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Joanna Samuels Named the Next Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan CEO


The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan announced on September 13, Rabbi Joanna Samuels will serve as the next CEO. Samules succeeds Rabbi Joy Levitt who is retiring at the end of December 2021 after nearly 25 years of leadership at the JCC, including 14 as CEO.

The announcement was in a letter from Jeff Feig, the chair, board of directors, where he wrote Samuels’ professional credentials speak for themselves, but her selection goes beyond her bio. “She is dedicated to Jewish communal life and has a broad vision of how to continue to build and strengthen our community on the Upper West Side and in Manhattan,” wrote Feig. “She understands why living our values is the most important work we can be doing right now.”

Samuels is the founding executive director of the Manny Cantor Center, a part of Educational Alliance and a new model of a JCC and settlement house. Before joining the Cantor Center, she served as the rabbi of Congregation Habonim in New York.

A nationally respected spiritual leader and social activist, Samuels has worked as an advocate, strategist, and mentor for women’s advancement and gender equity in the Jewish community at Advancing Women Professionals. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received her rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she was a Wexner fellow; she was also the first female rabbi honored by the Drisha Institute.

“As we celebrate this news, we applaud the incredible leadership from which the JCC has benefited under Rabbi Joy Levitt,” wrote Feig. “During her tenure, we have grown into one of the largest JCCs in the country. Highlights of Joy’s time at the JCC include imagining and opening our 14-story, state-of-the-art building; overseeing the creation of groundbreaking programs such as Jewish Journeys, Adaptations, the Parkinson’s Wellness Program, and the ReelAbilities and Other Israel Film Festivals; as well as launching ten Centers of Excellence, JCC Harlem and Camp Settoga. She’s also shepherded the JCC throughout the pandemic, responding to critical needs in the community and successfully pivoting JCC programming and events online in record numbers.”

Feid said in the letter they are exceptionally fortunate to be going from strength to strength. He thanked their board chair Emerita Sheryl Kaye and the entire search committee for their hard work and dedication. The JCC is looking forward to all that is to come and are grateful for the support of the JCC Board, staff and community.

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor of Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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