After 14 years, The Associated will be losing a key member of its core. Chief Development Officer Michael Hoffman will leave June 30 to become president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County (Fla.) later this year.
Hoffman, 44, has served in a number of roles with The Associated since 2001 and spent five years with United Jewish Communities prior to that. He said serving in these roles has helped him strengthen his Jewish identity.
“I consider myself a product of the Jewish federation movement,” having worked at the national umbrella organization for five years. “Professionally, it’s been an incredible opportunity to see the impact that we can have locally, nationally and internationally.”
Hoffman grew up on Long Island and developed his connection to Judaism early on by attending Camp Eisner. After earning a degree in political science from the University of Cincinnati in 1993, he spent a year in Israel as part of the Oztma volunteer program. It was during this time that he had one of his most powerful experiences.
Hoffman and several others greeted a planeload of Russian Jews who had fled anti-Semitism in their home country. He handed an 8-year-old boy an Israeli flag and said “Shalom,” to which the boy responded with “Shalom” and a smile.
“That was what I called my defining moment,” he said.
Hoffman returned to Israel in September 2014 when he and several others from The Associated visited Ashkelon after the city had been devastated by rockets that were fired from Gaza in the preceding months.
“Baltimore is home to some of the strongest Jewish lay leaders in the country,” said Hoffman, and “[The Associated] is the best federation in the country. If I could take 10 percent of what I learned at The Associated and bring it to Florida, that would be a success.”
Hoffman is grateful for all of the opportunities he’s had with the organization and to have had worked with leaders such as President Marc Terrill, who “has been a tremendous teacher and leader and father figure to me.”
When he recruited Hoffman 14 years ago, Terrill recalled that he could tell it was a good fit because Hoffman had a certain knowledge and skillset that was essential to a community organization.
“I wanted The Associated — and personally I wanted — to play a role in Michael’s maturation,” he said.
Terrill said Hoffman played an instrumental role in conducting The Associated’s community study in 2010, something he called a “watershed moment.”
Hoffman has brought a good deal of candor and humility to The Associated family while he has been in Baltimore, he added, and hopes he has the same amount of success in Florida.
“It’s been incredibly gratifying to watch Michael grow personally and professionally,” Terrill said.
Linda Hurwitz, chair of planning and allocations at The Associated, said Hoffman was known for making notes on index cards during meetings and furthering his goals, regardless of who called the meeting.
“Even if it’s your meeting, he has an agenda, and he has something he wants to accomplish,” she said.
Hurwitz added that Hoffman’s no-nonsense attitude contributed to his efficiency.
“When you have a conversation, when you need someone to get something done — when you share it with Michael, it’s done,” she said.
Ray Golden, board chair of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, said their search committee put out inquiries to federations throughout the country and came up with several names. Hoffman’s name was at the top of the list.
“Number one was he came from a great federation, and number two is he had good experience in all aspects of the federation,” he said. “It was good for him because it gave him a chance to employ his talents in the issues he’s had experience with.”
Golden said he feels confident Hoffman can lead the Palm Beach federation through a period of transition in the aftermath of the departure of their previous CEO who retired after 25 years. He also said the federation’s annual campaign has been in decline and he hopes Hoffman’s personality can turn things around.
“These kinds of changes create turmoil in the community,” Golden said. “Hopefully, being as youthful as he is and as energetic as he is will bring stability.”
Golden said has confidence in Hoffman because he “has been around the block” and already has major connections within the Jewish community. He hopes the new CEO’s arrival has an impact on the younger population too.
“These millennials are at a point in time where they’re going to be the future of our community,” said Golden.
Hoffman is married and has two children, 9 and 12, who he says are excited about the move because it means escaping the snow during winter and living close to their grandparents.
Said Hoffman, “To live down the street from both grandparents, we just couldn’t pass that up.”