We won’t be receiving a press release from the Jewish Communal Federation of San Francisco until Tuesday night, and one from the New Israel Fund sometime until early Wednesday morning, but it’s for real: Daniel Sokatch is leaving his post as the CEO of the federation to take over the top spot at the NIF.
Sokatch was a much ballyhooed hire in the spring of 2008.
A super liberal, forward thinking and young Jewish leader, Sokatch — then barely 40 years old — left the Progressive Jewish Alliance in Los Angeles, which he helped build and turn into a major player, to take over a federation. Perhaps the San Francisco federation is the system’s most liberal, but it is a federation nonetheless and Sokatch was moving very much from the new school to the old school, and going to make an attempt to drag the old school forward.
But it appears the old school was not quite ready (or he couldn’t figure out how to make it happen). Sokatch, according to insiders, found himself in the middle of a few major controversies in San Francisco, including the heated debate this past summer over the decision by organizers of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival to screen a movie about Rachel Corrie, the pro-Palestinian activist who was killed when she lay down in front of an Israeli bulldozer as it was about to raze a Palestinian house. Several foundations were outraged by the decision and then pushed to the brink when the film festival decided to invite Corrie’s mother to speak.
Sokatch had to put out a fire between a hyper liberal San Francisco Jewish populous and major foundations that were upset with the film festival. In the end, he publicly said that he thought the festival should have invited a wider range of speakers, not just Corrie’s mother.
He later irked some of the community’s more conservative factions by agreeing to speak at the upcoming conference of J Street, a new organization that has lobbied for U.S pressure on Israel (and the Palestinians) and criticized Israel’s invasion of Gaza.
Still, insiders say that Sokatch was not pushed out of the job. Rather, the perfect job for him fell in his lap when NIF was unable to find a replacement for its outgoing CEO, Larry Garber.
“Nobody tried to get rid of him. Individuals who were on the right were angry at him and hostile to him, but nobody tried to get rid of him,” said one source.
Sokatch, according to one insider very close to the situation, was offered the NIF job four months ago and turned it down. But only recently had a change of heart.
We’ll see if this version of the story holds as more people weigh in over the next day or so.