By Stacey Dresner
SPRINGFIELD – Bob Marmor has always been interested in helping others.
“I have always been interested in social justice and improving the quality of life for people and in making the world a better place.”
That has been Marmor’s main goal as president and CEO of Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts for the past 14 years. Now Marmor will make use of his passion for social justice at another organization – in June he will step down as head of JFS to become chief strategic officer at the new Washington, D.C. office of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). HIAS will be moving their programs and administration offices to Silver Spring, MD this summer. Their Manhattan office will continue to handle fund development and Jewish engagement. Marmor’s focus will be working on the American resettlement program and interface with the Canadian Jewish Family Services.
“[Social justice] has always been important to me as both an American and as a Jew,” Marmor said. “By being able to go to HIAS and work for the global Jewish refugee agency, it just embodies my belief in Jewish values and my pride in being an American. HIAS really stands for justice and liberty for all and as a Jew and as an American, it’s just what makes me tick.”
Mamor has worked with HIAS since he started at JFS and helped to grow the agency’s active resettlement program. Moving to HIAS is kind of a natural progression for him.
“I think it is all about timing…HIAS is moving and the opportunity came up and it is just a good timing for me personally,” Marmor said. “I feel professionally it is a nice opportunity to work globally.”
A community farewell to Marmor will be held on Thursday, June 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the Springfield JCC.
“Bob took an agency 14 years ago that was small and helping less than 1,000 people a year, and turned it into an agency that is now helping several thousand people a year,” said Joe Dorison, who was president of JFS when Marmor arrived. “The staff looks up to him, and every single person on the staff is more talented than the next. The value of repairing the world has always been important to him, and in fact, he has done that. He is a real visionary.”
A beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of Western Mass. guided by Jewish values, JFS offers counseling services, elder care and guardianship, a comprehensive refugee resettlement program and workshops and educational programs for individuals and families seeking a Jewish connection.
Despite its long tradition of service, when Marmor arrived at JFS in 2001, he says he had his work cut out for him.
“When I started at JFS, everything from the front awning was falling off,” he recalled. “We had one computer that printed emails and then we put the emails in people’s mailboxes. There were only seven employees.”
Today, JFS has 42 employees, and the agency’s budget, which was around $450,000 in 2001, is now $3 million.
“With the help of a really dynamic and talented board of directors, we’ve rebuilt JFS as far as program delivery, services, our image, and in our standing in both the Jewish and general community,” Marmor said.
When Marmor began his tenure at JFS, its name was JFS of Greater Springfield. “We changed that to JFS of Western Massachusets and we really have a presence in all four counties, including a partnership with the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires for services in Berkshire County.”
“We are grateful for Bob’s years of devoted compassionate leadership,” said Board Chair Daniel Plotkin in an email to the community. “While we will be sad to see Bob move on, we are happy for him as he starts in his new position…”
While in Western Mass., Marmor has been an active member of the Jewish community. He was honored by Israel Bonds. He has been a member of Congregation B’nai Israel in Northampton and was a founding board member of Lander-Grinspoon Academy (LGA) the Solomon Schechter School of the Pioneer Valley. Both of his children, Rebecca and Jacob, both now in college, are graduates of LGA.
“This was a very difficult decision,” Marmor said. “I really enjoy and love my job and really enjoy working in the community with my colleagues and the Board and I will miss it all.”