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Russell Reynolds Associates is supporting The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) in its search for an Executive Director.

Position Description

With the opening of its new building on June 8, 2008, The Contemporary Jewish Museum ushered in a new chapter in its twenty-plus year history of engaging audiences and artists in exploring Jewish perspectives on contemporary culture, history, art, and ideas. Ever changing, The CJM is a non-collecting institution that originates dynamic exhibitions and programs and partners with national and international cultural institutions to present exhibitions that are both timely and relevant and represent the highest level of artistic achievement and scholarship.

The CJM’s dynamic exhibition and publication program has featured critically-acclaimed original exhibitions, including Designing Home: Jews and Mid-Century Modernism; From Generation to Generation: Inherited Memory and Contemporary Art; Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show; Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid; Show Me as I Want to Be Seen; and Levi Strauss: A History of American Style, all of which have made significant contributions to the field.

The CJM makes the diversity of the Jewish experience relevant for a twenty-first century audience. The Museum accomplishes this mission through innovative exhibitions and programs that educate, challenge, and inspire. Dynamic and welcoming, The CJM is a place to experience art, music, film, literature, debate, and—most importantly—people.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s architecture fuses a historic power station, originally built in 1881, to a soaring blue steel geometric superstructure. Its building embodies the past and present, the utilitarian and the abstract, the traditional and the contemporary. The building has become an iconic edifice in San Francisco’s cityscape: it fascinates everyday passersby and is a popular point of destination for residents and tourists alike. Yet, from the ground, few realize that the building’s unusual shape is derived from the Hebrew letters, chet and yud, which together spell chai, the Hebrew word for “life.”

In FY 2019, The CJM welcomed 62,000 on-site visitors and 500,000 visitors online. More than 8,000 Pre-K through university students, teachers, and family members attended education programs. These educational programs served 111 schools across the Bay Area. A model in the field, The CJM’s Access initiative includes tours for those with low vision, deafness, Alzheimer’s, and movement workshops for those with limited mobility. The CJM, a Blue Star Museum, continues to support veterans and their families by providing free admission throughout the year. The Museum also offers free admission for youth aged eighteen and under all year long.

The CJM is governed by a 28-person Board of Trustees, who have fiduciary responsibility for the organization and contribute leadership, expertise, and judgment in working to sustain and ensure The CJM’s mission and impact. The Board of Trustees is dedicated to an engaged, thoughtful partnership with the Executive Director. At full capacity, The CJM employs 39 FTEs and 40 part-time staff and operates an annual budget of approximately $8 million; during the COVID-19 pandemic, The CJM employs approximately 31 full-time and 9 part-time staff and operates an annual budget of approximately $5.7 million. The Museum’s total endowment, inclusive of Board-designated and restricted funds, currently stands at approximately $38M.

For more information about The CJM, please visit the Museum’s website.

The Role

The Executive Director of the Contemporary Jewish Museum reports to the Board of Trustees of the Museum. In this role, the Executive Director has authority over all operations of The CJM, including setting the strategic direction, programming content, developing budgets, fundraising, and overall advocacy for The CJM’s mission in the Bay Area and beyond. The Executive Director oversees all aspects of the Museum, including staff, facilities, exhibitions, education and outreach programs, external relations, and administrative activities.

The Executive Director of The CJM will partner with the Board to develop a new Strategic Plan in line with the museum’s mission and values, evolve programming and exhibitions, and build partnerships to solidify the Museum’s unique identity in the Bay Area. The Executive Director will engage the board, staff, and key stakeholders in a strategic planning exercise that culminates in a long-term plan for the Museum’s future. The new Strategic Plan will identify how to best manage the CJM’s considerable resources—its building, capable staff, fiscal assets, and the goodwill of the community—in a way that results in a sustainable business model that continues to deliver high level programming that advances the Museum’s mission.

The Executive Director of The CJM will galvanize support and fundraise effectively for the Museum in coordination with the Board of Trustees. The Executive Director will promote senior staff talent and expertise in support of the Museum’s goals and will encourage curators and others to take an active role in representing the institution externally. Ensuring a wide range of donors feel included, appreciated, and involved, the new Executive Director will increase and diversify financial support from individual donors, foundations, corporations and, where relevant, government funders, for annual operations, new programs, and growth of the Museum’s endowment. Through effective fundraising and savvy financial management, the Executive Director will work to ensure the financial sustainability of The CJM.

The CJM and all cultural institutions are called to introspection and action around issues of racism, social justice, and diversity, equity, access, and inclusion. The CJM was selected to join Facing Change, the American Alliance of Museum's initiative to foster inclusive institutional culture in museums and to diversify museum boards and leadership. This work was begun in 2019 and is entering its third year in 2021. Partial funding for the work of Facing Change is provided by the Ford Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Alice L. Walton Foundation. During 2020, staff of the Museum from all levels formed an internal working group to identify resources, undertake staff trainings, facilitate group discussions, and to develop best practices for the Museum's future. The Executive Director will continue to partner with The CJM Board and staff to ensure that The CJM Is an anti-racist Jewish organization that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable.

The Executive Director will be accessible and eager to interact with a wide range of constituencies with the goal of expanding audiences, attracting new philanthropic supporters, and broadening the institution’s relationships. The Executive Director will work with the curatorial, education, and program staffs to develop and expand programming that enhances the Museum’s position as a leader in the Bay Area’s highly diverse, dynamic, and growing arts and cultural community.

