Hoenlein to step down as Conference of Presidents chief

Malcolm Hoenlein, 73, will retire as executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at the end of their search for a new chairman.

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February 28, 2018 18:45
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Malcolm Hoenlein.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

WASHINGTON – One of the deans of the organized Jewish world is stepping down from his role after three decades representing American Jewish groups worldwide.

Malcolm Hoenlein, 73, will retire as executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at the end of the group’s search for a new chairman, the organization announced in a statement on Wednesday.

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Hoenlein has served in the position since 1986, speaking to US presidents and foreign dignitaries on behalf of more than 50 US Jewish groups under the umbrella of the Presidents Conference. His job has been to identify consensus within the diverse American Jewish community on thorny foreign policy matters and to present that consensus to global leadership.

An email on Monday from the current conference chairman, Stephen Greenberg, said Hoenlein “continues to be a uniquely vital and energetic leader and an irreplaceable asset.”

However, “he felt that a transition process should be put in place,” Greenberg wrote. “Specifically, Malcolm will continue to serve the conference as he has so effectively for more than three decades, as we seek an executive to assume responsibility for the conference’s ongoing operations and activities. Malcolm will then focus on external relations as well as plans to structure the conference for the years ahead.”

In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Hoenlein said the transition could take a year, and that he would remain on board beyond that to make his expertise available.

“It was the responsible thing to do. I wanted it to be orderly, however long it takes to put it in stages. It won’t be a one-shot deal,” he said. “It seems apparently simple. It is not at all.”

Hoenlein recently engaged in outreach to Gulf Arab governments, including Qatar, in an effort to begin a direct dialogue on issues important to the American Jewish community, including Doha’s support for Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Neither the US nor the Israeli government support his efforts.

JTA contributed to this report.


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