The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington made a big personnel move to further expand its involvement within the DMV community with the recent hiring of Joel Frankel to become its new senior director of strategic planning and allocations.
The move places Frankel, who spent the last two years serving as CEO at the Jewish Federation of Howard County and over 11 years with various Jewish federations across the country, in a senior leadership position where he will oversee the grant process and work closely with Jewish community groups regarding the allocation of the federation’s funds.
“The most important thing to consider is that we want to be able to lead our community through trust-based philanthropy, to be working with the agencies and synagogues and the recipients of our grants and to be able to trust that they can do the work … we can help them and we can facilitate it,” Frankel said.
Frankel has significant experience working with Jewish communities and community organizations, having worked at the Jewish Federation of St. Louis as a project manager with its operations team. In that position he was able to leverage his skills gained from a degree in finance and Jewish studies from Emory University before moving into fundraising with the organization.
Although he enjoyed that role, Frankel eventually moved to the East Coast to tackle his next professional challenge and landed at the Jewish Federation of Howard County.
“[As CEO of the Jewish Federation of Howard County] I found once again a tremendous amount of joy and meaning and fulfillment and being able to make a significant impact here in our county,” Frankel said.
It was a role Frankel said he enjoyed during his time there, but he and his family were looking for a change when the opportunity to join the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington arose.
“[To] work for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, which is one of those revered, most respected communal organizations, I’m so grateful to have this opportunity. And to be the senior director of strategic planning allocations and have an impact through making grants rather than fundraising is something I’m really excited about,” Frankel said.
Despite the move, Frankel looks back fondly on his time with the Jewish Federation of Howard County and is excited to work with them in the future as the two federation branches look to provide for their local communities.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for [interim CEO] Susan Bauman Stuart and a tremendous amount of appreciation for the work that the Jewish Federation of Howard County does in Howard County and also regionally, and I’m there to assist my former colleagues in any way that I can,” Frankel said.
As he shifts his attention to the Greater Washington community, one of the main focuses that Frankel mentioned with his potential partnerships and grant allocations was the topic of enhancing security in the local area and the over 400,000 Jews that live in the region.
Frankel said that a lot of that focus on security was brought about by the sharp rise in antisemitism that we’ve seen recently. He added that providing that sense of safety and security was a major piece of the new job that he’s looking forward to.
“It’s not just about being safe and the security initiatives that the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington funds and implements. It’s also about feeling safe. And I think those are two things that we really need to focus on,” Frankel said.
He added that although being and feeling safe may sound similar, there’s actually a solid distinction between the two and how the community responds to each one. That’s a big reason why Frankel is looking forward to creating and maintaining good relationships with the local Jewish organizations to address both issues.
“I’m really looking to help build a collaborative experience, and when there’s almost 400,000 Jews here in the greater DMV area, I think that the federation can take the lead on building connections between individuals and between organizations,” Frankel said.
And Frankel said that he feels deeply committed to the work he’s going to be doing to help the local community, and that this commitment is in his blood.
He told a story about his great-grandfather, who is his namesake, who was a community leader and one of the last people in Germany to be imprisoned in a case of blood libel. Frankel said he’s looking to work for the community as his grandfather did and create a better life for the people of this area.
“I think back on everything he did, not just for his community, but for his family, and I’m honored to be able to carry on the tradition with my family, but I also know that there’s hundreds and thousands of other families just like that, who have similar stories, and then pull on the other different kinds of Jewish family members as well. From those who are interfaith families, from those who have converted, all of those families matter. And I want to do justice and build a Jewish community not just for my family, but for all families,” Frankel said.