Jennifer S. Gorovitz is the chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Federation, which will be celebrating FedFest today at UC San Francisco Mission Bay Conference Center, 1675 Owens St., from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The 100-year celebration is a thank you for supporting the JCF and the community as a whole.
What is the day really about?
We are dubbing the day as an opportunity to meet people where they are with the kinds of experiences they would like to have on the day. So it’s an entire day filled with learning, arts, culture, politics, entertainment. There will also be two important awards given. One to Dan Meridor, Israel’s deputy prime minister, for his extremely important work on the behalf of the Jewish people in Israel and their connection to the Jewish people abroad. Second, to former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz for the incredible work he did in rescuing more than a million Soviet Jews, and enabling them the freedom to go either to Israel or to the United States.
What emotions are you feeling with the centennial?
I am ecstatic because after 100 years, we are a strong organization. We have been through community turmoil, periods where the organization hasn’t had professional leadership and a deep recession, yet here we are standing strong and poised on the cusp of revolutionary change so that we can move the community as a whole forward.
What does your role as CEO involve and how did you come to the position?
I have served increasing roles of responsibility over the course of four or five years. I was appointed chief of staff for the organization as a whole. Six weeks later, when the CEO abruptly left, I was appointed the role the next day. My role is to firstly bring calm to the community during a time of significant turmoil. Secondly, I bring stability to an organization that has had many leadership transitions. And thirdly, I help revolutionize the way this organization moves through the world.
What or who influenced you to get into this field?
The biggest influence on my Jewish volunteerism, and deep commitment and passion, was my mom. She has been a volunteer in the Jewish community since I can remember. She was on the boards of many Jewish organizations in Salt Lake City. I grew up with dinner conversation being about what we do for our community; the way we care for one another; the importance of keeping an eye on the future; the tremendous richness and meaning of Jewish tradition, history and heritage; and new ways of adapting experiences to contemporary life.
How do you think your background in law complements your role?
It’s extremely complementary. I practiced law for more than a decade, I worked at a corporate practice, at big and medium-size law firms, and was a public defender for many years. The work I did representing nonprofits is a perfect fit for the work I do here by overseeing more than 900 donor funds and 50 supporting foundations, which are all about enabling people to accomplish their philanthropic objectives, while at the same time honoring and upholding fairly complex tax laws.
What is the golden rule that you live and work by?
Treat others the way you wish to be treated. Lead by example. For me there is very little in life that cannot be solved when that essential principle is applied.