By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — Stanley A. Rabin, the newly elected president of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, said he will never shirk his responsibility to help Jews living in turbulent areas of the globe.
“Personally, I think it is about collective Jewish responsibility,” he said. “We are a Jewish people with a responsibility for one another across the world.”
On Dec. 14, Rabin, 77, was elected the 17th president of the JDC — arguably the world’s leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization.
As president, he shoulders much of the responsibility for actions taken by the organization. He is the critical link in the chain of command between JDC’s CEO and its board — ensuring the CEO is following the wishes of the board.
It’s an unpaid volunteer job that is both stressful and necessary, Rabin said. He can serve up to four years — four one-year terms — in this post.
Born to parents who fled violent riots targeting Jews in Eastern Europe, Rabin is a first-generation American. He said he feels deeply connected to the JDC’s Jewish humanitarian aid program — which stretches across 70 countries.
Predicting next challenge
Daunting but necessary, JDC’s mission is to save lives and overcome challenges facing the Jewish people and Israel, Rabin said.
The question is, who knows where the next challenge will arise?
“It’s hard to predict where the next crisis will come from,” Rabin said. “There are challenges we have to be prepared to face very quickly in areas such as the Soviet Union, Israel, Latin America, the Ukraine and Greece.”
Rabin’s immediate predecessor is previous JDC president Penny Blumenstein, who said Sunday that this job carries an undeniable, momentous responsibility.
“A lot of people say ‘the buck stops here,’ but with the JDC president it really does,” she said.
Rabin has a very distinct vision about how the JDC should be led and is the best possible person to replace Blumenstein as president, she said.
“I feel that Stan has an enormous amount of experience in all aspects of this job and I am so thrilled he is going to take it,” she said. “He has the ability to look at matters from a broad perspective. He is not unfamiliar with any aspect of what we do. … He knows all about being a volunteer president with such an enormous amount of responsibility.”
Working with JDC funds
Blumenstein said Rabin will work closely with Alan H. Gill, chief executive officer of the JDC, on a daily basis and is responsible for making sure JDC funds are being used wisely.
“Really, I couldn’t imagine anyone I’d want in this position other than Stan,” she said. “If anyone had asked me to recommend someone for this position, I would have chosen Stan.”
Rabin, meanwhile, said he remains watchful of the very high poverty level that makes JDC a literal lifeline for many areas of the world.
Reaching out to the next generation of leaders goes a long way toward helping fight such problems, Rabin said.
“Engaging young Jews is a challenge but we believe they do want to be engaged and we have had a significant amount of success with that,” he said.
Rabin and his wife, Barbara, have two children and five grandchildren.
Rabin said he is keenly aware of the disconnect that can take place between generations of people — and that it is important the younger generations know what is happening with the Jewish world on a global scale.
“Our own children are 49 and 47,” Rabin said. “Of our grandchildren, the oldest is 15 and the youngest is 9. But their generations are so different. They didn’t have to face persecution the way my parents did. But once they learned about it, they became engaged.”
A ‘leader’s leader’
On the subject of leadership, CEO Alan Gill said the JDC board is already filled with extraordinary leaders. Rabin, he said, brings something else to the table — that certain intangible something that is the hallmark of visionary leadership.
“He’s a leader’s leader,” Gill said. “JDC’s work is based on visionary leadership and Stan carries that forward — working passionately for the JDC, the Jewish people and Israel. He will be a guide of hope in a world where it is sorely lacking.”
Having Rabin as president can only enhance the organization’s ability to carry out its critical work, Gill said.
Daniel J. Prescott, board chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, agreed wholeheartedly.
“Stan Rabin is a mentor of mine,” Prescott said. “I have had the opportunity to serve under him as a board member and as a campaign chair. It has been absolutely some of the best volunteer experience I have ever had. He is a genuine, wonderful guy and tremendous leader.”
Rabin said it was good to get such great feedback.
“This is an honor, a privilege and a responsibility,” he said. “One thing I feel strongly about in leadership is that it’s not about me or any leader, it is about the institution and we have to always focus on that.”
Rabin said one major emphasis of his as JDC president will always be the struggle against Jewish poverty in the world — especially outside the United States and in Europe.
JDC will continue to ensure that Jews are able to live in a safe and secure environment and that people have a sense of dignity and accomplishment, Rabin added.
He believes helping people and communities become more self-sustaining will go hand in hand with helping develop the future Jewish leadership.
Rabin is a past chairman of the board of the Metroplex-based Commercial Metals Company. He served as chief executive officer there for 28 years. He is a longstanding member of the JDC’s board of directors, serving since 2007 most recently as board treasurer.
Additionally, he is immediate past chairman of the board of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. He is a member of the boards of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education & Tolerance, the United Way Foundation of Metropolitan Dallas, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Temple Emanu-El of Dallas, and the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation.
Rabin is a former member of the board of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the board of governors of the American Jewish Committee. He is a past president of the Jewish Family Service, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and Temple Emanu-El.
Prescott said Rabin has one of the most significant leadership résumés of anyone in the Dallas community, “The Jewish community — certainly locally but frankly throughout the world — is safer and stronger because of Stan Rabin’s efforts,” Prescott said. “I only wish there were more Stan Rabins to go around. He is an approachable, tremendous family man. He hits on all cylinders.”