After a five-month nationwide search, Temple Sinai has hired Deborah Fidel as its new executive director.
Fidel, who has served for the last four years as the executive director of the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee (PAJC), will assume her new position, the Temple Sinai Marcia and Thomas Morton Administrative Chair, July 1.
Prior to her work at the PAJC, Fidel served as the executive director of the Zionist Organization of America-Pittsburgh District.
Fidel, who recently completed a master’s degree in Jewish professional studies through the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, also holds an undergraduate degree in Near Eastern and Judaic studies from Brandeis University, and a law degree from Boston University.
“Deborah has a passion for the well-being of the Jewish community in general,” noted Rick Kalson, president of Temple Sinai. “She has an established reputation as an excellent manager of both people and facilities, and her educational background is tremendous.”
Fidel is eager to apply the knowledge she garnered through Spertus to the community that is Temple Sinai, a Reform congregation in Squirrel Hill that serves more than 900 families.
“Synagogues are the front door to Jewish life in Pittsburgh, and it is so important to strengthen them and to contribute to their vitality,” she said. “Temple Sinai is a growing, dynamic community, and the kind of institution that is open and receptive to applying some of the cutting edge new thinking and approaches that I learned in the Spertus program.”
Some of those approaches include ways to invigorate Jewish communal professionals, and Fidel intends to share those techniques with the staff of Temple Sinai.
“As a team, we can move forward and take Temple Sinai to the next level,” she said. “That is one of my goals. And, as executive director, I want to be another point of contact for all of the congregants, and get to know as many as I can, and help them find ways to connect to Temple Sinai.”
It was Temple Sinai’s emphasis on relationship-building that attracted Fidel to the congregation, she said.
“Temple Sinai is the hub of the wheel,” she continued, “but there are many, many different spokes.”
Fidel will be leaving the PAJC having made significant contributions to the growth of that organization, according to Marshall Dayan, PAJC’s board president. Under her direction, the group’s annual fundraising event, the Community Impact Award Dinner, had unprecedented success, and its Caplan-Lieber award program was expanded to recognize adults as well as high school students who have built bridges in the community uniting diverse populations.
“Her leadership has been quite extraordinary,” Dayan said. “She will be difficult to replace.”
Fidel is likewise proud of her tenure at PAJC.
“I served as an intermediary in intergroup conflicts,” said Fidel of her work with the PAJC, noting her accomplishments in bringing together key players during the Presbyterian deliberations on divesting funds from companies doing business in Israel. “And I think I built a solid bridge between the PAJC and leaders of the Pittsburgh Muslim communities. I ran educational events that showed how much we had in common.”
Fidel also worked to increase collaboration among Jewish institutions in Pittsburgh.
“It’s not that I invented collaboration, but I certainly made collaboration a high priority for the PAJC,” she said. “Sometimes, in the Jewish community, [organizations] are focused more on turf rather than the greater good. That was never my M.O.”
She intends to continue the push toward collaboration in her new position at Temple Sinai.
“We’d be foolish not to,” she said. “We’re living in a time of shrinking resources. If we don’t play nicely, it doesn’t benefit anyone.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.)