JewishColumbus has moved on from former president and CEO Joel Marcovitch, who has led the organization since 2018, effective immediately.

Liz Shafran, chair of JewishColumbus’ board of trustees, told the Columbus Jewish News the move, which was originally announced in a statement from the board of trustees to the CJN March 17, was neither for cause nor done hastily.

“From our perspective, this (decision) isn’t abrupt,” she said. “The board and Joel have been having conversations for some time and we think that it’s the right time for a leadership change.”

Shafran declined to elaborate on JewishColumbus’ reasoning for the move or to provide other details, including whether the board’s decision was unanimous or how long these discussions had been occurring.

“Out of respect for Joel and the board of trustees, this is not the right time to share that information,” she said.

In the aftermath of the move, the board has elevated two members of leadership to assume larger roles in the organization. Naomi Lamb, JewishColumbus’ executive vice president and chief operating officer, will serve as interim CEO, while Julie Tilson-Stanley, chief development officer, will expand her role to include interim president, the trustees said in their statement.

Lamb told the CJN the plan is to have both of them in place until mid-September, at which time the board will decide what to do next.

“We are going to have ongoing communication and evaluate progress on an ongoing basis, and they ultimately will make a determination as to whether or not this makes sense permanently or if they need to initiate a search committee and bring someone in externally,” Lamb said.

Shafran expressed confidence in Lamb and Tilson-Stanley’s ability to take on these roles.

“Julie and Naomi both have an extensive understanding of the organization because they both have been with the organization for a period of time, and they’ve both been very much involved in the leadership of the organization,” Shafran said. “We have confidence that they’ll certainly be able to do well in the interim position. We want to give them the opportunity, if possible, to see where this takes us.”

Shafran said JewishColumbus will also undertake a review of its priorities over the next few months, with longer-term assessment likely taking place over the next two to three years.

“There are a lot of community needs that we have, and I think what we’ll do is spend the next few months really having conversations with all key stakeholders in the community and understanding which of those community needs we need to prioritize in terms of resource allocation,” Shafran said.

Such discussions are not just tied to a change in leadership, but are relevant for an organization emerging from the more reactive stance necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

“There is an opportunity for us to be less reactive ... working more collaboratively and then having some space and breath to be able to talk about what is in the best interest of the community from an overall strategic perspective,” she said.

Shafran, while speaking about the board’s decision to move on from Marcovitch, praised his leadership and accomplishments over the past several years.

The board “really wish(es) Joel the absolute best in his next opportunity and we really are very, very grateful to him for the time he was with JewishColumbus, the things that he did for our community,” Shafran said.

Marcovitch was the first leader of JewishColumbus, as it was created to integrate the Columbus Jewish Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Columbus in 2018.

During his time as president and CEO, Marcovitch led the Jewish community through a number of crisis, including a once-in-a-century pandemic that effectively shut down community activities, putting many organizations at financial risk as they had to halt all operations. In response, Marcovitch convened and led a multi-agency task force to respond to the crisis, while also helping establish the Community Response Fund of Columbus and raising $1.66 million for it, according to the release..

According to the trustees’ statement, those funds were “distributed throughout the community to help various agencies, synagogues, organizations overcome some of the challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Marcovitch also played an integral role in protecting the Jewish community amid antisemitic attacks across the country, the trustees said.

“After the tragedy at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and subsequent events in Poway, Calif., and Jersey City, N.J., a community-wide security effort was funded and put into place to help ensure that synagogues and Jewish institutions are protected,” the statement said.

Marcovitch’s efforts did not stop at the Ohio or the United States border, the trustees said.

“Joel led our response to the war in Ukraine by taking two mission trips to Poland to be a witness and fundraiser for the community, dollars that are used to support overseas aid agencies who are dealing with this crisis on the ground,” they said.

Before coming to Columbus, Marcovitch had been the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo and director of Hillel at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Marcovitch was unavailable for comment.

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