Barak Hermann, the executive director of the JCC of Central New Jersey, has announced that he is leaving, after five years in the position, to take on the presidency of the JCC of Greater Baltimore — which occupies two centers — and an off-site camp. He said he will be leaving around the beginning of November.
He told NJ Jewish News, “It was a tough decision, but my wife and I agreed that this is an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.”
Suzanne Albin Tucker, president of the Scotch Plains JCC, said, “If Barak was leaving to go somewhere smaller and less challenging, it would be upsetting. We’re sad to be losing him, but this is a move we understand; he’s taking on a bigger challenge.”
Hermann came to the center from the JCC MetroWest in West Orange in 2007, succeeding Richard Corman, who had run it for 20 years. Since then, Hermann has overseen a million-dollar renovation at the Central JCC on the Wilf campus and a range of ambitious changes, including opening on Saturdays, the expansion of the health and fitness facilities, and the creation of an art room on the building’s lower level.
The economy was beginning to tank when he arrived, and his determination to upgrade the facility initially drew some fierce opposition. “We had to adapt,” he told NJJN. “The membership was declining, and revenue was going down. It wasn’t sustainable.
“To keep the JCC true to its mission and to remain relevant, we had to offer an enhanced experience for members, and to create more partnership connections with the broader community. It was a matter of tactics. We were risk-aware, but not risk-averse.”
Hermann emphasized that it was the willingness of the JCC’s board of directors — one of the youngest in the country, he pointed out — to move ahead with changes together with the professionalism of the staff that brought about results. Membership numbers stabilized and revenue has risen — from $4.9 million in 2007 to $6.7 million today. The added revenue, he said, is from greater participation in the JCC’s programs, and the fact that the preschool has almost doubled in size.
Tucker said they would like to see ongoing expansion, but it would probably have to be “outside the walls, given that we’re using every available inch of the building.” She and Hermann cited examples of where that has already happened — like the film festivals at area cinemas, the drama program at the Union County Vocational-Technical Schools, and the other off-site summer camp activities.
In Baltimore, Hermann will be taking over from Louis (Buddy) Sapolsky, who has held the position since 1995. At the JCCs Association Biennial Conference this past weekend in New Orleans, Sapolsky was given the Florence G. Heller Professional Award for his contributions to professional practice and knowledge.
Hermann said he hopes to overlap with Sapolsky for a few months, while he learns the ropes. On his part, he has promised to help whoever is selected to replace him in Scotch Plains.
“And he’ll just be a phone call away,” Tucker put in.
The search for a new executive director will be headed by immediate past president Scott Lazar and his predecessor Mindy Goldberger, who was at the helm when Hermann was hired. She told NJJN, in answer to e-mailed questions, that he stood out back then because of “his genuine passion for the JCC mission, and his enthusiasm and vision to lead the agency through a transformation.”
She said Hermann’s belief in cooperation and collaboration has created “a wonderful partnership between lay leaders and professionals at the center which truly contributes to a standard of excellence, as well as partnerships and collaborations within the community, which have all enhanced the JCC.”
As for what they will be looking for in the next executive director, Goldberger said the committee would meet within the next few days to decide on its criteria. The search will be conducted in coordination with the JCCA. Basically, she said, they will be looking for “an individual who is excited by our accomplishments and energized about taking on our challenges, and who has the right skill set and personality to lead the agency through its next phase.”
When Hermann assumes his new position, he said, he and his wife, Cory, and their three sons will remain in their home in Randolph until next summer when the children finish their school year; he will commute between there and Baltimore until they are ready to move.