Who is William Daroff, the next CEO of the Conference of Presidents?

Jewish voices on both the Left and the Right of the political spectrum said that Daroff, 51, is a “unifier” who could bring the polarized Jewish community together in times of political division.

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August 7, 2019 12:18
4 minute read.
William Daroff, next CEO of the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

William Daroff, next CEO of the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. (photo credit: RONALD SACHS)

WASHINGTON – Jewish leaders in the nation’s capital said they were excited to hear the news that William Daroff will be the next CEO of the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CoP).


Jewish voices on both the Left and the Right of the political spectrum said that Daroff, 51, is a “unifier” who could bring the polarized Jewish community together in times of political division.
“This is probably the single most important professional appointment in the Jewish community, and I’m thrilled that it was done right,” Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, told The Jerusalem Post. “We’re very, very fortunate that we’re going to have somebody of William’s caliber in that position for hopefully the next 25 years.”


Daroff will replace Malcom Hoenlein, who has held the role for almost 34 years. The Conference of Presidents is an American NGO that brings together 51 national Jewish organizations to address issues of critical concern to the Jewish community.


“I am honored and humbled to be selected as CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations,” Daroff said in a Facebook post following the official announcement of his appointment, which was disseminated on Monday. “Malcolm Hoenlein is a giant with a living legacy that is nothing short of historic. At such a challenging time in our community, I am awed by the broad strength and diversity of Jewish Americans. With all our many accomplishments, moving forward there is also much work to be done together.”


According to the CoP release, Daroff’s initial title will be CEO. Hoenlein’s title is executive vice chairman. Currently, Daroff is the senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America.


Halber said he knows Daroff as a professional, a friend and “a competitive walker in my Fitbit group. He’s usually the one who’s got the 30,000 steps over the weekend.”

 Next CEO of the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CoP) William Daroff (Credit: Ron Sachs)


According to Halber, the appointment is a victory for CoP.


“He has the skills to balance competing interests in the Jewish community and present a unified voice,” Halber explained. “He’s very, very smart and nuanced. He has widespread respect throughout the Jewish community as a mensch. I think he’s going to be very inclusive.”


Aaron Keyak, a former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said, too, that Daroff is “truly bipartisan” and that “even during these highly contentious times, William was able to rigorously stay in that space as he found a way to get things done.


“Whether it’s among both the Left and Right in a partisan sense or the Left and Right along the Jewish denominational spectrum, William is well-liked and has genuine relationships with top Democrats and Republicans, as well leaders of the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements,” Keyak continued.


“It might be more important than ever to have a forum where” Jewish organizations can come together,” said Rabbi Levi Shemtov, executive vice president of American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) in Washington, who also expressed confidence in Daroff. “Because even if Jews disagree with each other, with better understanding, we can avoid disagreements becoming discord.”






BUT HALBER noted that maintaining balance might be more daunting in Daroff’s new role. He noted that with the national political polarization in the Jewish community, something he considers “symptomatic of the nation they lived in,” Daroff will not be without challenges.


He also said that Daroff will face tensions when dealing with the topic of US-Israel relations.


“How do you reinforce or strengthen US-Israel relationship among American Jews, when too many American Jews, the Israeli government seems tone-deaf about their concerns?”


Another Jewish communal leader expressed similar sentiments, highlighting an additional three challenges that Daroff is expected to face in his new role.


“CoP has three main issues that any leader would have to deal with moving forward,” the leader said, asking to remain anonymous for professional reasons. The first would be “managing the diverse group of organizational members, from ZOA to Peace Now and Reform to Orthodox.”


The second: Israel.


CoP denied entry to the left-wing Israel advocacy group J Street but accepted the right-of-center Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) into its fold. Whether Daroff will continue this policy is a question.


Lastly, the communal professional told the Post, there will be fund-raising obstacles, too.


“The general philanthropic trend over the last few years is that donors prefer to target their giving to specific programs as opposed to giving to umbrella organizations like the Conference or Federations,” which can make it a challenge to keep these larger, national groups afloat.


Daroff will start his role as a largely well-known figure in the broader Jewish world, partly because of his use of social media. He was once named the “King of Jewish Twitter,” and gives lectures about using social media to communicate with the next generation.


CoP’s Hoenlein is known as “King of the Jews,” so in that sense, the new head is just trading one crown for another.


But Halber cautioned that Daroff should not attempt to simply follow in Hoenlein’s footsteps, but rather take his own path.


“William has to make his own footprints,” said Halber, yet noting that Hoenlein staying on for a transition period will help ensure his successor’s success.


“You don’t take a resource like Malcolm Hoenlein and just let it go away easy,” said Halber. “You treasure his involvement and keeping him involved as long as he wants.”


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