April 8, 2008
PJA head Sokatch leaving to helm S.F. federation
Sokatch, 40, is the founding executive director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, a Los Angeles-based organization founded in 1999 with a commitment to educating, advocating and organizing on issues of peace, equality, diversity and justice. Sokatch has helped grow the organization from 250 members to more than 4,000 people today, with a million-dollar budget, a dozen staff members and offices in Los Angeles and, since 2005, San Francisco.
It was partly PJA's work in the Bay Area that attracted the JCF to Sokatch.
"I wasn't looking to leave PJA. I have loved my job every day," he said.
When the Federation first approached him, Sokatch said, he just thought "it was flattering," but the more he spoke with leaders there he realized the two organizations -- JCF and PJA -- had similar shared similar goals and perpsectives. "The values of the San Francisco Jewish community are fairly progressive," Sokatch said.
Sokatch acknowledged that there is a difference between running a "consensus-based" organization rather than an "advocacy and activist" organization. But, he said, "I am who I am and they know exactly who I am."
JCF has not had a steady CEO in almost five years. The organization interviewed some 50 candidates for the position in hopes of finding a dynamic CEO to increase the federation's vibrancy and relevancy to Bay Area Jewish life and connect with younger donors and community activists.
"Daniel combines energy and charisma with intelligence, Jewish wisdom and a compelling vision for the future of the Jewish community," JCF President John Pritzker said.
Sokatch, who will relocate to the Bay Area this summer with his wife Dana and their two children, will helm an organization with a staff of 105 and four satellite offices in the Bay Area and Israel.
JCF serves a Jewish population that numbered at least 228,000 people in 2004, according to the 2004 Jewish Community Foundation Study. The study also claims that the Bay Area is the third largest Jewish metropolis behind New York and Los Angeles. The study also found that half the married couples in the Bay Area include a non-Jewish partner, and "as many children are being raised by one Jewish parent as are being raised by two."
The JCF and the Jewish Community Endowment Fund allocated more than $200 million toward funding social services, educational and cultural programs in the Bay Area, the United States, Israel and around the world in 2007 fiscal year.
"For me, the Bay Area Jewish community, with its profound commitment to tzedek [justice], tikkun olam [repairing the world] and to a vibrant and thriving Jewish culture and community is the perfect place" to build a federation for the 21st century, Sokatch said.
Sokatch said he is sad to leave PJA - and Los Angeles - but he is certain the organization will continue to grow without him, even as he helps them find his replacement. "PJA is an incredibly strong and vibrant organization that is much bigger than one person," he said.
To Sokatch, the fact that the JCF contacted a self-described progressive public figure involved with IKAR, a progressive new synagogue, and Reboot, an outreach and activist organization for younger Jews, also means that organizations once considered out of the mainstream are making an impact on the Jewish community. "Instead of seeing us as irrelevant, they see us as part of the answer," Sokatch said. "It's a great compliment to everyone working in these Jewish projects."
Progressive Jewish Alliance
Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties