Peninsula JCC gets a new chief executive with a long history in Jewish communal service

An Oakland resident with a long career working in the Jewish community has taken the reins as CEO of the Peninsula Jewish Community Center.

Paul Geduldig, 46, who started his new job leading the Foster City-based JCC that serves nearly 10,000 members at the end of September, said he plans to continue delivering relevant, enriching Jewish experiences to the Peninsula community.

“The expression that keeps being used is we have to be able to compete in the marketplace of ideas and activities,” Geduldig said. “There’s so many things to do and to learn about that what you have to offer has to be relevant and engaging and interesting to people.”

Paul Geduldig

Geduldig comes to the Peninsula JCC from Temple Sinai in Oakland, where he served as executive director for a decade and oversaw a $14 million capital campaign and the construction of a new building on the synagogue’s campus. Before that, he worked as the program director for the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael.

“Paul is very approachable and welcoming. He strives to engage people and believes in collaboration and partnership with others to achieve the greater good,” said Tom Kasten, board chair of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and a member of the Peninsula JCC executive search committee. “He has a way of distilling an issue down to its core so that creative solutions can be found.”

Geduldig grew up in Atlanta, where he was deeply involved in what he describes as the “insular” Jewish community there.

“There was not a lot of interaction with the broader community,” Geduldig said. “I went to Jewish day school, every Sunday I was at the JCC for programs, I did sports leagues at the JCC, summer camp at the JCC; [my family] belonged to synagogue. It was almost like a world within a world.”

Geduldig’s mother came to the U.S. as a refugee from Egypt, and American Jewish organizations helped her resettle, learn English and find work. She impressed upon her son the importance of giving back to that community.

“It was drilled into me at an early age that you give back to the community, you give back to your people and it’s important to know who you are,” Geduldig said.

Geduldig worked briefly as a community outreach officer at the Israeli consulate in Atlanta, but found he preferred programming and community-building to politics. He came to the Bay Area in 1995 and fell in love with its beauty and open-minded culture. He met his wife while working at the Osher Marin JCC; they now have two sons, ages 11 and 8, who attend Temple Sinai’s religious school.

The Peninsula JCC is planning a significant expansion of its campus, and Geduldig’s experience with the Temple Sinai development project will be valuable experience in his new role.

“He played a major role in overseeing the construction work, the planning, the design,” said Mike Baker, the outgoing Temple Sinai board president. “It was an enormous project that spanned over several years, and he did a great job. … When you move into a new facility, a new chapel, new offices, there’s a lot of detail that needs to be attended to.”

While Geduldig valued his time working in a synagogue setting, he said he’s excited by the opportunities presented by returning to a JCC.

“One of the things that’s both interesting and challenging about a JCC is it reaches a much broader audience,” Geduldig said. “There’s more emphasis on the cultural and heritage rather than on religious [aspects]. We are also interested in having people be exposed to Jewish spirituality, to connect with Jewish ritual, to connect with Jewish holidays, but to do it in a way that’s open and accessible to all.”

Geduldig hopes that everyone who passes through the doors of the Peninsula JCC — whether to bring their child to preschool, attend a cultural program or participate in a book club — feels enriched by the experience. He believes that with an increasingly diverse Jewish community, it’s necessary to offer “added value” and not expect that people will come to Jewish programs simply because they are Jewish. The Bay Area in 2015 is a far cry from the tight-knit Atlanta Jewish community of his childhood.

“I’m American, a Bay Area person. I don’t want to be in a completely insular community,” Geduldig said. “It’s important to me to have open walls and know my neighbors.”

Drew Himmelstein
Drew Himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein is a former J. reporter who writes about education, families and Jewish life. She lives with her husband and two sons.