Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara Exec Director Retires

Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara Exec Director Retires
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After ten years of leadership and service to Santa Barbara’s Jewish community as Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara (JFGSB), Michael S. Rassler has announced his retirement, effective December 31, 2019.

Rassler has been involved with the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) for more than 35 years, including 23 years as a CEO/Executive Director. Before taking his position in Santa Barbara, he worked for Jewish Federations in Miami, South Palm Beach (Boca Raton), Long Beach & West Orange County, and San Diego.

Over the course of his Federation career, Rassler has led or participated on 34 missions to Israel, Ethiopia, the Former Soviet Union, and Europe to meet and better understand the needs of impacted Jews and Jewish communities, and to work with JFNA’s international partners to meet those needs. Collectively, he has participated in or led Annual, Capital, Endowment, Israel Emergency and other Special Campaigns that have generated over $360 million in support of Jewish communities and agencies, Israel, Disaster Relief, and other critical causes

In Santa Barbara, he stewarded the complete refurbishment of the Federation’s Bronfman Family JCC in downtown Santa Barbara, including the installation of security and safety measures that are so unfortunately necessary today.

He helped reestablish the Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival as one of the community’s finest cultural offerings, and created a Sister City Partnership with Mitzpe Ramon in Israel. He also helped create the Jewish Community Relations Committee, which actively engages and advocates on behalf of Federation and the Jewish community on issues of import to both the Jewish and general community. Rassler is particularly proud of the Federation’s proactive and impactful response to the recent and tragic Thomas Fire and Debris Flow that devastated the lives of so many.

JFGSB’s Women’s Division, Young Adult Division, and Jewish Family Service department are all more active than ever, providing important direct services, programs, events and activities for the entire community. Federation’s PJ Library program, in partnership with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, has touched the lives of over 350 local families and their children, introducing them to Jewish values, culture and holidays, by providing them with free books and DVDs each month. Over each of the past 10 years, JFGSB has eagerly welcomed and served the needs of the over 10,000 people who visit the Bronfman Family JCC, Jewish Family Service, or Federation, and the organization’s culture has become one of inclusivity and diversity, where each individual is valued and appreciated.

Rassler shares, “It has been a tremendous privilege and source of personal fulfillment to serve and represent Federation, and to pursue my passions for the Jewish people, Israel, and the incredible Federation communities where I have worked.

I have had the good fortune to work and partner throughout my Federation career with many, many outstanding lay leaders, Federation and Jewish Communal colleagues, spiritual leaders, elected and appointed officials, emergency responders, and generous philanthropists locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. I have greatly enjoyed the challenge of building community (sometimes literally), and to strengthening our collective ability to serve those in need.

It has been a profound honor to lead an outstanding team of dedicated, creative and passionate professionals, and I am truly humbled to have played even a small role in helping to advance the Federation’s vital mission of protecting and enhancing the well-being of Jews here at home, in Israel, and around the world.”

President of JFGSB’s Board of Trustees Dr. Alan Levy commented, “During Michael’s tenure there have been great successes which include stabilizing the Federation’s operation following the 2008-09 economic downturn, securing significant grants to fully revitalize and secure the Federation’s Bronfman Family JCC, establishing the Federation’s Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival as a premier cultural event, and creating our Sister City partnership with Mitzpe Ramon in Israel. Our programs and services are highly utilized, and in many cases are at capacity. Under Michael’s leadership, we have continually sought to explore new and impactful opportunities in all areas.”

Continuing, Dr. Levy noted that there will be a special recognition of Michael’s leadership and achievements at this year’s Alan J. Wyner Annual Men’s Event on Sunday, November 3rd. For more information and to RSVP for this year’s event, please visit www.jewishsantabarbara.org.

Rassler looks forward to an active retirement, allowing him to pursue new opportunities and challenges while remaining in Santa Barbara.


About the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara

The Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara is dedicated to building a vibrant and inclusive local Jewish community, to enhancing the well-being of Jews in Santa Barbara, Israel, and throughout the world, and to strengthening the relationship between the Jewish community and the community at large.

At its Bronfman Family Jewish Community Center located in downtown Santa Barbara, the Jewish Federation oversees several programs including: Jewish Family Service, which offers social service programs for all ages and backgrounds, Portraits of Survival & Upstanders: Life Journeys During the Holocaust and Beyond, a permanent exhibit and educational program about the Holocaust, Art at the JCC, quarterly art exhibitions open to the public, and the annual Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival at the New Vic Theatre from March 11-15, 2020. For more information, please visit: www.jewishsantabarbara.org or call (805) 957-1115.

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