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Rabbi James Greene names head of Springfield Jewish Family Service

By Stacey Dresner

WESTERN MASS. – Rabbi James Greene has been named the new CEO of Jewish Family Service of Western Mass. (JFSWM). He will succeed Maxine Stein, who will retire as JFS CEO at the end of January. The JFS board chose Greene to head the agency following a yearlong national search.

“On behalf of the Board, I  extend a warm welcome to Rabbi James Greene who we look forward to working with to fulfill the mission  of JF,” said Joan Lesser,  JFS Board president.

““The mission of JFS is about empowering people to build better lives and that is something that I think is both deeply relevant but also deeply Jewish, and it’s how I want to spend the next number of years in my rabbinate,” said Greene, who most recently served as executive director of Camp Laurelwood in New Haven, Connecticut. 

A resident of Stafford Springs, Connecticut – just over the border from the Western Massachusetts – Greene said he is excited to be working again  in the community he has called home since 2015.

“Western Mass. is my home; it’s where my children are being raised,” Greene noted. “I grew up in a military family, so I grew up all over the country, all over the world. And I’ve never lived anywhere as long as I have lived in our home here, so the opportunity to come back and do this particular kind of work in my own community was really compelling.”  

Greene received a Bachelor of Arts in Holocaust and Jewish studies from Florida Atlantic University. He attended  the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia and was ordained in 2008. He spent several years working in the Jewish Community Center movement, including as program director at the Addison-Penzak JCC in Los Gatos, California, and at the Springfield JCC where he served as assistant director for five years. He currently serves as president of the Board of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. 

Rabbi Greene said he hopes to bring his skills in operational and strategic planning to his new role as CEO of JFSWM.

“One of the important  lessons of the last three years is the importance of having a community that reflects our values. Jewish Family Service is an organization that is deeply committed to the most cherished values of the Jewish  community and of the greater community in Western Massachusetts. It is an honor to be able to carry  forward that work in the years ahead,” he said. 

Besides its behavioral health services and programming like ‘Essen-tial Kosher Food’ program, Jewish Family Jam classes, and eldercare services, JFSWM has become well known for its work aiding New Americans and citizen and immigration services.

With its years of experience in those areas, JFSWM has become a leader in providing a myriad of services via its Refugee Resettlement and Integration services, continuing today the work of JFS’s founders, who in 1905 created the agency to aid their Jewish brethren coming in the country to escape pogroms in Eastern Europe.

“It is work that began when the folks who were coming to the U.S. were Jews and it is work that continues because we are Jewish,” Greene said. “It’s about this deeply held value. The most often repeated mitzvah in the Torah is to welcome and care for the stranger… folks who are at risk. And I would argue that the work that JFS is doing here in Western Massachusetts is a deeply held, fully relevant reflection of that core Jewish value.”

Greene said he is excited to continue the work of Maxine Stein who led the agency through its growth over  the past eight years.

“I think that JFS  is at a moment of stability,” Greene said. “ The organization has grown tremendously after the last number of years… and I think it is in a moment of saying, ‘Where do we go from here? How do we continue to serve the community that is here in the best way possible?’”

MAIN PHOTO: Rabbi James Greene

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