Column: Detroit businessman Michael Horowitz to lead Atlanta’s Jewish Federation

By Maria Saporta
Friday, Sept. 9, 2011

The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has named Detroit businessman and philanthropist Michael Horowitz as its new president and CEO.

The federation, Atlanta’s premier Jewish fundraising organization, approved Horowitz as its new leader at its board meeting Wednesday, Sept. 7. He will begin his new post Oct. 17.

Horowitz held several leadership roles in Detroit’s Jewish community. He chaired the board of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, served on its executive community and founded the Israel and Overseas Committee as some of his roles.

Several years ago, Horowitz sold his primary company, but he continues to be a principal of Tricap Holdings, a real estate investment and development firm. The sale permitted Horowitz to spend up to 70 percent of his time on philanthropic causes, and he got to know several national federation leaders.

That’s how Horowitz heard about the position in Atlanta, and he was intrigued. His two youngest children attended Emory University, and he’s visited Atlanta numerous times in the last decade. His youngest son actually decided to live in Atlanta.

But leaving Detroit, his hometown, was a major move.

“I never saw myself leaving Detroit or becoming a federation executive,” Horowitz said. “While this is a big lifestyle change for my wife and I, I feel strongly that I can help Atlanta accomplish its goals.”

Robert Arogeti, chairman of Atlanta’s Jewish federation and a partner with the Habif, Arogeti & Wynne LLP accounting firm, said Horowitz impressed the search committee and the board with his experience and leadership style.

“Michael’s experiences in Detroit and his inspirational attitude toward life will be beneficial to the federation in Atlanta,” Arogeti said.

The comparisons between Detroit and Atlanta are inevitable. Detroit’s Jewish community numbers about 67,000 while Atlanta’s is nearly double that with 120,000.

“Detroit has historically had a strong federation community,” Horowitz said, adding that it ranks as the 23rd-largest Jewish community in the country, but the fourth most generous after New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Part of Horowitz’s challenge will be to help stimulate a closer-knit Jewish community in Atlanta, which has a younger population and is more spread out geographically.

“The federation is not about money,” Horowitz said. “It’s about building community and meeting the needs of the community. I’m very interested in building a strong community where agencies and partners work together.”

Steve Rakitt, who served as president of the Atlanta federation for 10 years, left in January to become president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Elliott Arnovitz, the past board chair, stepped in as interim CEO of the 105-year-old nonprofit while the federation conducted an extensive nationwide search.

Patton on the move at Edelman

Atlanta’s Claudia Patton has been appointed chief talent officer at the New York-based public relations firm of Edelman Worldwide. She now will report directly to Richard Edelman, president and CEO of the firm, and she will sit on the firm’s 14-member executive committee.

But Patton, who has more than 30 years of experience in public relations, will continue to be based in Atlanta. Most recently, she was president of Edelman in the Southeast.

In her new role, Patton will work closely with the firm’s leaders to improve employee global mobility, training and development, performance management, senior recruitment and career path development.

“Claudia has a deep passion for our people and business and is a proven, results-driven executive, making her ideally suited for the role of chief talent officer,” Richard Edelman said in a statement.

Edelman is the world’s largest public relations firm with offices in 54 cities and 4,000 employees worldwide. Patton assumes her new post at a time when the firm is experiencing robust growth — worldwide revenues up 18 percent in fiscal year 2011 and with the addition of 500 new positions in the last 12 months.

Meanwhile, Steven Behn has been named general manager of Edelman Atlanta. Behm joined Edelman five years ago to build the Southeast crisis, risk and public affairs practice. He will report to Matthew Harrington, CEO of Edelman U.S.

Rocker to lead Girls Inc

Heather Rocker, who has served as executive director of Women in Technology, has been named CEO of Girls Incorporated of Greater Atlanta.

Rocker was the first executive director of Women in Technology, and led volunteers in raising funds for the organization’s programs while recruiting and managing more than 50 Atlanta-based corporate partners. Under her leadership, WIT tripled its fundraising goals.

WIT will be conducting a search for Rocker’s successor. In the meantime, Sandra Hoffman, who has been president of the organization, will serve as the interim executive director.

Four join Literacy board

Literacy Action, an organization that strives to end illiteracy among adults, has named four new members to its board. They are Candy Berman, president of Candy Berman & Associates; Althea Broughton, a partner at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP; Daan De Groodt, a principal at Deloitte Consulting; and Donna Krache, executive producer for CNN Student News.

Literacy Action was founded in 1968 and provides free classroom instruction and job-readiness services for adults with low-literacy skills.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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