Dear Federation Family,
Last week, Federation President & CEO Michael Jeser made the difficult decision to step back from active involvement in the day-to-day business. As of today, Michael will take a leave of absence to focus on his health and family.
The mission of Federation is deeply important to Michael, and we must continue the critical work we do in San Diego, in Israel, and around the world.
In Michael’s absence, our talented staff is well positioned to build on our current work, to close our campaign (with your help), and to fulfill our mission of caring for Jews in need, strengthening the community, and connecting to Israel. We will not lose momentum. As Michael mentioned in his previous e-mail, we assembled a task force to address the shorter and longer-term implications of his leave. Heidi Gantwerk, who has worked as a consultant for Federation for several years, has worked with the task force, and our senior staff on an organization-wide strategic alignment. She has been a tremendous asset to me and to our leadership team. As Michael takes leave to focus on his health and family, I am happy to share that Heidi will be stepping in as our interim CEO. Heidi is ideally positioned to take on this sensitive and important role. We deeply appreciate her commitment to all of us at Federation.
Heidi is the founder and principal of HG Consulting Group, LLC. Heidi is an expert at leading strategic planning processes, community and stakeholder dialogue, scenario development, and civic engagement. She has been an active member of our Jewish community, and since founding HG Consulting in 2013, has worked extensively with many Jewish agencies and organizations. Her clients include Hillel of San Diego, Jewish Community Foundation, Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, Leichtag Foundation, Jewish Community Farming Initiative, The Butterfly Project, Ner Tamid Synagogue, and of course Federation.
Beyond her professional engagement with San Diego’s Jewish community, Heidi currently serves as the board president of San Diego Jewish Academy, and her three sons are all SDJA graduates (as well as One Happy Camper and My Israel Journey grant recipients). She is also on the board of the Center for Jewish Culture as well as Hillel of San Diego, and has, along with her husband Andy, been a regular presence on the bimah as a singer and part of the musical team helping to lead services at Congregation Beth Israel. And before any of that, Heidi was born in Israel, and will be heading back in just a few weeks as her oldest son begins a 2 year course of study to become a Jewish educator.
I cannot think of anyone more aligned with Federation’s mission and more ready to step into everything we are doing than Heidi. Her commitment and deep connection to Jewish life and kehilah in San Diego, her close connections to our senior staff, and her tremendous energy and passion for our work gives me full confidence the organization is in the best possible hands. We are fortunate.
As we prepare for this next chapter, I am reminded of Michael’s recent community-wide message where he shared, “It is so very important to me that the essential work of Federation must and will continue, and I know with certainty that our mission is in the best of hands during this difficult time. With your help, we have propelled the work of Federation these past few years and I have every confidence that this trajectory will continue in the right direction. Our staff and partners will continue to support our community, as we have done for 84 years, caring for Jews in need, strengthening Jewish identity and community, and connecting San Diego to Israel.”
Continue we will. Thank you Michael for all that you have done and thank you to each one of you for your ongoing partnership and support. It means everything.