Bet Tzedek president to resign

Bet Tzedek President and CEO Sandor Samuels has tendered his resignation, effective as soon as a successor is identified. In an April 14 press release provided to the Journal by the public interest law firm, Samuels said it is time for him to move on to the next stage in his life. 

“When I assumed my current position, I saw the opportunity to combine my passion for Bet Tzedek’s mission with my legal vocation. After leading the organization through these last three and a half years … I have accomplished much of what I had set out to do, and it is now the proper time for me to pursue other passions and interests. I am proud of my accomplishments during my tenure at Bet Tzedek,” Samuels wrote. 

His remarks appeared in a letter addressed to “colleagues and friends” that was included in the Bet Tzedek press release.

Samuels said that he is not sure what his next move will be. 

“Once a successor is chosen and my tenure at Bet Tzedek ends, I plan to take a little time off, have my other knee replacement surgery, and then see what the next chapter will bring,” the community leader and former financial industry legal expert said.

His involvement with Bet Tzedek, which provides free legal services to the disadvantaged, dates back to 1994. He had served as board member for about 15 years — including two years as board chair — prior to being hired as the CEO in 2010.

Known to his friends as Sandy, Samuels, who is in his early 60s, took the top job at Bet Tzedek following several years of consecutive fundraising growth at the organization. He had hoped to continue that streak while expanding the organization’s programming, as reported in a 2010 Jewish Journal article. 

Indeed, his time as president and CEO of Bet Tzedek bore much fruit, according to Robert Schwartz, chair of the organization’s board of directors. Samuels’ accomplishments included, according to Schwartz, fundraising “record amounts.” He spearheaded the 2012 relocation of Bet Tzedek’s offices from the Fairfax District to Koreatown and  oversaw the launch of its New Leadership Council, a young professionals cohort of the agency.

But his tenure was not without conflict. Twice, in 2011 and in 2013, tension-filled contract negotiations with unionized non-managerial employees erupted in picketing. The second picket addressed health care premiums. 

Schwartz said Samuels would be missed. 

“There are few people who hold Bet Tzedek and its best interests closer to heart than Sandy, so his decision to step down upon the selection of his successor no doubt came only after much thoughtful reflection and deliberation,” Schwartz said. 

The organization’s governance committee plans to conduct a search for a new leader, a process that will include releasing a “job description for the position and contact information for interested candidates,” according to the press release.

Prior to being tapped to head Bet Tzedek, Samuels was a senior executive and chief legal officer at Countrywide Financial Corp. and then moved over to Bank of America when it acquired Countrywide.