Marcus JCC Seeks New CEO

Marcus JCC Seeks New CEO

By Michael Jacobs /

Douglas Kuniansky, now the interim CEO of the Marcus Jewish Community Center, and former CEO Gail Luxenberg pose at the JCC's annual meeting in March.
Douglas Kuniansky, now the interim CEO of the Marcus Jewish Community Center, and former CEO Gail Luxenberg pose at the JCC’s annual meeting in March.

Former Marcus Jewish Community Center President Sheri Gumer will lead the search for the center’s next chief executive after Gail Luxenberg submitted her resignation as CEO during the last week of July.

“My work with the agency has been very rewarding,” Luxenberg said in an announcement from the Marcus JCC on Wednesday, Aug. 5. “I am immensely proud of my achievements during the past three years, and I have enjoyed every minute of my work at the MJCCA.”

Her final day on the job was Tuesday, Aug. 11, before some long-planned vacation time, Marcus JCC board Chairman Douglas Kuniansky said.

Kuniansky became the acting CEO of the center Aug. 12 and said he plans to be at the center in Dunwoody every day to work with “a really strong senior management team who will operate just like they have been operating under Gail.”

He also has the support of an 18-member board of directors that was reorganized in March and includes Vice Chairman Joel Arogeti, Treasurer Ron Brill and Secretary Howard Hyman. Hyman served as interim CEO of the center for more than a year between the resignation of Michael Wise in August 2010 and Luxenberg’s hiring after a national search in November 2011.

Kuniansky said he is pushing for fast action from the new search committee under Gumer, whose three-year term as the JCC president ended in March 2010. The committee likely will use a national search firm, as did the search that found Luxenberg, who was hired after a search committee rejected six other recommended candidates.

Luxenberg left a job as the executive director of Jewish Vocational Service in Chicago in part, she said at the time, because her parents and three sisters lived in Atlanta. A similar motive is taking her away from the Marcus JCC: She’s moving to Seattle in October to be near loved ones, Kuniansky said.

“During her tenure, the Marcus Jewish Community Center really flourished, it truly did,” he said. “All expectation is it will continue to do so.”

He said successes under Luxenberg have included the $7 million capital campaign that ended last year and led to the new Kuniansky Family Center and other facility improvements, record preschool and camp enrollment, all-time-high participation in most programs, and the development of the special needs and inclusion programs.

Kuniansky also praised her leadership through the difficult decision to close the Weinstein Center for Adult Day Services.

“It’s a challenging job to be a CEO of a JCC,” Kuniansky said, adding that the search committee will look for someone with a lot of the same qualities and skills as Luxenberg. “It takes a well-rounded individual to be CEO of such a large nonprofit organization serving so many constituencies and impacting so many in the community.”

Luxenberg brought fiscal sustainability and the best financial health the Marcus JCC has seen in decades, Kuniansky said. That financial health enabled the center to switch in March from a two-board system — a governance board for financial oversight and an advisory board for programming — to a single board of directors.

Now the center would like to achieve some leadership stability. Harry Stern served 15 years as the CEO before he resigned in 2006. But Wise served less than 3½ years from April 2007 to August 2010, and Luxenberg’s tenure was only four months longer than Wise’s.

Kuniansky said it would be better to hire a CEO who could stay seven to 10 years, but the JCC leadership doesn’t have a crystal ball. Luxenberg’s departure, he said, was “unexpected but not a complete surprise.”

“We are grateful for Gail’s leadership over the past three years,” he said. “I have the utmost confidence that our board of directors, along with our senior management, will ensure that the community continues to receive the first-rate programs and services that you have come to expect.”

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