By ADAM ROSENFIELD
“I saw that JFS of Northeastern New York had been looking for an executive director for quite some time,” “I saw it as a good opportunity to help re-establish JFS in Northeastern New York,” said Robert Marmor, the new president and CEO of the local Jewish Family Services (JFS). He needed a change and a new challenge, he said.
Marmor, whose last job had been as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) chief strategic officer for its Washington, D.C. office, is no stranger to the world of Jewish Family Service. He had turned the JFS of Western Massachusetts into a powerhouse, according to Linda Cohen Yood, JFS board chairwoman.
Marmor did more than re-establish JFS in Western Massachusetts when he started there in 2001. At the time, the agency had only one location in Springfield, Mass. and employed seven staff on a budget of $450,000.
“They were just ecstatic that I had a master’s in social work to be able to run meetings,” Marmor joked.
Under Marmor’s leadership, JFS of Western Massachusetts grew to four locations, 42 employees, and a budget of $3 million. He was known for his innovation and leadership skills. He improved the organization, getting it accredited, which gave it an opportunity to go after government grants. He then worked to improve different sectors of the organization’s programs, particularly in the caregiving realm, where he worked with rabbis in the area to help bolster the amount of services offered to caregivers.
Similarities, And Advantages
He sees similarities in JFS of Northeastern New York, and JFS of Western Mass when he first started there. Both the JFS organizations attempt to strengthen individual, family, and community life by offering social services to address difficult life transitions and help people through times of personal crisis. Both offer supportive services including counseling, assessments and support groups.
The local JFS, serving Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer and surrounding counties, is a small organization that has undergone some turnover, particularly its executive directors.
However, JFS NENY has advantages that Marmor’s previous JFS employer did not.
“JFS NENY is one of the oldest Jewish Family Service organizations in the country (it was founded in 1854) and its proximity to the capital has allowed for some great partnerships with the state and local governments,” Marmor said.
Marmor also cited Albany’s growing nanotechnology center as a plus.
“I’m also looking forward to taking advantage of a larger Jewish community, and continuing to work on some of the more successful elder programs currently in place like “Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Community.”
Working On Strategic Plan
As he settles into his new role, Marmor hopes to improve programs, and create new programs for those who use its services.
He has been meeting with major stakeholders in the Jewish community, from rabbis, to community leaders, to find out what JFS’s position within the greater Albany community is. This is all part of a strategic plan, which may take up to three months to formulate, he said. The plan will allow Marmor to see what needs improving, and what type of programs he can implement.
Considers The Future
Some of the programs he’d like to see created will be modeled after those in other JFS locations. He cited the “JFS Without Walls” program for emotional and social healing that is present in the New Haven JFS, and JCARES, an abuse prevention and education program, in Chicago. Another initiative that Marmor hopes to implement relates to inclusion, as he believes JFS offers another opportunity for people to engage Jewishly. He wants to create programs that help bring disabled members of families and single parents (the father of Rebecca and Jacob, who are of college ages, is single himself) into the greater Jewish community, as well as social justice infused programs.
To Marmor, Jewish Family Service means representing in the community the Jewish values of tikkun olam, and acts of loving-kindness.
“Agencies are not about who we serve, but how we serve,” he says. “How can we create programs that revitalize JFS and leave it in a better place for the next generation?”
Adam Rosenfield is a freelance journalist and copywriter. He says, “I enjoy connecting and building relationships with people, helping to tell their stories and connecting them to their dreams.”