NEW YORK (Jul. 29)
Martin Kraar, the top professional at the Council of Jewish Federations, is leaving the new CJF-United Jewish Appeal partnership to take over as executive vice president of the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science.
Kraar’s decision to leave CJF after 10 years as its chief executive and an influential force in the partnership’s creation, was both personal and professional.
“I really believe it’s time for me to make a change,” he said in an interview, adding that as CJF, UJA and the United Israel Appeal finalize their merger, one of the most important decisions they will make is to decide on a new executive.
Kraar’s departure puts to rest months of speculation about his future, but leaves open the question of who will lead the newly formed entity.
Together, CJF, UIA and UIA — which recently set up shop together in a lower- Manhattan building under the banner “UJA Federations of North America” – – represent the major fund-raising organization and service provider to American Jews and Jewish communities worldwide, raising an estimated $1.4 billion a year.
Their merger will create the largest Jewish governing body in North America and for the first time will consolidate power in one office.
Its leader will be responsible for everything from fund-raising to community relations to budgets, according to Richard Pearlstone of Aspen, Colo., a former UJA national chairman and a co-chair of the 25-member committee charged with finding a professional leader to take the helm of the consolidated body.
Kraar sent a letter to the CJF last month removing himself from the selection process.
CJF President Dr. Conrad Giles of Detroit said he was saddened, but not surprised by Kraar’s decision. “I have been aware that Marty was considering other options for the past year,” he said.
Kraar’s recent tenure has been consumed with plans for what has lately been called “the road to merger.” By all accounts, it has been a rocky road, with many pitfalls and plenty of ups and downs.
Earlier attempts at a merger failed, and the current “partnership” has had many incarnations. Most recently, some 125 leaders from local federations and the key partnership constituencies convened in Chicago to lay down the groundwork for the merger, which is now scheduled to be finalized by next April.
A memorandum from that meeting has been circulated to 180 federations in North America to clicit reactions to proposed initiatives, such as giving local federations a greater stake, or “ownership,” in the partnership and wider representation in governance and decision-making.
With local federations gaining a majority voice in the new entity, however, the exact role of its future executive is not yet clear.
Rumors about the position’s prime candidates have circulated since plans for a CJF-UJA partnership first surfaced.
The names most often mentioned come from the top tiers of America’s largest federations. They include Steven Nasatir, president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago; Robert Aronson, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit; and Stephen Solender, executive vice president of New York’s UJA-Federation.
Choosing one of them is considered a more likely scenario than giving the post — the exact title of which has yet to be determined — to Bernard Moscovitz, executive vice president of UJA.
But another option is bringing in a high-profile individual from outside the federated system. One such name bandied about has been Rudy Boschwitz, the former Republican senator from Minnesota.
Another name that has surfaced lately is Richard Joel, the dynamic president and international director of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
Search committee members are tight-lipped about front-runners for the job, saying only that they would seek out someone familiar to the federated system and that the search process would be open to all qualified candidates.
The committee, led by Pearlstone and Daniel Shapiro of New York, and to be staffed by Darrell Friedman, president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, will hold its first full meeting in New York on Aug. 10 to define a job description and to discuss hiring a search firm to bring in candidates.
Until then, Pearlstone insists, any talk of candidates is sheer speculation. “There are no candidates. We haven’t asked for any candidates,” he said in a telephone interview.
Giles said a new chief professional officer at CJF will take over for Kraar once his date of departure is set.
For his part, Kraar said he planned on “seeing this thing to a logical point.”
Giles expressed confidence in the ability of the current team of professionals, which he credits Kraar with assembling for the partnership’s final phase.
“One of the measures of the organization he has built will be the success of the institution as it moves forward,” Giles said in a telephone interview.