Rabinowitz/Dorf, the premier Washington, D.C. communications firm known for serving Jewish clients and causes, has broken up, with the junior partner taking over half – and most of the non-Jewish – accounts.
Steve Rabinowitz, the founder two decades ago of the firm that has represented such clients as JStreet, the liberal alternative to AIPAC and the recently deceased Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, found out on Thursday morning that Matt Dorf, his partner of 13 years, would be creating a new group.
Dorf’s firm, West End Strategy Team,” already has office space, a website and a staff of six, including at least one from the former firm.
“I was surprised,” Rabinowitz said. “I’m an amicable guy, but I don’t know if this was an amicable parting. It was not one I sought.”
Dorf could not be immediately reached for comment.
The former partners’ joint e-mail to clients – headed by a subject line that read “Breaking up is hard to do,” said that West End Strategy Team would “raise public awareness, influence policy and drive social change.”
Rabinowitz will change the name of his group back to “Rabinowitz Communications, the messaging, marketing and media firm” he started in the ‘90s.
“My firm is going to be much the same it’s been for twenty years … whether or not Matt is going to be rebranding,” he said.
The clients who worked with Dorf will be going with him, while those who worked with Rabinowitz will be staying, he said. Those who worked with both partners are “stuck in the middle.” Some accounts are still deciding where to go.
“I suppose more than half is going, but the vast majority of the Jewish clients are staying, for better or worse,” Rabinowitz said, jokingly. Rabinowitz Communications will continue to do non-Jewish business, he added, stating that he wouldn’t characterize the group as a Jewish firm.
Indeed, the firm is also known for its annual “Latkes and Vodkas” holiday party, the “big social do for Jews on the left” in Washington, said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, the insider who founded the pro-Israel advocacy group The Israel Project and who now heads RespectAbilityUSA, a disability advocacy organization.
“The fact that they stayed together for so long, it’s unusual,” she said. “People in PR break up and make up and get new logos and reinvent themselves.”
“Latkes and Vodkas,” Rabinowitz said, will remain a Rabinowitz institution that Dorf was a part of for 13 years.