San Jose federation chief eager to ratchet up visibility

Brian Goldberg isn't someone who shies away from a challenge.

Just recently, he was taking on extremist groups in the Pacific Northwest. Now he's shifting his gaze to another formidable task: raising money in the economically battered Silicon Valley.

At age 32, Goldberg is taking over leadership of the Jewish Federation of Greater San Jose. He started work June 1 after a four-year stint as regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Seattle, where he oversaw a five-state area considered a hot spot for hate organizations.

In San Jose, Goldberg replaced Jon Friedenberg, who left after 6-1/2 years to become an administrator at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View.

One of Goldberg's key tasks in his new post is ushering along the federation's annual campaign. That's no easy feat in a community that recently has seen past donors suffer hardships, lose jobs and even become clients for services.

"There's not a whole lot I can do about the downturn," Goldberg acknowledged in a recent phone interview.

Still, he's confident that the federation's fund-raising efforts can continue to grow in the current climate. "I believe this community has not hit its potential," said Goldberg, whose new agency expects to raise $2.2 million by the end of the current fiscal year on June 30. That's up slightly from last year's $2.1 million campaign.

Asked about the hurdles, Goldberg said, "That's one of the things that attracted me to the position. We need to take it to that next level, so to speak."

To do that, Goldberg wants to reach out to "unaffiliated and disaffected" members of Santa Clara County's Jewish community, introducing them to federation programs and encouraging their financial and volunteer support.

The idea is to raise the profile of his agency. "A lot of people don't understand or know that we have a Jewish federation here in San Jose," he said. "That's our fault, and we need to do a better job of communicating to our community the role that we have, the value we bring."

One idea for introducing the federation is to offer brown-bag lunches and speakers' forums at high-tech work sites, such as Oracle, Apple and IBM, he said.

In Seattle, the ADL initiated "Jews at Microsoft," which took programs "to where people are at." Many working professionals "just didn't have the time to come in" to the ADL itself, he said.

If all goes well, the South Bay federation may have a new home as part of the proposed Levy Family Jewish Campus planned for Los Gatos. The $15- to $18 million project also would house the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center of Silicon Valley, Jewish Family Service of Silicon Valley and Yavneh Day School.

Goldberg, who earned a doctorate in political science last year from the University of Southern California, previously worked as a development director for the USC Law School and College of Letters, Arts and Science.

In a short time, "I've had an interesting career, a lot of different experiences."

Goldberg, who grew up in Long Beach, is married and has two daughters, 28-month-old Sophia, and 2-1/2-month-old Esther. His wife, Eleonora, is a molecular biologist.

Moving to the San Jose federation "was kind of an opportunity to make an impact on a specific community," he said.

While in Seattle, Goldberg helped make an impact by lobbying for legislation making paramilitary training a felony in the state of Washington. The law, similar to legislation in Idaho and Oregon, was passed in 2002.

Prior to then, the ADL had "seen a dramatic increase in hate-group activity. We had people moving up from California to Oregon to Washington."

Goldberg called the Pacific Northwest "one of the more active areas for hate-group activity in the nation, unfortunately."

While responsible for an expansive region at the ADL, his new job "covering Santa Clara County," he said, "was the right fit at the right time."

Bonnie Slavitt Moore, outgoing president of the federation's board, said the search committee was impressed by Goldberg's credentials and past performance.

In Seattle, "they brought him in to breathe life back into this agency and he just did an incredible, fantastic job."

She described Goldberg as "clearly knowledgeable, bright, experienced.

"I'm very, very excited," she said.