By Stacey Dresner
WESTERN MASS. – After seven years as executive director of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, Meredith Dragon is leaving to become chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester.
Dragon announced that she was leaving Western Mass. at a Federation board meeting three weeks ago.
Dragon will begin her new job in April. She will succeed executive director Larry Fine, who is retiring after 27 years in that position.
The Jewish Federation of Rochester, with a $4.4 million annual campaign, is a larger intermediate federation than Western Mass., whose annual campaign is at $1.3 million.
“It was a fabulous opportunity,” Dragon said. “I am excited and humbled and scared all at the same time. I feel like it is such a great opportunity and that at least I am leaving the Federation here in a great position to move forward.”
Two leaders of the local Jewish community lauded Dragon’s ascent up the Federation world’s corporate ladder.
“I think that many people have been aware that she is what some people at JFNA – Jewish Federations of North America – call a ‘rising star’ in the Federation community,” said Susan Goldman, president of the Jewish Federation of Western Mass. “So I think people are not totally shocked…Certainly for me, I have mixed emotions. She is moving on to a wonderful position. In the Federation world she is moving on to a larger intermediate Federation, a larger campaign, a bigger agency. In her career trajectory it is a wonderful opportunity for her.”
“Rochester, being a large intermediate community, is a big step up and a great opportunity for Meredith and her family, with a larger Jewish community, a $4 million annual campaign and large staff,” said Susan Weiss Firestone, past president of the Jewish Federation. “There are very few women in the CEO position at the large and large intermediate federations. So as we are sad to see Meredith and her family leave our community, we are happy for her to be able to advance her career in Rochester.”
Dragon arrived in Springfield in March of 2009 to take over the position of executive director from Harold Berman, who left to make aliyah. She had previously served for 14 years as the assistant director at the Jacksonville Jewish Federation in Jacksonville, Fla.
As campaign chair, then major gifts chair and now president of the Federation, Goldman has worked closely for the past six years with Dragon, whom she called “a great communicator.”
“She is a wonderful partner and she has a really coherent and visionary sense of things,” Goldman said. “She has been a wonderful ‘connector’ of our various communities, which is what Jewish Federation really is – Northampton, Amherst, Greater Springfield and Longmeadow. I think she has made many steps in outreach to our upper valley. She was the person who created the link between World ORT and Heritage Academy. She was the initiator in developing the demographic study, which we are going to be doing next spring. And I think her great talent is having great vision for what our community needs to think about for the future in light of the changing demographics in the entire Jewish community. Meredith has a pulse on that.”
“Meredith brought many strengths and skills to our community,” Firestone said. “Her intelligence, engaging manner, strategic thinking and commitment to Jewish life served her and our community well. She was able bring the whole community together to cooperate on fundraising, the community mission, the concept of the community study, and Try a Synagogue.”
“Meredith has been a terrific colleague and a good friend and I will miss her,” said Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz of Temple Beth El in Springfield. “I have enjoyed working with Meredith over these past few years,” said Howard Borer, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass. “It was during her time that the young emissary program was reintroduced into the Western Massachusetts community, and I know she was instrumental in reviving that program. Meredith was a trusted colleague who I enjoyed working with.”
Goldman said that the Federation’s executive committee is in a “coherent process of introspection to figure out what is going to be the best thing for the Federation and the Endowment.”
“Amy Nee, our campaign strategic director resigned and moved on in early January, so we’ve been in the midst of strategizing about Federation and the future of the community,” Goldman explained. “Since Meredith announced she was leaving, our executive committee has been meeting regularly to really think seriously about our next steps. But we don’t have anything definitive yet.”