(photo credit: JDC)
One of America’s foremost Jewish charitable organizations has big plans to expand its board to become more inclusive of young people and representatives of Jewish communities around the world, according to its newly chosen president.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post by phone from Texas, Stanley Rabin, elevated to the head of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee last week, has said he intends to increase the pace of integration of non-Americans into his organization’s board to better reflect the needs and interests of the communities it serves.
Known colloquially as “the Joint,” the JDC helps Jews in distress around the world and is perhaps best known for its Hesed social service centers throughout the former Soviet Union. It runs Jewish summer camps in Hungary, facilitated the aliya of Ethiopian Jewry and, in recent years, has become heavily involved with assisting the thousands of Jews displaced by the Ukrainian conflict.
The son of immigrants from Belarus and Ukraine, the 77-year-old former JDC treasurer, past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and member of the American Jewish Committee board of governors, said he is deeply committed to the idea of giving Jews from around the world a seat at the table.
His upbringing as the son of immigrants who fled Europe to escape pogroms gave him a connection to the idea of Jewish service early on, he said, “the one concept that grew and grew and grew on me was this concept of Jewish people with a global Jewish responsibility, and that triggered a lot of what I’ve done.”
“We are broadening our board globally,” he said. “JDC’s been an American-Jewish entity, headquartered in New York but doing everything overseas. But we are increasing our board members with people from Israel, Australia, the UK.”
Rabin explained that while this process began several years ago, he intended to “push for us to accelerate the extent to which we are doing this,” citing the recent election of several Israelis to the board.
Asked why he felt it important to bring in representatives of other Diaspora communities, Rabin said “we need the insights of people from the different parts of the world where we are so active.”
“I know that from business. I did extensive business internationally but we always tried to end up with local people managing our operations. We might have ex-pats for a while but there is just an added ingredient of know-how... when you also have people involved who are in fact living there in different countries and therefore might observe things differently than I would, or that other people would.”
Increased philanthropy by Israelis and people in other countries also plays a part, he added.
According to JDC spokesman Michael Geller, “while there were one or two non-American board members over several decades, in the last four years there has been an increase in those numbers.”
This, he explained, was part of an effort to ensure the board “be representative of Jewish leadership globally, especially given our mission overseas and the ever-increasing connectedness between global Jewish communities and Israel.”
According to figures provided to the Post, the JDC’s board now includes one representative from Argentina, one from Australia, five Canadians, one Chilean, nine Brits and 10 Israelis.
Beyond its expansion internationally, however, the JDC also touted its efforts to reach out to younger people and groom them for leadership positions.
Fifteen young adults in their 20s and 30s are set to begin their terms on the board in May, Geller noted, explaining that their inclusion “reflects the desire for a multi-generational board that draws on the talents, experience and passion of young, Jewish adult leaders who are engaged in global Jewish issues and working to make change in the Jewish and wider world.”
Speaking about what he views as the importance of engaging “young Jewish leaders,” Rabin asserted that “contrary to popular belief, young Jews are not disaffected or disinterested in the Jewish community and Jewish issues.”
“We have found that many of them are eager to engage in the Jewish world, overseas as well as locally. Again, after they’ve learned about the many challenges and opportunities that exist,” he said. “They want their talents and skills to lead to change and improvement, and we feel that the way to engage is volunteerism.”