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Allan Finkelstein steps down after two decades at helm of JCC Association

Allan Finkelstein
Allan Finkelstein, who has spent his entire career working to strengthen Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) and the role that they play in American Jewish life, will retire from leading the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America, where he has served as president and CEO since 1994.

His retirement is effective at the end of 2014, according to Paula L. Sidman, the outgoing chair of JCC Association.

“Allan has provided strong, capable leadership, presiding over an extraordinary era of vision and growth,” said Sidman. “Over these past four years working with him, I have witnessed firsthand the passion he holds for our agency and for the JCC Movement as a whole.”

During his tenure at the organization — which serves as the continental umbrella organization for more than 350 JCCs, YM-YWHAs, and camp sites in the U.S. and Canada — Finkelstein sought to strengthen both the operations and scope of programming that JCCs provide to the Jewish community. By offering such services as the association’s Benchmarking Project, JCCs were able to measure the effectiveness of their services, always within the mission of strengthening Jewish community.

During his tenure Finkelstein pushed the organization to offer a wider scope of programming tools to its member JCCs, enabling them to become go-to destinations for fitness and wellness, Jewish, Israel , cultural and arts programming. He helped initiate many new programs, including: JCC Maccabi/ArtsFest, a teen performing and visual arts competition that runs as a companion program to the organization’s JCC Maccabi Games; Boarding Pass, an Israel travel program designed to meet JCCs’ needs; discover CATCH, a child-focused health and wellness program , and SHEVA, a signature approach to early childhood programs.

While at JCC Association, Finkelstein has overseen two branding efforts for the Movement, with a goal of bringing a unity of vision, language and imagery to JCCs across the continent. The most recent effort will launch at the organization’s 2014 Biennial in San Diego, beginning on March 28.

“What could be more satisfying than to lead a movement that I have been a part of not only my entire career, but also, my entire life, since I was a kid,” said Finkelstein, who grew up attending the Emanuel Cohen Center in Minneapolis, the precursor of the JCC, and a JCC resident camp, where he met his wife, Bonnie. Finkelstein first began working at the JCC of Greater Buffalo where he held several positions. In 1982, he was hired as the executive vice president of the Leo Yassenoff Jewish Community Center of Columbus, Ohio, where he served until 1991. At that time, he was named executive vice president of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles, where he worked until coming to JCC Association.

Finkelstein has a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Minnesota, where he also received his bachelor’s degree. He has served as the chair of the professional advisory committee of the Benjamin Hornstein Program in Jewish Communal Service at Brandeis University where he also served on the faculty of the Sherman/Kaplan Seminar for Emerging Professionals. He has also been a faculty member at Irwin Daniels School of Jewish Communal Service at Hebrew Union College.

JCC Association has created a search committee to find Finkelstein’s successor, said Stephen P. Seiden, the incoming chair of the organization. The committee will begin its work at the Biennial and is chaired by Alan P. Solow, a past chair from Chicago.

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