JANUARY 25, 2018 – BOSTON – Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston’s Jewish federation, has selected Rabbi Marc Baker to become its next president and chief executive officer.
Baker, 42, who has served as the head of school at Gann Academy in Waltham for the past 11 years, will succeed Barry Shrage as the nonprofit’s top executive. Shrage joined CJP in 1987, and has helped transform the organization into New England’s largest Jewish charity. Over the decades, he has raised more than $1.1 billion and has more than doubled CJP’s annual budget to $64.4 million.
The announcement follows an eight-month search, led by CJP’s President Search Committee, and co-chaired by Shira Goodman, chief executive officer of Staples, and Aron Ain, chief executive officer of Kronos.
The search was conducted in partnership with SpencerStuart, an international executive search firm.
“I have witnessed firsthand just how vital CJP is to our Boston Jewish community, and I am honored to be able to continue that crucial work alongside its valued staff and supporters, many of whom I’ve been fortunate to work with before,” Baker said in a statement. “I look forward to building on the strong foundation Barry has established for CJP, serving as a champion for Boston’s Jewish community and for Israel, working to engage our next generation, and collaborating with a vibrant, diverse and inclusive Jewish Greater Boston.”
Baker’s roots to the North Shore are strong. A native of Lynnfield, he went to Camp Bauercrest and attended Philips Academy in Andover. At Yale University, he was captain of the varsity squash team and received his bachelor’s degree in religious studies. After graduating, he spent four years in Israel at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem as the recipient of a Dorot Fellowship and pioneer of the Pardes Educators Program.
Baker also holds a master’s degree in Jewish Education from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2004, he was ordained as a rabbi by the Director and Rosh Yeshiva of the Pardes Institute. From 2002-2006, Baker worked as a Jewish studies teacher and also served as the Director of Judaics and student life at the Doris and Alex Weber Jewish Community School in Atlanta. Ten years ago, he returned to Boston to become the head of school at Gann Academy. At Gann, Baker helped to secure a $12.5 million donation, which eliminated the school’s debt. In addition, Baker also recently raised over $6 million for the school’s Campaign for Gann.
Shrage, who announced his decision to retire last year, will remain at CJP until the early summer after Baker begins his new post. “I wholeheartedly endorse the selection of Marc Baker as CJP’s next president; he is an excellent choice,” Shrage said in a statement. “He has the unanimous admiration of his staff and Board at Gann Academy and is recognized as an inspirational educator and passionate Jewish leader. I am confident Marc will embrace the ongoing change happening around us and build an ever more vibrant community as I had the opportunity to when I arrived in Boston 30 years ago.”
CJP declined to reveal Baker’s salary, and also did not release the names of the other finalists who sought the top executive’s position. Locally, CJP funds $1 million annually to North Shore organizations and programming. The charity absorbed the former Jewish Federation of the North Shore in 2013.
Marblehead’s Howard Rich, a past president of the Jewish Federation of the North Shore and a former member of the CJP Board of Directors lauded Baker’s selection. “He’s a terrific choice,” said Rich, who noted that Baker’s late father, Steve, was a former president of the Jewish Federation of the North Shore. “He has deep North Shore roots. He’s highly intelligent, highly educated, and has a very strong Jewish background. He provided very good leadership at Gann Academy. He’s very much respected in the world of Jewish education.”
“The North Shore is feeling especially proud and excited with the news about Marc Baker, considering his North Shore roots. Federation work runs in Marc’s family, so it is not a total surprise that Marc is heading for the Federation world. The fine work done by his father Steve, of blessed memory, obviously made a lasting impression on him, said Robert Lappin, founder of the Lappin Foundation.
“Though Lappin Foundation will miss Barry Shrage deeply, the Foundation will throw its support behind Marc to ensure the smooth continuation of CJP’s work here on the North Shore and in Greater Boston. I am sure Marc’s successful track record with Gann Academy is a preview of the fine work he will do for our community.”
Added Marjorie Patkin, a member of the CJP Board of Directors, “I am thrilled about today’s announcement,” said Patkin. “Not only is Marc an exceptional leader with outstanding qualifications, but it is a point of pride that one of our own, originally from Lynnfield, will be leading CJP. Marc’s North Shore roots speak to his familiarity with Jewish organizations and the community here and that is very exciting.”
“We are excited to welcome Marc and could not be more optimistic about CJP’s future under his leadership,” said Neil Wallack, chairman of CJP’s Board of Directors. “He understands the many ways in which the Jewish community and philanthropy are evolving and has a strong vision for CJP’s future that will engage a wide audience.”
“He is incredibly strategic and a visionary,’ said Shira Goodman, co-chair of the CJP President Search Committee. “He really embraces and can help lead change, and in today’s quickly evolving world that’s a key part of the role going forward. He has a proven track record in developing high performing teams and also in influencing and gathering and engaging people from across the community.”
“I have experienced firsthand the inspiration and knowledge Marc brings to his role as scholar- in-residence,” said Aron Ain, co-chair of the CJP President Search. “He is a leader and teacher who listens and connects with people. He raises important questions and facilitates meaningful discussions and is deeply committed to sharing the richness of Jewish learning with the community.”
Baker has attended the Harvard Principals’ Center and has taught widely about leadership, education and Jewish pluralism. In 2011, he was one of five Jewish educators from across the country to receive The Pomegranate Prize from The Covenant Foundation, which honors and nurtures exceptional, emerging professionals, and in 2012, Baker joined CJP’s Cynthia and Leon Shulman Acharai Leadership Program as the scholar-in-residence, a position he still maintains today.
Baker lives in Brookline, with his wife, Jill, and their four children.