CEO Succession Case Study:
American Jewish World Service

AJWS’ board pulled off a successful transition involving a long-serving executive, Ruth Messinger, and her faithful deputy, Robert Bank. It was a high stakes, high emotion realignment requiring each stakeholder to take deliberate, courageous steps to help move the process along.

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  • “I used to tell donors who inquired about my plans that the only way I was going to leave my office was feet first. It’s a punchline, but I wasn’t joking.”

    Ruth Messinger, AJWS President, 1998-2016

Ruth Messinger’s transition out of the CEO office had an extra, personal dimension: Her mother had been pushed into retirement prematurely, and Messinger was worried the same thing was happening to her.

Robert Bank, President & CEO of AJWS since 2016, worked to strike a balance to ensure Messinger’s continued involvement in the organization.

  • “In retrospect, choosing Robert without conducting a broader search might have been the ‘obvious choice,’ but it wasn’t obvious to us and only developed organically from much conversation, deliberation, and soul searching.”

    Marty Friedman, Longtime AJWS board member

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