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Searching underway for Federation’s next CEO

It’s been two months since Andrew Rehfeld departed as president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis to become president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. This seems like a good time to brief our community on where Federation is and where we’re going, after Andrew.

Federation’s lay leadership and 60-person professional staff are continuing to work hard, and effectively, to carry out its mission of mobilizing the Jewish community and its human and financial resources to preserve and enhance Jewish life in St. Louis, Israel and around the world.  

One of Andrew’s legacies was to assemble an outstanding professional staff, and they are continuing their important work without missing a beat. Pending our bringing a new president and CEO on board, we have an excellent interim professional leadership team: Don Hannon, chief operating officer; Karen Sher, senior director, community engagement; and Michael Oberlander, chief philanthropy officer. They are doing great work, as are the rest of our staff.

Jewish Federation has a clear direction, shaped by our board of directors, Andrew and other key lay and professional leaders, reflected in our strategic plan adopted in 2017. The plan focuses on community engagement and shifts from simply raising and allocating funds to a community-foundation model in which Federation assesses community needs, develops a case for giving, raises and invest funds to address the community’s needs, and assesses the impact of our community investments.  

Federation’s lay and professional leadership remain convinced that the path we are on represents the right one for our Federation and community. Our focus, now and in the coming months, will be on moving onward and upward in that same direction.  

As to the search for Andrew’s successor, it is in full swing and is in the active recruiting phase. We have assembled a strong search team that includes a search committee and a collaboration of two outside search consultants: Shelly Storbeck of Storbeck Pimentel & Associates and Esther Rosenberg of Howe-Lewis International. To date, the search team has conducted numerous stakeholder interviews, created a 12-page position specification/recruiting document (available on the Federation’s website), widely advertised the position, received nominations of, or applications from, more than 20 people, and identified more than 200 additional prospects.

Notably, the search team is not just sitting back and waiting for candidates to apply. We are identifying people in current positions who appear to have the talents we are seeking, who may not be actively looking for another job, and reaching out to them.  

The Search Committee will meet in July to review and whittle down the list of potential candidates. Then the committee will conduct interviews, review candidates’ background and ultimately make a recommendation to Federation’s Board of Directors. The Board hopes to be in a position to announce our next President & 

CEO in the fall.

We want someone who can continue to lead our Federation and community down our current path and continue to effectively implement our 2017 strategic plan. 

We are not looking for someone to conduct a reassessment of where we are and potentially lead us in an entirely new direction. 

We ideally are seeking a person having a record of success in guiding a complex organization through the implementation of strategies that lead to innovative progress and change, a strong and inspirational communicator, a collaborative and resilient leader, an effective and enthusiastic fundraiser, and a seasoned manager demonstrating highly developed interpersonal skills and unquestioned integrity. The desired candidate will be knowledgeable and passionate about Judaism and Israel and have a personal commitment to Jewish education and values, as well as compassion for, and understanding of, the Jewish people and the needs and welfare of Jews locally, in Israel and around the world.

Andrew’s departure represents a major loss for our community.  But our Federation and community are much larger than a single person, and we can and will continue to thrive and move ahead under new leadership.  

We are working hard to find, as soon as possible, the right person to become the Federation’s next president and CEO. In the interim, our highly capable professional staff and lay leadership are keeping things going and moving us forward. We are now, and will be in the future, doing everything we can to implement our vision of an engaged, vibrant and flourishing St. Louis Jewish community, in which individuals live with dignity, meaning and purpose, and with a sense of belonging to the Jewish people as part of a life well-lived.

Gerald Greiman is the current Board Chair of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis.