The Jewish National Fund has less of a physical presence in Pittsburgh these days, but its impact here may actually be growing, according to Rick Krosnick, chief development officer of JNF.
JNF’s sole Pittsburgh staffer, senior campaign executive Amy Jonas, left her position last fall, and the organization’s third-floor office at Beth Shalom Congregation has been vacant ever since.
But JNF is aiming to increase its efficiency and improve its bottom line by restructuring its staffing, Krosnick said, and has hired Jason Rose, who will be working out of Minneapolis, to take the helm of the Western Pennsylvania chapter.
Rose, whose title is associate executive director for the Midwest, is also responsible for JNF chapters in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and St. Louis. He will be traveling to Pittsburgh on a regular basis to work with a newly invigorated board of directors in furthering JNF’s mission.
“The JNF restructuring is about delivering more resources to Pittsburgh, not less,” Rose said.
JNF has not yet decided whether it will maintain its office space at Beth Shalom, according to Krosnick, who was in town with Rose last week to meet with longtime JNF supporters.
“The office is really just a shell,” Krosnick said, adding that it may be more financially responsible to hold meetings at other community sites than to maintain a leased space.
Rose is new to JNF — he assumed his position on Jan. 18 — but is not new to Jewish communal service. Most recently, he served as the director of development for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.
Prior to his work in the development sector, Rose worked in financial services, having earned his M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. While working on his bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Kansas, Rose spent a semester studying military and politics and comparative government at Tel Aviv University.
“While I will be sitting in Minneapolis, I expect to spend a lot of time in Western Pennsylvania,” Rose said, adding that he intends to be in town approximately every three weeks in order to “cultivate and engage the local community.”
The search for the associate director of the Midwest extended to six cities in the region. Rose was hired “based on talent,” Krosnick said.
“It’s a different world now,” Krosnick said. “Because we work in a much more global environment and because of advances in communication, we can really work remotely from anywhere. The issue is how to build community and create a presence. Jason will be in constant communication with our donors and lay leaders.”
In addition to maintaining donor relations, Rose will be “building relationships with schools and synagogues,” Rose said, developing educational programs.
He also will be working to promote and expand local participation in the Alexander Muss High School in Israel program, which is “a large piece of the JNF portfolio,” he said.
Rose and Krosnick met with the local board of advisers, which of late has been “a little bit tabled,” according to Rose. “We had a board in place, but it was back-burnered for a year or so. We are trying to bring people back to the table.”
Local JNF supporters plan to work with Rose to “cultivate some lead members in the community that were active in JNF,” said Debbie Resnick, who has volunteered for the organization for more than eight years.
Resnick is not concerned that Pittsburgh’s new hire will be working out of Minneapolis.
“It shouldn’t be a concern,” she said. “We have such a strong presence with prominent members of the Jewish community here. And with Skype and webinars, we don’t really need an office — as long as you have people in the community spreading the good word of JNF.”
JNF is much more than its iconic blue pushke boxes and a campaign to plant trees in the Jewish state, Rose said.
In addition to its annual Tree of Life Dinner, held in Pittsburgh in the fall, and its spring Guardian of Israel event honoring longtime leaders, Rose intends to “engage JNF resources in other Israel projects in the community as well.”
The organization will partner with other Pittsburgh organizations for Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Hazikoron events and will “bring the community together for Israel advocacy,” Rose said. During his initial visits to Pittsburgh, he plans to ask the local community what kind of additional programming would be beneficial and what the capacity is for adding more events to the community calendar.
“There is excitement and enthusiasm here,” said Krosnick, after spending a day meeting with Pittsburgh’s JNF lay leaders.
National JNF currently is undertaking a $1 billion campaign over the next decade, taking the organization forward through Israel’s 75th jubilee. Along with the ambitious financial target, JNF’s strategic plan anticipates expanding on its mission of connecting the American Jews to the people of Israel and implementing unique projects to strengthen Israel for the long-term.
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.