The Marcus Jewish Community Center spent six months searching nationwide for a new CEO, only to confirm that the right candidate was already at Zaban Park: Jared Powers.
The center’s board announced Wednesday, Feb. 24, that its chief program officer since 2010 will become the chief executive officer Tuesday, March 1.
“After our comprehensive search, the choice was clear. Jared’s track record of financial growth, combined with his leadership and bold vision, make him the ideal person to take the helm as CEO,” former center President Sherie Gumer, who led the nine-member search committee, said in a news release from the center. More than 200 candidates were considered.
“I am so excited to continue to be a part of the JCC in this new role,” said Powers, who began with the center in 2005 as assistant camp and sports director at the Shirley Blumenthal Park campus in East Cobb, which is now Mount Bethel Christian Academy’s high school. He rose to senior program director before becoming part of the senior management team as chief program officer in 2010.
But his ties to the Marcus JCC go back more than 35 years to when his family moved to Sandy Springs from Toronto in 1979. He attended the center’s Ajecomce summer day camp, was a camper and counselor at Camp Barney Medintz, was the president of his BBYO chapter, played in the youth sports leagues, then played in the adult leagues after he graduated with a finance degree from the University of Florida.
“It’s everything,” Powers said of the center. He and his wife and two sons, who went to the Weinstein School for preschool and participate in the Club J after-school program, live nearby in Dunwoody. “We’re at the center literally seven days a week, whether it’s business or personal. It’s a part of our life. We’re part of the community in every sense.”
When he was at Shirley Blumenthal, Powers launched the center’s inclusion program, which he said is his proudest achievement. While he has been the chief program officer, the center has expanded its day camps and its preschools to be the largest such programs of any JCC in the country and has created partnerships with the likes of the Atlanta Hawks, Congregation Dor Tamid and the Standard Club.
“It’s important to use we,” he said. “Nothing is done by one person; nothing going forward will be done by one person.”
She was the third CEO Powers served under, after Harry Stern and Michael Wise, not counting interim CEOs Howard Hyman in 2010 and 2011 and Douglas Kuniansky since August. Both Wise and Luxenberg came from outside the community, and Powers said he sees an advantage to being a longtime metro Atlanta resident and JCC employee.
“Most of the people that are our stakeholders and are our members and are the rest of our community, I have known. To be able to hit the ground running and not take a year or two to get to know the community and get to know the players I think is a big advantage,” he said, adding that he thinks the staff appreciates the lack of an orientation period because he knows all the programs and facilities.
“We want to be the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta and not just of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. Part of the vision moving forward is responsibly expanding our programs and services throughout metro Atlanta,” Powers said.
He said he has a clear vision for where he wants to take the center, but he declined to share that vision and the strategies to achieve it before presenting those plans to the staff. That attitude is part of what he called the main tenet of his vision, kavod (respect). “That’s respect for staff, respect for the community, respect for our lay leaders, and that’s something that’s very important for me.”
He said he has a democratic leadership style that includes encouraging community feedback (reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 678-812-4050). “I believe in collaboration. I believe in idea sharing. I believe in getting the right information to make a decision, and that is process-oriented. And that is how I lead, and that is how I make decisions.”
Kuniansky, the Marcus JCC’s board chairman, said he has seen as acting CEO that Powers is perfect for the position because of “his professional experience in operations, programming and finance, along with his positive relationships with staff and members and his love for the MJCCA.”
Powers brings an M.B.A. from Georgia State and experience as a financial manager, a Buckhead Life restaurant manager and a middle school math teacher to the job, but he cited his passion for the center as key.
“I came back to the J because it was the one thing I’d always been passionate about growing up,” he said. “I could tell right away that I was able to have an impact and that what I did made a difference. I got that feeling 11 years ago, and I knew that this was the agency that I wanted to be in long term, and I think that my passion just became very evident.”