The Executive Director will lead the Museum’s dedicated professional staff and will ensure The CJM’s vision and strategic objectives are collectively agreed upon, effectively implemented, and realized in a fiscally responsible manner. The Executive Director will inspire and support partner organizations to work in concert with the strategic goals of the Museum. They will approach the financial administration of the institution with transparency, resourcefulness, sound judgment, and a clear understanding of budgets. Additionally, the Executive Director will embrace the realities of a digital age and will ensure that the Museum’s technology, systems, and operations support the Museum’s mission and enhance the visitor experience.

Candidate Profile

The Executive Director of the Contemporary Jewish Museum will demonstrate a decisive, yet collaborative, leadership style, along with an entrepreneurial drive, a passion for contemporary art, and a deep passion for Jewish culture and community. The ideal candidate will bring a track record of innovative, creative, and strategic leadership experience in a multi-faceted institution with varied internal and external constituencies.

The Executive Director will be an inspiring and inclusive leader, with the ability to motivate a diverse range of staff, donors, the Bay Area community, leaders throughout the state, and beyond around a shared vision of what an inclusive cultural platform like The CJM can mean to its community. This person will have earned a reputation for innovation in their approach, and effectiveness in partnering with a Board and senior management team. They will be an excellent communicator and listener with a lively sense of humor, as well as an eagerness to cultivate relationships with diverse constituencies both internally and externally. The Executive Director will be a civic-minded leader who is comfortable and eager to dive into the Bay Area’s social and cultural environment.

The next leader of the Museum will have demonstrated a high level of achievement in developing or contributing to a compelling vision and forward-looking strategy for an organization, building the financial, operational, and ideological support for its implementation, and skillfully balancing and aligning the needs of multiple interests. The ideal candidate will be a natural team builder with the energy, optimism, warmth and drive to lead The CJM into the future.

The Executive Director will exhibit a knowledge of and passion for contemporary art, as well as a fundamental belief in the value of Jewish culture, values, and community. They will have an understanding of the role of museums in the 21st century, including digital strategies for audience engagement. The CJM is open to any area of education and/or experience which has prepared the candidate for this role.

In terms of the performance and personal competencies and priority focus areas for the position, we would highlight the following:

  • Strategic Vision: The ideal candidate will have a track record as a creative and entrepreneurial thinker. They will have the vision, creativity, and judgment to identify nuanced objectives and lead an inspiring plan for the Museum’s future. This person will demonstrate knowledge of the key issues affecting The CJM, including the ways in which the Bay Area’s diverse audiences engage with the Jewish experience. This leader will also demonstrate an ability to develop a productive and mutually fulfilling relationship with the Board of Trustees and Museum staff. They will guide the articulation of The CJM’s new vision and strategy and, in some ways, identity for the future.
  • Resource Development: The ideal candidate will have experience building an institution’s funding base—in partnership with the Board—to increase and diversify financial support from individual donors, foundations, corporations, and government funders for both annual operations and new programs, as well as to continue building the endowment. They will be an adept relationship builder, able to broad the museums’ outreach and engagement across the Bay Area and inspire engagement in and support for The CJM. Further, they will engage their professional network to substantively further The CJM’s mission.
  • Communicating, Influencing, and Building Relationships: The ideal candidate will exhibit a collaborative and yet decisive approach to problem solving that enables them to effectively build support for The CJM’s vision, exhibitions, and programs throughout the Bay Area community and beyond. They will persuasively communicate The CJM’s vision, direction, and strategy both internally and externally and will enable effective communication among the Museum’s stakeholders including the Board of Trustees and the growing donor community. They will be able to actively market and promote The CJM and its programs to build enthusiastic commitment, including financial. They will bring the skills necessary to develop key partnerships in support of the mission, with a particular focus on effectively engaging the full spectrum of diverse communities in and around the Bay Area.

  • Management of Teams and Resources: The ideal candidate will be able to translate The CJM’s over-arching goals into clear objectives for the staff. They will foster a culture of collaboration, mutual respect, teamwork, and empowerment. They will have the ability to counsel and coach the senior management team and curatorial leadership for success; they will respect, encourage, and celebrate the talents of that team while also holding each accountable to mutually agreed- upon goals. Additionally, they will approach the financial oversight of the Museum with an even-handed, transparent, and reasoned approach to decision-making. Finally, this individual will embrace new technologies and further the Museum’s investments in digital engagement with visitors.

  • Character and Cultural Consistency: The ideal candidate will be an energetic and charismatic leader who genuinely enjoys and excels in both the internal and external aspects of a museum Executive Director’s role. The ideal candidate will bring a deep personal passion for Judaism and the Jewish community. They will embrace the Bay Area community professionally and personally, enjoying the opportunity to live in the Bay Area and region. They will tirelessly and optimistically drive the Museum forward in clarifying and asserting its identity and individuality. The new Executive Director will lead The CJM with integrity, courage, and enthusiasm.


Russell Reynolds Associates has been exclusively retained for this search. Prospective candidates are invited to submit application materials to the following address: CJM@russellreynolds.com. All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, religion, color, national origin or ancestry, age, marital or domestic partner status, sex, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a protected veteran, status as a qualified individual with a disability, or any other characteristic protected by applicable Federal, State or Local law.

Pursuant to the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance, The CJM will consider for employment qualified applicants with arrest and conviction records.