AJWS Announces Robert Bank to Succeed Ruth Messinger as President on July 1, 2016

After a remarkable 17-year presidency, Messinger to serve as AJWS Global Ambassador

NEW YORK—American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading Jewish international human rights and development organization, announced today a leadership transition that ensures continuity of its strategy and mission while entrusting the stewardship of AJWS to a new generation. Following an 18-month proactive planning process, the Board of AJWS has appointed Robert Bank, the organization’s current Executive Vice President, to succeed Ruth Messinger as AJWS’s next President, commencing on July 1, 2016. On this date—which will conclude a nine-month transition period—Messinger will take on a new role as AJWS’s Global Ambassador, continuing her crucial work of engaging global leaders, rabbis and interfaith leaders in efforts to end poverty and promote human rights in the developing world.

Over the past six-and-a-half years, Bank and Messinger have forged a close partnership in leading and managing AJWS, and the AJWS Board voted unanimously to name Bank the organization’s next President, with Messinger’s enthusiastic support. Bank’s selection will allow AJWS to pursue its current strategy, which he helped shape, to work on behalf of some of the poorest and most oppressed people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“I am deeply honored to be named the next President of American Jewish World Service and for the opportunity to lead this organization, which is inspired by the Jewish commitment to pursue justice in the world,“ said Bank. “I am humbled to follow in Ruth Messinger’s footsteps and am committed to building on her extraordinary legacy. Like Ruth, I am motivated by a deeply felt devotion as a Jew to fight for the basic human dignity of every person, which I trace back to my coming of age in apartheid South Africa, where I witnessed both the daily cruelties of racism and the indefatigable efforts of advocates who achieved justice,” added Bank.

“We are delighted that our own Executive Vice President, Robert Bank, will serve as the next President of American Jewish World Service,” said Kathleen Levin, Chair of the AJWS Board. “I have worked closely with Robert and traveled around the world with him over the past half decade, and he is the ideal next leader for AJWS. He possesses the skills and vision to increase our impact in the world and ensure a bright future for AJWS.” Levin added, “Ruth Messinger’s contributions to AJWS and her unwavering dedication, passion and leadership cannot be overstated. She leaves a legacy of accomplishments for human rights and dignity around the world. We are grateful for her 17 years of service as our President and are delighted that she will now serve AJWS as its Global Ambassador.”

“For nearly 20 years, AJWS has afforded me the opportunity to live my values and work every day to stand up as a Jewish leader for some of the most vulnerable and oppressed communities in the world,” Messinger said. “Serving as President of AJWS could not have been more rewarding, and I look forward to continuing to serve AJWS as its Global Ambassador. In this new role, I will continue to work to mobilize rabbis and unite the interfaith community around pressing human rights issues. I am deeply gratified that our board chose the incredibly competent, strategic and passionate Robert Bank to take the helm at AJWS. Robert will provide the vision and leadership the organization needs for years to come.”

The decision to begin a proactive leadership transition process was prompted by the shared desire of the AJWS Board and Messinger to secure AJWS’s future at a high point in Messinger’s remarkable presidency.

Bank is a skilled leader with a proven record of managing successful local, national and international organizations, bringing passion and dedication to public service and the pursuit of justice. For more than 25 years, Bank has advocated for human rights for people and communities in the United States and around the world. He has worked in close partnership with Messinger over the past six-and-a-half years to lead and manage AJWS and has shaped its current strategy and advanced the organization’s growth and impact.

Prior to joining AJWS in 2009, Bank served as Chief Operating Officer of GMHC, one of the leading organizations in the world engaged in combatting HIV and AIDS. At GMHC, he led a successful effort to overturn the Federal ban that blocked HIV-positive individuals from entering or immigrating to the United States in 2008 and played a leadership role in establishing the nation’s first comprehensive HIV and AIDS strategy in 2010. Before his tenure at GMHC, Bank served as Deputy Assistant Chief at the New York City Department of Law where he brought strategic litigation cases to enable New York City’s poorest residents to live healthier lives in safer communities. Bank also served as a law clerk at the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Born in South Africa, Bank attended Jewish day schools in Cape Town and then studied at the University of Cape Town before immigrating to the United States in 1977. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from The Juilliard School in New York and a J.D. from the City University of New York Law School. Bank has received the Wasserstein Public Interest Fellowship from Harvard Law School, the Lifetime Achievement Award from GMHC and the Partners in Justice Award from AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps.

Messinger leaves an unparalleled legacy, having transformed AJWS into a global leader on some of the most pressing human rights issues of our time, ranging from the genocide in Darfur to the fight against the hateful anti-homosexuality law in Uganda. Over the course of her tenure, she has helped to grow the organization from raising less than $3 million to $60 million annually. Messinger came to AJWS in 1998, after a 20-year career as an elected official in New York City. At AJWS, she has worked to influence American foreign aid and policy to benefit people in the developing world. She currently sits on the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group and co-chairs the Sub-Working Group on Social Justice, and she previously served on the Obama administration’s Task Force on Global Poverty and Development. A tireless activist, Messinger has become known for her global activism and for articulating a Jewish approach to global citizenship, which enables American Jews to stand up as Jews in pursuing justice for people of other backgrounds and in other countries. As AJWS’s Global Ambassador, Messinger will continue to be a leading voice for human rights for people in the developing world.

With this transition plan, AJWS is well positioned to continue to advance its core mission and strengthen its impact, helping more American Jews and others to connect to its work on behalf of some of the poorest and most oppressed people in the developing world.


For More Information

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