September 18, 2019

Jewish Federation executive, Jonathan Jacoby, moves to New Israel Fund

After nearly four years as a senior vice president at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Jonathan Jacoby — who helped oversee major changes in the organization’s program planning — will rejoin the New Israel Fund (NIF) decades after serving as one of its founding members.

Jacoby will be NIF’s director of operations in Southern California, a region in which CEO Daniel Sokatch hopes the group will become a major presence. NIF is one of the largest U.S. organizations working to advance democratic and liberal values in Israeli society. According to its most recently published financial statements, the group spent about $33 million in 2012, mostly in grants to Israeli nonprofits.

Jacoby first worked for NIF in the late 1970s and early 1980s as its founding director — he was based in the San Francisco Bay Area. A longtime Jewish social services professional and advocate for increased research of rare medical diseases, Jacoby said one of his main goals with NIF will be to help young American Jews — who trend liberal — feel a connection to Israeli society.

Sokatch said that Jacoby, as someone who “helped build this field,” will strengthen the “progressive pro-Israel camp” in creating a “social justice-based civil society in Israel.”

“The party line that often comes out of the American-Jewish community about the ways that you can support Israel are no longer sufficient to justify a deep connection” for young American Jews, Sokatch said.

At Federation, Jacoby helped build the ongoing “Ensuring the Jewish Future” and the “NuRoots Community Fellows” programs, which together aim to educate and engage Jewish youth and young adults in community life. 

Federation CEO Jay Sanderson said that he long knew Jacoby intended to return to the field of Israel-focused nonprofits where he could serve in a position “relative to his strongly held political beliefs.” In his few years at Federation, Sanderson added, Jacoby “accomplished a great deal.” 

The organization is not searching for a replacement. 

Prior to his role at Federation, Jacoby also was a founding member of the Israel Policy Forum, a liberal organization that advocates for a diplomatic resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“This is a critical time in Israel’s history and in the relationship of Jews in the United States to Israel,” Jacoby said. “That is my greatest passion.”

Jacoby, whose first day with the NIF was Sept. 2, is following in the footsteps of a number of current NIF leaders who were previously Jewish Federation professionals. Sokatch was executive director of Federation’s Bay Area office for 14 months before joining NIF. Board President Brian Lurie also served as the Bay Area director for 17 years, and board member Jeffrey Solomon was previously the COO of UJA-Federation of New York.