Businessman Danny Grossman, a San Francisco native who once served as a U.S. diplomat in the Soviet Union, has been named the new CEO of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.
Grossman, who is slated to start on May 5, will take over the job from Jim Offel, who has served as interim CEO since March 31, 2014, when Jennifer Gorovitz stepped down after four years.
Grossman, 57, has been a federation lay leader for 20 years, having served in a variety of capacities. He sat on the endowment and leadership development committees, ran the annual campaign and, most recently, served as a federation board and executive committee member.
“The federation system has experienced a lot of change [due] to the externalities we face,” Grossman said. “My hope is to accelerate the pace of change, and be that organization that looks to convene, coordinate and fund great ideas.”
Tom Kasten, federation board chair, said Grossman was chosen after a national search, citing him as the person “whom we believe to be best equipped to lead the federation with excellence, and to continue its crucial legacy as we meet the changing needs of our Jewish community and of the philanthropic sector.”
Currently Grossman is the CEO of Slow Food for Fast Lives, a savory snack bar company he co-founded, but he is in the process of entrusting the operation to others. He also founded Wild Planet toys and served as its CEO before selling the company several years ago.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Grossman is the youngest of four children of a Russian Jewish immigrant father who went on to become chief of pediatrics at San Francisco General Hospital and a mother who was a pediatric nurse.
After graduating from Yale University, he lived in Israel for a time before joining the U.S. Foreign Service. His first posting was India, and in 1985 he was assigned to the consulate in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg). There he met frequently with Soviet Jews and attended the trials of dissidents. It was a difficult assignment, as his friends were interrogated and, in some cases, beaten, and eventually he was accused of spying and expelled from the country.
He then earned an MBA from Stanford University in 1991 and set off on a business career, founding Wild Planet in 1993.
Additionally, Grossman has volunteered countless hours with various organizations, including the Jewish Community Relations Council, Brandeis Hillel Day School, Stand for Children, and the Rosenberg Foundation. He is married to Linda Gerard, and they live in San Francisco and have two sons, Noah and Jonah.
Grossman believes his varied resume will serve him well at the federation.
“Any time you look at a mission as broad and far-reaching as ours, it requires leadership and a multifaceted skill set,” he said. “I’m interested in federation because of its broad mission and its responsibility for supporting the broadest interests of the Jewish community, here and globally.”