Loren Basch departs as CEO of East Bay federation

Loren Basch, the CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay, has left his post. Rabbi James Brandt, executive director of the federation’s Center for Jewish Living and Learning for nearly three years, was named acting CEO.

A brief statement released by the federation Dec. 17 offered no explanation for Basch’s departure. However, Basch spoke to j. about his five years at the Oakland-based federation.

“This is a job that has six or seven different components to it,” Basch said, “and none of us is ever going to be all seven of those. There’s only so much one person can do before it starts to get redundant.”

Basch said he is satisfied with his tenure and believes the ground has been laid for new leadership.

“I’m a great believer in the East Bay Jewish community,” he said. “In the last five years we’ve made even more progress, and notwithstanding these times, I’m very optimistic about the thresholds the East Bay is on. We’re moving on to open up Contra Costa and Tri-Valleys, strengthen CJLL and Jewish education, and introduce classical business and professions fundraising, which has been the backbone of the federations. My job was to come here and create a solid platform for the next generation.”

Current federation board member and former president Jerry Yanowitz praised the outgoing CEO. “Loren made many significant accomplishments in his five years,” he said. “He really focused on fundraising, on building our capacity to move forward and an incredible commitment to Jewish education.”

Yanowitz was not surprised by the swiftness of Basch’s departure. “In the business world,” he said, “once people decide there’s a change that ought to take place, then changes are made quickly regardless of the awkwardness of the situation. It appears abrupt, but there was a process that led up to it.”

Board president Rob Ruby was not available to speak with j.

Lisa Tabak, who serves as executive director of the federation’s Jewish Community Foundation, was on vacation in Israel when she heard of Basch’s departure. “It’s fair to say I’m shocked,” she said, “and I’m a little taken aback by the suddenness.”

She went on to praise Basch as “an incredibly dedicated, compassionate visionary CEO. He put what I felt was heart and soul and everything he had for the last five years into this Jewish community.”

What this means for the federation’s short-term functioning is not clear, though officials said programming, services and fundraising will go on as usual.

“There is no problem with continuity,” Yanowitz said. “Loren put together a really good staff, really strong people. Under the combination of professional leadership and volunteer leadership, the staff will function very well.”

Tabak thinks Brandt is a good pick as acting CEO, saying he “gets federation.”

“All the staff loves him. He’s definitely the right person for this interim [job].” Brandt has been the CJLL director since early 2006, and before that he was the rabbi at Congregation Beth Sholom in Napa.

Prior to joining the East Bay federation in September 2003, Basch served as a Los Angeles-based consultant for nonprofit groups. He is a former campaign director of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, and served as associate director and campaign director of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. He also worked for the Jewish National Fund in San Francisco.

Despite the progress he feels the federation has made during his tenure, Basch also believes new leadership will have to make changes to ensure the organization survives in a tenuous economy.

“The federation really needs to go through a rethinking, reorganization and belt tightening,” said Basch. “It’s time for a new team to begin to take off, and the best way for that is with new leaders and new directions. It’s a very challenging world, and we’re all so to speak working our way to Jerusalem.”

Tabak, for one, said she would miss Basch. “I have nothing but the greatest respect for Loren and the time he spent at the federation,” she said. “He’s a big teacher and he taught me a lot. He brought us from a moribund place and we’re on the map now.”

What’s next for Basch?

“I feel I’ve got some more passages and big challenges in me, and I’ll be OK. I believe in our community.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.