Joel Marcovitch is overseeing the merger of the two venerable Columbus Jewish nonprofits.
Joel Marcovitch considered several job opportunities before deciding to accept an offer to lead a new entity in Columbus. Marcovitch saw taking the helm of the central Ohio organization—a new nonprofit that was created as a result of the merger between the Jewish Federation of Columbus and the Columbus Jewish Foundation—as a chance to create something remarkable.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to look at what's in place and take the community to the next level,” says Marcovitch, who came to Columbus from the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo. A native of London, England, Marcovitch is credited with increasing local engagement in Toledo and breathing new life into that organization.
The two Columbus organizations decided to join forces last year in an effort to take a more consolidated approach to philanthropy in central Ohio. The new organization will be known as Jewish Columbus. It's a scenario that has taken place in many cities throughout the country. Currently about 80 percent of U.S. Jewish federations operate under an integrated model that includes a foundation, says Audrey Tuckerman, board chairwoman of the Jewish Federation of Columbus.
Historically in Columbus, the Jewish Federation has focused on raising funds for creating connections within the Jewish community, advocating for Jewish causes and funding local programming. The Columbus Jewish Foundation, which operated under its own articles of incorporation, served as a support foundation for the federation and focused on long-range planning.
While the federation and the foundation often collaborated, many of their supporters were focused on only one of the organizations, says Jim Bowman, the current chair of the foundation. The hope is that the combined entity will increase cooperation between the two organizations, which already work out of the same building, and their supporters, he says. “We realized these organizations should be more closely aligned,” he says.
The merger follows the resignation of former federation CEO Gordon Hecker last year and the long-planned retirement of foundation CEO Jackie Jacobs this summer. The boards of the original agencies will function as legacy boards and a third board will serve the new entity. It will include six members from each of the founding organizations.
Members of both organizations felt Marcovitch was the ideal candidate to lead the combined entity, Tuckerman says. “He has incredible energy and creativity,” she says. “This is not simply a merger; it's a transformation in the way we engage the Jewish community.”
Marcovitch says he intends to spend his first months on the job meeting and speaking with as many people as he can to understand the needs and desires of the community. He hopes to find ways to engage young Jewish people and start creating pathways for them to become community leaders.
Recognizing that younger donors want to help in different ways than older ones, Marcovitch started an initiative in Toledo aimed at helping families of children with special needs. The program offered families grants of up to $1,500 to pay for anything that would assist their child, he says. The money could support anything from special therapies, equipment, training or camp. When he and his team raised funds for the program, they found donors were eager to contribute because they knew their dollars were going directly to members of their community with unmet needs.
“Donors were inspired,” he says. “They saw the impact of their funding.”
Marcovitch wants to bring that personal touch to fundraising in Columbus, as well as open the community's eyes to the potential of the new organization. “We can be community conveners who solve big problems and issues,” he says. “The combining of these two entities allows us a greater voice to shape the future of this community.”
Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.