Our first Q&A with Rabbi Marc Baker

Marc Baker

Just over a month ago, Rabbi Marc Baker became CJP’s first new President and CEO in more than 30 years. We caught up with Marc early one morning (one of the best times to find him) to learn how he is adjusting to life at the Kraft Family Building and hear his thoughts on his priorities as he leads CJP into the new year.

What have you been up to during your first month at CJP?

I have mostly been meeting with community members, staff, the leadership of CJP. I'm building relationships, listening and learning, and starting to get to know the people with whom I'm going be working. I’m meeting with partner organizations and hearing their perspectives on CJP and the community. In addition, I have been doing a lot of work with our senior team to get us ready to launch the year, in terms of our mission, vision, and values, and our strategic priorities.

What are some of your first priorities this year?

My first priority is to build relationships inside CJP and throughout the community. In some cases, I need to establish relationships, and in other cases I need to deepen the relationships that are going to be critical for my leadership and for CJP's success going forward. We're coming out of a strategic planning process, so the second priority for me is to spend significant time with that Strategic Plan and map out the next steps of our work at CJP and our work in the community. I’m going to be clarifying our vision for where we aspire to go over the next several years and the strategy and key priorities for how we're going to get there.

What have you learned on the job so far that has surprised or impressed you?

Up until now I hadn't spent much time inside CJP, but one thing that has struck me in the last month is learning just how many incredibly talented and passionate professionals there are in every corner of this organization, each with his or her own story and history with CJP. And it's been exciting and inspiring to hear people's stories — why they're so passionate and driven about this work.

I would add—and this is also not surprising — that I have already had conversations with people in the community who have very different perspectives on how we live out our values and on the role CJP should be playing in the community. And what's incredible is that, while their perspectives are different, they share a deep commitment to Judaism, the Jewish people, and to our community. I have been reminded that people can be passionately committed to our mission and values, and yet interpret them in very different ways. That’s one of the challenges and one of the amazing things about being part of a diverse community.

Any key advice you received from friends or family before you started?

To take care of myself, to make sure to prioritize health and wellness, and family. I received advice on how to first spend my time here: to observe, listen, learn, and really take my time to figure out where we're going. And probably the most important advice: Don't be afraid to lead. This is a passionate, committed community, that is eager and excited and ready to move forward.


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