Rabbi James Brandt
Rabbi James Brandt

East Bay federation CEO Brandt resigns

Updated: 8:21 p.m., Aug. 9

Rabbi James Brandt has resigned after more than nine years as chief executive of the Jewish Federation of the East Bay, effective immediately.

Brandt, 57, who was an architect and a congregational rabbi before joining the Federation 14 years ago, next will be working with the Berkeley-based Creators Equity Foundation to establish a fellowship program at that arts organization.

After five years as the director of the Federation’s Center for Jewish Living and Learning, Brandt replaced Loren Basch as CEO in December 2008 on an interim basis and was named permanently to the post about six months later.

“I’ve been at Federation for 14 years and Federation is going through a lot of changes, and it just felt like the right time to make a transition,” Brandt told J.

“I led Federation through a time of great change, and the organization has been really focused on continuing to have a positive impact on our community at a time when the Jewish community has been changing and the philanthropic landscape has been changing.”

Steve Goldman, president of the Federation’s board, said there are no current plans to hire a replacement for Brandt. Instead, current staff members will take over his responsibilities.

During his tenure, Brandt helped create Sprout, which connects East Bay families with young children to the Jewish community, and helped develop a partnership with PJ Library that now provides more than 3,000 East Bay children with free Jewish books and music every month.

The Jewish Community Foundation of the East Bay grew from $79 million to $140 million in assets under Brandt’s management, the Federation said in a news release.

Brandt, who was the first full-time rabbi at Napa’s Congregation Beth Shalom before joining the Federation, said he first became interested in the rabbinate while working as an architect designing a synagogue. He earned a master’s degree from Hebrew Union College after receiving a bachelor’s degree in environmental design from UC Berkeley and a master’s in architecture from MIT.

Creators Equity Foundation was founded in 1982 by the late Jewish painter Jesse Reichek — someone Brandt considered a close friend and mentor — and sculptor James Prestini. Brandt has had a longtime relationship with the foundation, which he said “empowers young artists to be able to work and to hone their craft.”

Brandt said he’s not sure about other plans at this point.

“I’ve been so immersed in the work of the Federation for so long I think I need to get a little bit of space to see what the next direction is,” he said. “I’m definitely going to be very connected with the Jewish community, it’s my first love.”

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster z"l was J.'s senior writer from 2016-2019.