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Jewish Journal

Federation finds next leader in Jewish entertainment

by Brad A. Greenberg

September 17, 2009 | 12:46 pm

Sanderson, second from right

If you look back at the stories I’ve written about Stanley Gold’s mission to reform the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, you’ll frequently see a recurring voice of support. That would be Jay Sanderson, a big-tent Jewish evangelist, who in February had this to say about the pace of progress:

“Everybody benefited from the status quo—except for the community,” said Jay Sanderson, CEO of JTN Productions and a former Federation board member. “Most Jewish organizations in this community are completely overstaffed. They are enormous for what they do. There are tired organizations that don’t have a lot of vision and are spending a tremendous amount of money doing the same old, same old.”

“I like what Stanley Gold’s intention is. It just hasn’t gone far enough in The Federation yet, and hasn’t gone far enough in the community,” Sanderson continued. “That isn’t because of Stanley. The pushback is just ridiculous. Many institutions are functioning like they did in the ’50s. There is not a lot of vision in the community, and most of these organizations spend more money on staff and raising money then they do on what their mission is.”

It should be no surprise then that, after a nationwide search to replace outgoing-President John Fishel, the search committee and Gold settled on ... Jay Sanderson.

I’m not really sure why he wanted the job. He had a pretty good thing going at JTN, and an ability to get Federation and Jewish Community Foundation funding that seemed to allude so many others. But I’m not surprised the Federation wanted him over a former Los Angeles Councilman and a federation system veteran from Minneapolis: Sanderson built for his Jewish television production company a board full of Hollywood heavy hitters, and the Federation has long wanted deeper roots in Tinsel Town.

Gold, whose two-year term as board chairman ends Dec. 31, was able to recruit former Paramount chief Sherry Lansing. Now it will be Sanderson’s job to get Hollywood to give more significantly to the annual campaign and support Federation programs.

Here’s more from Jewish Journal editor-in-chief Rob Eshman:

“I’m extremely excited and feel deeply privileged,” Sanderson said in an interview Tuesday morning at the home of Stanley Gold, The Federation’s board chair. “I’m surprised. It’s such a big, important job I wasn’t sure I was going to be the person that they chose, especially given the quality of the other candidates.”

In the final week of a three-month process, the selection committee had narrowed an initial field of some 20 candidates down to four: Sanderson, former City Councilman Jack Weiss, former William Morris COO Irv Weintraub and Joshua Fogelson, executive director of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.

Gold and Richard Sandler, The Federation’s incoming chair, informed Sanderson of the decision on Tuesday at around 9 a.m.

“All of our candidates were very, very qualified, and in that regard it’s a good decision to have to make, because we have good people,” said Sandler, an attorney who works closely with Michael Milken and the Milken Family Foundation. “Jay has the knowledge of the community, he has the skill set, and he has certainly accomplished a tremendous amount as head of JTN.”

Sanderson has been professionally active in the Jewish community for two decades, primarily in Jewish media. Since 1989, he has led JTN, during which time, among other accomplishments, he created and served as executive producer of the PBS series, “The Jewish Americans,” and the upcoming PBS documentary on modern genocide, “Worse Than War.”

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“My No. 1 goal is to really return to being central in the community, and in doing that we have to reach out to the whole community,” Sanderson said. “It has to be a convener and a collaborator. There are thousands and thousands of Jews who want to be involved in Jewish life who need to be engaged in The Federation.

“The community is so diverse, and there are so many more organizations than there have been in the past, we have to assert ourselves in terms of outreach,” he said.

Sanderson was also one of the three power players behind Newsweek’s top-rabbi list. He gets roasted after the jump:

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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