JFN’s Charendoff looks to the future

JFN’s Charendoff looks to the future

Let no one say that Mark Charendoff, president of the Jewish Funders Network, does not practice what he preaches. Nine years after taking the helm of the Jewish Funders Network, and just days after calling for term limits for Jewish communal leaders, Charendoff announced he would step down later this year.

“This is an issue I feel strongly about in the Jewish community,” he told The Jewish Standard earlier this week. “I feel there should be far more movement among CEOs, and organizations should have their own organic lives that are not tied to a particular CEO. We accomplished an enormous amount in nine years. It’s someone else’s turn to experiment in new directions and I think the organization deserves that. I think all organizations deserve that.”

Just as the president of the United States is limited to two four-year terms, Charendoff, an Englewood resident, would like to see a timeline imposed on Jewish communal leaders to accomplish their goals.

Shortly after publicly calling for term limits for Jewish communal leaders, Jewish Funders Network president Mark Charendoff announced he will step down from the organization in December after a nine-year stint. Courtesy Jewish Funders Network

“I don’t think enough Jewish organizations feel an urgency to achieve,” he said. “They feel an urgency to achieve their budgets, to show a certain amount of money coming in. If we have an expectation that the president of the United States can turn around the country in no more than eight years, it’s hubris to believe we can’t (also) hold ourselves to those standards.”

Executives can become burned out or lose touch with their changing constituencies, which is why he advocates bringing new blood into an organization after so many years, Charendoff said.

“We should all ask ourselves whether we continue to be the best person for the job, and whether the job continues to be the best for us,” he said.

He was quick to dismiss praise for the work he has done at JFN, instead offering praise to his colleagues.

“I was the orchestra leader,” he said. “I don’t think the orchestra leader makes a lot of music but gets everyone to play their instruments. The accomplishments were theirs.”

Charendoff’s position on term limits drew agreement from some long-time North Jersey community leaders, who also praised the JFN president for his role in Jewish life.

“It will certainly be a loss to the Jewish Funders Network,” said Howard Charish, executive vice president of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, “but I’m convinced that in any new role that Mark has, he will continue to make a contribution due to the fact that he’s an innovator and somebody who leads by example.”

Charish, who is retiring later this year after eight years at UJA-NNJ, agreed with Charendoff’s call for executive term limits, but added that a support system should be put into place for agencies and executives in transition.

“Although I would not say that it has to be a hard-and-fast rule, I do believe that handing the baton over should be a planned event and allow the organization new ideas and new leadership,” he said.

A regular change in leadership would help Jewish organizations prosper, said Angelica Berrie, president of the Teaneck-based Russell Berrie Foundation.

“The Jewish world is a world that can only benefit from innovation,” she said. “It’s important for us to be exposed to new things. You can’t continue to attract and inspire the next generation of donors with an executive who doesn’t grow with the times or speaks their language.”

Charendoff’s legacy, she said, is his ability to break down barriers and encourage collaboration between foundations and between Israel and America.

“The world of Jewish philanthropy is changing,” she said. “There’s a need for more collaboration, more alliances, and combining of resources. Mark led the way for that.”

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