Column: Eric Robbins reinventing Jewish Federation of Greater AtlantaEric Robbins, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta
By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Feb. 17, 2017
After nine months at the helm of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Eric Robbins is beginning to broaden the scope of the philanthropic organization.
Robbins, president and CEO of the federation, has hired the nonprofit’s first-ever chief impact officer — Jodi Lox Mansbach, an urban planner who will provide executive leadership and strategic vision for the federation internally and externally, working with the organization’s affiliates and partners.
“We are totally committed to what we’ve always done,” Robbins said of its role running an annual fundraising campaign so that it can support social and human services in metro Atlanta and Israel.
“We also need to reinvent ourselves to a changing world. Many Jews are not engaging with Jewish entities,” said Robbins, who is hoping to attract millennials to becoming more involved. “I’m determined to create an ecosystem that allows the Jewish community to flourish.”
Mansbach, who will join the federation on Feb. 22, already put together an effort that launched on Feb. 15 at Café 640 in the heart of the West End neighborhood. It was the federation’s first Creative Placemaking Think Tank to discuss the future of Jewish community spaces including a potential project in West End.
Leaders in urban planning, urban agriculture and social justice are participating in the Creative Placemaking dialog, including Ryan Gravel, the originator of the Atlanta Beltline; Caleb Racicot of TSW design; and Mordy Walfish of Repair the World.
“I’m looking forward to using some of my skills as an urban planner for the Jewish Federation,” said Mansbach, who has most recently been working with the Atlanta City Studio, a pop-up urban design center located at Ponce City Market. She also served as a vice president of Jamestown, the developer of Ponce City Market.
“Jodi Mansbach brings tremendous depth of understanding of the trends and challenges facing the nonprofit world,” Robbins said. “She is a visionary who gets things done.”
New leaders at Jewish & Family Services
Jewish Family & Career Services has deepened its bench by adding two top managers to its professional leadership.
Jeff Holland became the nonprofit’s chief financial officer in October, and Lesli Greenberg became its new chief development officer at the end of January.
Holland spent the first eight years of his career in corporate positions, including financial manager with Ingersoll-Rand, general manager with Cintas and financial accounting leader with Owens Corning. He then became COO and CFO for Lott Industries Inc. of Toledo, Ohio, where he spent almost 10 years.
“Jeff’s rich experience in the disabilities field, coupled with his financial and business acumen, are the perfect combination of skills for the CFO position,” said Rick Aranson, the organization’s CEO. “He is committed to fiscal transparency, accountability and, most important, to the JF&CS mission of providing hope and opportunity to our clients.”
Greenberg has spent the majority of her career working in the nonprofit sector in direct services, development and management. For the past five years, she has served as the development director for the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.
Greenberg also founded Giving Tree, a nonprofit child placement agency specializing in developing adoptive homes for children in foster care and providing a comprehensive adoption support program for families of special needs children. She later joined Kool Smiles, a national dental company with 139 offices, as director of community services.
Lastly, Jill Cohen has been promoted to director of development. Cohen joined JF&CS’s development team in January 2002 after volunteering with the agency for several years. In 2004, she assumed leadership for the annual campaign as associate director. When she took over the campaign, it raised just under $300,000. The 2016 campaign surpassed its goal and raised more than $1.4 million.
Gwinnett and MARTA
When Brad Currey was CEO of Norcross, Ga.-based Rock-Tenn Co. (now WestRock Co.) from 1989 to 1999, he tried on two separate occasions to get Gwinnett County to approve MARTA. But both efforts failed.
“It was pure racism,” Currey said. “And now they have got the most polyglot population in the state of Georgia. They still ought to have MARTA.”
On Feb. 9, WestRock announced it would be leaving its home base in Norcross and moving to Sandy Springs, where it will be close to MARTA.
Currey, who stays in close touch with WestRock executives, said the company decided to move because it needed to expand. But most importantly it wanted direct access to transit so it could better connected to the region.
Gwinnett’s reluctance to accept MARTA “cost them WestRock’s headquarters,” Currey said. “We still need MARTA coming out to Gwinnett County.”