As the chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta’s CEO search committee, I was obviously pleased to read of the Atlanta Jewish Times’ support of Eric Robbins as our next Federation CEO (“Our View: Good Choice,” May 13). However, I must take exception to your characterization of our past Federation CEO, Michael Horowitz, as someone “whose move into nonprofit leadership was an alternative to semiretirement, and he made that move with a personal style that could rub people the wrong way.”
I found this characterization to be misguided, untrue and totally inappropriate.
As immediate past chair of Federation (July 2012 to June 2014), I witnessed firsthand Michael’s deep commitment to our Jewish community, to Israel and to strengthening our Atlanta Federation. Moreover, I observed on a daily basis how Michael, along with his wife, Barbara, worked tirelessly, devoting their time, energy and considerable talents to a myriad of worthy organizations throughout our Jewish community.
To be clear, it was Michael Horowitz who identified the significant unmet demand for financial assistance to allow needy families throughout metro Atlanta to enable their children to enjoy an overnight Jewish camping experience. Under Federation’s leadership and through the generosity of its donors, the number of Atlanta’s Jewish youth attending Jewish overnight camp this summer will no longer trail other major North American communities by 50 percent.
It was Michael Horowitz who educated me and our Federation leadership as to the vital role that Federation could and should play in supporting Birthright Israel, enabling greater numbers of Atlanta teens to enjoy a fully subsidized, life-changing 10-day trip to Israel.
It was Michael Horowitz who stood up without waver and compelled Federation leadership to provide emergency financial support to the Amit Program so that enrolled Amit students and their families could complete their academic year without interruption.
Coming out of the 2009-10 recession, our Federation was in a bad way. Prior executive leadership had allowed Federation to atrophy. Michael restored vitality to the organization and refocused Federation lay leadership on the needs of our community. There’s a lengthy list of Michael’s many accomplishments that should not be diminished. Both our Federation and our Jewish community are in a better place because of the leadership of Michael and his wife, Barbara.
As we enthusiastically welcome Eric Robbins as our next Federation CEO, let’s not overlook the fine work and commitment of our past CEO, Michael Horowitz. Michael deserves our deep gratitude.
— Gerry Benjamin, Sandy Springs