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Ariel Zwang Named First Woman CEO at JDC

Erin is the Digital Content Manager at the Jewish Journal. She also covers Jewish art, entertainment and culture.

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Erin Ben-Moche
Erin is the Digital Content Manager at the Jewish Journal. She also covers Jewish art, entertainment and culture.

Ariel Zwang has been named the newest CEO at The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Announced Oct. 18, Zwang will be the first woman to hold this position for the Jewish humanitarian organization.

Zwang brings along 25 years of experience and was the CEO of Safe Horizon, one of America’s leading social service agencies; executive director of New York Cares, New York City’s largest volunteering organization and a White House Fellow in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

She starts her work with JDC on Jan. 2. Zwang was unanimously nominated by JDC’s search and executive committees.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Ariel Zwang as JDC’s next CEO. We know her dynamic skillset and lifelong dedication to improving lives and building Jewish life, at the heart of JDC’s mission, will be critical to her success in leading an organization that’s played a key role in the history of the Jewish people for more than a century,” JDC President Mark Sisisky and interim CEO Darrell Friedman said in a joint statement to the Journal. “Our world faces unprecedented challenges and JDC’s support of Jews, Jewish communities, Israelis, and others in dire need is more critical than ever before. Ariel’s outstanding talents and values-driven leadership will strengthen our ability to achieve this goal and move us forward into another century of service as the 9-1-1 of the Jewish world.”

For more than 100 years the Jewish organization has aimed to provide aid to Jews in need and form strong Jewish connections in 70 countries.

During her 12 years at Safe Horizon, Zwang transformed the organization and doubled the size, and enhanced the financial, operational, programmatic and strategic health of the organization while developing strong relationships with philanthropic leaders and government officials. She also raised millions in funding from individuals, foundations, corporations and governments.

“I’ve spent my career working on behalf of those who don’t have all the basics that every human being deserves. And I have also lived my life knowing that that we Jews are all responsible for each other, no matter the circumstances. So it is a tremendous privilege to join JDC, which has saved countless lives over the past century and more, and unite my professional and personal passions,” Zwang said in a statement. “Building the future of the global Jewish people, support for those in economic distress, including the elderly and Holocaust survivors, and working with Israel to provide opportunity for its vulnerable – is profoundly meaningful to me. JDC performs these miracles every day, and I am eager to work with its Board, staff, funders and partners to continue this work and position JDC for another 100 years of strength and impact.”

“I’ve spent my career working on behalf of those who don’t have all the basics that every human being deserves. And I have also lived my life knowing that that we Jews are all responsible for each other, no matter the circumstances.” — Ariel Zwang

Zwang also holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard College, an MBA from Harvard Business School, and resides in Manhattan with her husband, Gordon Mehler, and their daughters.

“Ariel is a rare leader whose integrity, dedication to mission, and sense of purpose will benefit JDC as it continues its impactful work around the world,” Hadassah CEODr. Janice Weinman said. “As someone who leads an international Jewish organization, I know she offers that combination of strength, heart, vision, and insightfulness needed to guide JDC, unify people behind its work, and undoubtedly propel it to new heights.”

The Jerusalem Post reported that Zwang’s announcement comes following months of tension in the JDC during the search.

“Some alleg[ed] that Sisisky and the executive board allegedly interfered in the selection process,” according to the Post. “Indeed, the process was marred by delays, a lack of transparency and a change in the selection process, as well as complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”

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