Less than three months after announcing it was considering merging with another organization to streamline costs, the embattled Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty has reversed course and will remain independent, The Jewish Week has learned.
The agency confirmed the move Tuesday as the scandal-plagued social service provider tapped a new CEO to restore public confidence.
“After months of discussions with UJA-Federation and others, it became clear that Met Council’s role in New York City — as a coordinating council of Jewish Community Councils and as an independent leader in direct anti-poverty service provision — is unique, and that remaining as an independent organization is the best way to serve the growing needs of New York City’s Jewish community,” Met Council’s chief of staff, Eric Munson, said in a written statement. (Met Council is a UJA-Federation of New York beneficiary.)
The agency’s new executive director and CEO — who steps into the top post just a few months after the collapse of another major social service agency, FEGS, is Alan Schoor.
Schoor, who has served for eight years as senior vice president of operations at Touro College, replaces David Frankel who announced in August that he would step down as soon as a replacement was found. Schoor will take the Met Council helm in mid-May.
Frankel took over in August of 2013 after the organization’s longtime executive director, William Rapfogel, was fired on allegations that he was stealing millions from the organization as part of an insurance overpayment scam. In April of 2014 he pleaded guilty to stealing $9 million during the two decades he was with the organization and is now serving a 3 1/3 to 10 years in prison.
Schoor, 68, comes to the role after three decades in city administration and non-profit management, including 10 years as an assistant and deputy commissioner of general services for the City of New York and 12 years as chief business and administrative officer and deputy executive director at the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services.
“I have been involved in Jewish communal work in the last 20 years and that is my passion,” Schoor told The Jewish Week in an interview Tuesday. “As I watched the events unfold at Met Council … I thought that my skill set would be of help to reposition the agency and move it forward. … So I decided to throw my hat in the ring and see whether I could help out.”
Schoor said his top priorities will be to stabilize the agency’s finances, create a transparent culture and consider expanding services that help people get themselves out of poverty, such as job-training programs.
But in the interview he focused on transparency. “Clearly, based on past issues, we need to convince the donors as well as city officials and the departments that fund us that we are a reliable, credible, conscientious agency,” he said. “We’re a not-for-profit. We are keepers of other people’s money, government money and we need to make sure we are doing everything according to the rules.”
The decision to hire Schoor comes in sharp contrast with reports in August that the Met Council was strongly considering Rabbi Moshe Wiener, longtime head of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island, an organization in Met Council’s network. Met Council officials declined to comment on why that hire never came to fruition, but Paul Light, a professor at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, said it makes sense to bring in someone from the outside.
“You’ve got to get the message out that this is a new era for an organization and you’re going to do things differently. That you’re going to be astutely transparent,” he said.
“You sometimes have people in house who are absolutely terrific, they would make a great CEO and you would love to reward them,” he added, “but the particular circumstance of the departure of the moment is that you have to have someone from the outside just to show that this a different era.”
“There’s nothing like an outsider to make that point,” he said.
Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, executive director of the Borough Park Jewish Community Council, which also works closely with the Met Council, called Schoor “a really good choice,” saying that while he had a strong background in Jewish communal service, he was also “a person who can come in with fresh eyes.”
“He’s a very capable person,” he said. “Everyone has been shaken in the last couple of years and people need to know that there’s a strong person at the helm.”