Jacobs Out As St. Paul Federation CEO

St. Paul Jewish Federation said that it “has accepted the resignation” of CEO Rob Jacobs, effective Dec. 31. Jacobs started in the role July 2017, replacing Eli Skora who retired after 17 years in charge.

“Rob has helped make significant progress on a number of very important issues in our community,” said Mark Adelman, president of the St. Paul Jewish Federation. “We are grateful for his many valuable contributions.”

Jacobs’ departure was preceded by two anonymous letters sent to TC Jewfolk, one in August, the other in mid-November. The first letter — sent to Adelman in which TC Jewfolk’s editor, executive director, and another Twin Cities journalist were carbon copied — indicated that in the decade prior to Jacobs’ arrival, the Federation was “not transparent with donors and volunteers.” Jacobs had a Transparency section added to the Federation website that had links to the organization’s financial audits, tax filings, and board minutes.

The November mailing was a copy of minutes from the Sept. 26 Federation board meeting, which included a highlighted section that stated they were waiting to hear if Jewish Federations of North America would write off $3 million of St. Paul Jewish Federation debt.

Adelman did not return calls seeking further comment. When reached, Jacobs referred to the statement that Federation released.

Jacobs came to the organization from Seattle where he lived and work for nearly 20 years in both the private sector and in the Jewish community as regional director with StandWithUs and the Anti-Defamation League.

Shortly after Jacobs started, he talked about the challenge of settling into the Twin Cities.

“It’s been an interesting and to a degree a difficult transition for my family,” he said. “I’m moving to a job that keeps me occupied more than full time, but my wife left her job, we left our friends and community there.

“But what attracted me was the challenge here. St. Paul is not unique among communities around the country — unless you’re in one of the largest cities in the country — where the Jewish community is decreasing in size. If we do it right, and Federation looks at a new approach to being Federation and the role it plays, I think that can make a big difference too if our communities increase and stay cohesive, or decrease.”

In that interview, Jacobs said that he thought the Federation model needs to change for the organization to remain not only relevant but in existence.

“If Federation tries to stay with a ‘Jewish United Way model,’ I think it’s going to disappear. It definitely needs to change,” he said. “My model is a convener, but also a facilitator. What can we do to help the existing organizations, but also new, potential organizations that will be the Jewish organizations of the next century get started and get supported and get trained and get on their feet? I think that’s the Federation model for the future: How do we judge ourselves by the success of the community as a whole. Not by the size of our individual campaign, but perhaps by, as one metric, the aggregate of all campaigns. How many people are really involved? If that number’s going up, then we’re succeeding.”