Louise Greilsheimer, the top lay leader at UJA-Federation of New York when she served from 1994-98 as its president, has returned to the organization but from a different vantage point — as one of its top professionals.
“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to make your avocation your vocation and to make it the center of your life,” said Greilsheimer, who will serve as vice president for agency and external relations.
She will report directly to John Ruskay, the group’s executive vice president, and serve on his senior executive team.
Greilsheimer will be coordinating appropriations for UJA-Federation’s network of affiliated agencies in New York and overseas. She will be responsible as well for strengthening the agency system and communicating to the agencies the organization’s institutional goals.
The fact that she knows the agencies will be helpful, Greilsheimer said.
I know what [the job] entails because I have been involved with the institution for a long time. And having worked as a volunteer, I better understand their needs and will be better able to assist them,” she said.
Greilsheimer added, however, that things have changed in the three years since she served as president. “Institutions evolve,” she said.
“The institutions we have in New York and in Israel are the most sophisticated service delivery agencies in the world. We want the agencies to continue to strengthen and work together in a variety of constructive, collaborative ways. What we want to do is continue to create and enhance the caring communities we have.”
Asked about the change she faces serving as a professional rather than as a lay leader, Greilsheimer said she had been able to “work with and collaborate with the staff in getting to mobilize volunteers in a variety of ways. Now I will be working with the volunteers and assisting them in choosing among priorities, and providing them with the support and research information they need to support the decisions that need to be made.”
She pointed out that for the last 10 years she has served as director of development at the Dalton School in Manhattan. And from 1970 to ’75 she was deputy director of the city Human Resources Administration’s Office of Educational Development, where she co-developed and implemented career-training programs for public high school students.
Thus, she said, even when she was a volunteer at UJA-Federation, she “always looked at these things professionally. I’ll do the same thing [in this new position].”
Ruskay pointed out that UJA-Federation’s affiliated agencies are a “critical component of our work. Over 100 beneficiaries actualize our values and commitments. It is in our agencies that we care for those in need.”
Having interviewed 10 of the more than 100 candidates who applied for the job, Ruskay said that it was “clear that what she could bring to UJA-Federation was stronger than any of the other first-rate candidates.”
Having an effective voluntary and professional leadership at the agencies is “particularly urgent at this time of change in Jewish life,” Ruskay said. “Louise brings to this work her own smarts as a professional, and she uses it with the unparalleled knowledge of our system and a commitment to it gained over two decades of volunteer work before rising to the presidency.”
It is not usual for the top lay professional to assume a senior staff position, Ruskay noted, “but anyone who knows Louise knows she was not an ordinary volunteer. She devoted unbelievable time and energy to this work. Therefore when one sees her professional accomplishments in other settings like Dalton and the City of New York, one recognizes that the possibilities here are extraordinary.”
Greilsheimer, 57, is the mother of four. Her husband, James, a lawyer, is former president of the American Jewish Committee and a board member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.