Barry Finestone leaving JCCSF for Pritzker

Barry Finestone will be stepping down from his position as executive director of the JCC of San Francisco to become the executive director of the Bay Area–based Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund.

The announcement was made official this week. Finestone, 47, will depart by mid-August or earlier, depending on when the JCC finds his replacement.

Barry Finestone

“It was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Finestone told J. on March 25, in between dropping off his daughter and rushing to his weekly Torah study group. “But it’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Finestone joined the JCCSF in June 2010 after a 20-year career heading a number of prestigious Jewish organizations, including the Isaac M. Wise Temple in Cincinnati, where he was executive director from 1999 to 2005. Previously he was the national associate director of Young Judaea, at the time a program of Hadassah. He hails from Glasgow, Scotland, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in community education from Jordanhill College of Education.

John Pritzker, founder of the family fund that bears his and his wife’s name, said he offered Finestone the job because, in addition to Finestone’s extensive work experience, “He’s young, he’s smart, he’s well regarded and he knows the community.”

Noting that he was on the JCCSF search committee that recruited Finestone four years ago, Pritzker said he felt “an element of guilt” in spiriting him away, but added, “He’ll be five blocks away, not on another side of the country — he’ll be available to help and advise.”

For his part, Finestone underlined the affection he has for the JCCSF and his current job there, which he considers one of the best Jewish communal jobs in the country.

“The JCC has been the pinnacle for me,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better. It’s been an incredible platform, with an incredible staff and incredible lay leaders. I’m not going to be running another Jewish organization — why would I? I’ve been at the best.”

  Moving from steering a large community nonprofit with multiple programs and a huge staff, to distributing grants to such nonprofits will be an “exciting challenge,” he said.

“There’s something about helping others do the work. It’s a different kind of impact, just as significant,” he said. “At the JCC, I impacted the community, and this is an opportunity to have a different kind of impact, at a different level.”

Founded in 2002, the Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund, which has offices in San Francisco and Redwood City, reported slightly more than $59 million in assets and $15.8 million in grants, gifts and contributions for the 2012 tax year.

Dr. Warren Browner, president of the JCCSF’s board of directors, said that the search for Finestone’s replacement will begin soon.

“Barry has graciously agreed to stay on for the next several months while we search for a new executive director,” he said. “The board will conduct a broad search to find a candidate with the talent, vision and experience to run an organization of this caliber. We are fortunate to be able to draw upon the network and resources not only of community leaders here but also of the national JCC movement in recruiting such a candidate.”

Sue Fishkoff

Sue Fishkoff is the editor emerita of J. She can be reached at [email protected].