LOS ANGELES (JTA) – The president and executive head of the Los Angeles Jewish federation says he will step down by the end of the year.
John Fishel has served nearly 17 years as the as professional leader of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the umbrella organization for a community of 600,000 Jews — the second largest in the United States.
After a long tenure and working 80-hour weeks, Fishel told the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles that at age 60 it was time to re-evaluate his future, slow down a bit and spend more time with his family.
His resignation announcement Monday to his board of directors was not entirely unexpected.
The federation has been undergoing major organizational changes since businessman Stanley Gold took over as chairman last year. Its 22 community welfare agencies have been hard hit by the recession, and the federation and some of its largest donors lost millions of dollars in the Bernard Madoff investment scheme.
Fishel has been praised as a tireless worker with a keen analytical mind who is at his best when responding to emergencies, such as the 1994 Northridge earthquake and in quickly funneling aid following Hurricane Katrina and to Israel during the Lebanon and Gaza fighting. He was recognized as well for the highly successful Los Angeles-Tel Aviv partnership program.
Critics charge that Fishel is more interested in overseas than local problems and has been unable to raise the historically low fund-raising level in the largely unaffiliated Los Angeles Jewish community.
A markedly private and self-effacing person in a glitzy, glad-handing town, Fishel has made little headway in motivating Hollywood’s Jewish celebrities to pitch in for the community, critics say.
After leaving his post on Dec. 31, Fishel will remain as a federation consultant to ease the transition for his successor.