces giant task finding Shrage’s successor

Journal Correspondent

Barry Shrage

JANUARY 11, 2018 – BOSTON – A visionary. A nimble strategist. An engaging relation-builder.

These are among the qualities that members of the Jewish community would like to see in the next leader of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, which is interviewing finalists to replace Barry Shrage. The federation’s longtime president is retiring this spring after 30 years as the public face of Boston’s Jewish community.

In three decades, Shrage has more than doubled the organization’s budget, which is now $64 million, with an endowment of more than $1 billion and 170 staff members. In 2013, the Jewish Federation of the North Shore merged with CJP and has two members on its board of directors. The Boston Business Journal cited CJP as the largest nonprofit in Massachusetts.

Boston’s diverse Jewish community is “wonderfully consistent” in the kind of person it would like to see at the helm of CJP, according to Shira Goodman, cochair of the CJP’s search committee.

“We are at an important point in Jewish history and CJP has been at the forefront of innovation,” Goodman told the Jewish Journal. “They are looking for someone who can come with a vision to drive change.”

Goodman, who is on the CJP board of directors, is chief executive officer of Framingham-based Staples. Aron Ain, CEO of Kronos, a workforce management company, is the other co-chair. In keeping with their pledge for transparency, Goodman and Ain have posted three updates on the CJP website.

Since September, the 11-member search committee, which is working to identify candidates with the international search firm Spencer Stuart, has held hundreds of conversations with and heard from a wide range of members of the Jewish community. The committee also received hundreds of responses to a community survey.

The resulting job description cites qualifications that range from a deep commitment to the Jewish people, intellectual heft, a commitment to diversity, the ability to attract the next generation, innovate fund-raising, and energy.

More than 500 individuals have been sourced, with hundreds of candidates screened, according to the search committee updates.

The search process has been very thorough, thoughtful, and inclusive, said Marjorie Patkin of Swampscott, who is one of two North Shore representatives on the CJP board, along with Amanda Clayman, also of Swampscott. “There has been ample opportunity for the broader community, including the North Shore, to provide input,” Patkin wrote in an email. “I am excited and confident that we will find a talented new president to lead us forward.”

Goodman said the search committee is mindful that there have been many changes in the American Jewish community over the last decades. As millennials come of age, there are questions of how they express their Judaism and the role of Israel in the world today. There also are far more interfaith families than in the past, Goodman noted.

Boston’s Jewish community is dynamic and diverse, Goodman said. There are now more Israelis, Russian Jews, and members of the LGBTQ community than a decade ago, according to the 2015 Greater Boston Jewish Community Study conducted by Brandeis University. A new leader will build on ways to work across the community, and personal engagement is still key, Goodman said.

“In the world of social media and Facebook, you can’t underestimate the importance of one-to-one, listening to people, and asking how they can be helpful,” she said.

The search process comes at a time when Jewish organizations across the country have come under fire for the lack of women in top leadership roles, an issue that is mirrored throughout the business world.

The numbers and stats are alarming, according to the recent salary survey of Jewish communal organizations published by The Forward. In the three years since its last survey, the number of women leading large federations dropped from 12 to 11, stuck at 17 percent, the Forward reported.

For the CJP position, the applicant pool is encouraging, with 53 percent men and 47 percent women, Goodman said. It also is equally divided between those who work at a Jewish community organizations and outside, hailing from across the United States, Canada, and Israel.

In talking with candidates, the search committee is probing their points of view and their track record on diversity. “How will this candidate embrace diversity and create an inclusive team. There are multiple layers,” Goodman said.

As a woman who’s the CEO of a major global firm, Goodman said the challenge of female leadership is not unique to the Jewish community. “Over time, we will see more and more female leaders,” she said.

Goodman said the committee would like to have its new executive director in place by July for the next fiscal year, which would provide for an overlap with Shrage.

“We have been really thrilled with the applicants,” Goodman said. “We are meeting thoughtful people about how to bring meaning and purpose to Boston’s Jewish community. I walk out of every interview, to be honest, feeling very privileged to be a part of this process.”

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