Dear Community,


After nearly six years leading our organization, our Executive Director, Gavriela Geller, has informed us of her intent to move on to a new professional chapter.


We will be very sorry to see her go. Gavi’s tenure has been extraordinary. She helped to establish a strong strategic path for the organization, effectively integrating the dual missions of both JCRB and AJC into a robust and impactful portfolio of initiatives. She built a high-performing staff, and charted an expanded course for the organization through development of relationships between the Jewish community and our elected officials, interfaith and educational leaders. Gavi and her staff have developed innovative programming that will benefit the organization for years to come. And of course, Gavi has led the community with particular strength and passion after the terrible events of October 7th, 2023.


Gavi will be assisting with the transition, and our stellar team will carry forward with their respective duties. In the coming days, JCRB|AJC’s Board will name our new Interim Director, which will then be followed by a search process for a permanent successor.


With today’s dramatic increase in the dual forces of antisemitism and anti-Zionism, we are particularly fortunate to have a skilled team in place who will continue to help our community navigate these difficult times. Equally important during any time of transition is the support and partnership of our parent organization, and we are very grateful for our strong relationship with AJC Global.


Gavi’s future is bright, and our community is deeply grateful to have benefited from her leadership. We look forward to continuing to benefit from her expertise and passion as she transitions into a new role while remaining a close part of the JCRB|AJC family.


I am pleased to share Gavi’s personal message below. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions.



Warmly,

Barry Kaseff

Board Chair, JCRB | AJC Kansas City

Friends,



I stepped into the role of JCRB|AJC’s Executive Director five days before the Tree of Life shooting - the deadliest act of antisemitism in American history. In the years since, the American Jewish community has faced exponentially increasing rates of antisemitism, including violent attacks on Jews and Jewish spaces well before October 7th. And then, October 7th happened, and the floodgates burst.


When I arrived in this role in 2018, JCRB|AJC was a two-person organization that had recently become independent of the Jewish Federation. In the five and a half years since, we have significantly expanded our capacity and the capabilities of this organization - allowing us to grow our impact and reach even further across the region.


We focused on this growth from the beginning, knowing our community would need this infrastructure in order to effectively fight this rising Jew-hatred. I am so grateful that we - and you, our supporters - invested in this need before October 7th so that our organization was well-positioned to meet this challenging moment.


In truth, I first decided to take on this role in 2015, when I began working for the American Jewish Committee (AJC). I decided to eventually move back home and build up this organization for my community. From the very beginning, my vision was to build an organization that did not need me; I wanted to build a team who could continue this vision on behalf of our community. For some time now I have realized that my goal has been reached. And so while moving on is always bittersweet, it is also with great pride that I share that I have accomplished what I set out to do, and I will soon be moving on to a new professional chapter.


I make this decision with the comfort of knowing that this organization is in the capable hands of an incredible staff and board who will work tirelessly to defend Israel and the Jewish people, and create safer communities across Kansas City. I look forward to working closely with them to ensure a seamless transition.


Over the past five years of my tenure, we tripled in size and JCRB|AJC has emerged as the voice of the Jewish community on public affairs and in relations with other communities, media, and government officials. This was enabled by clarity of mission, recruitment and retention of top-tier professionals, and by clearheaded execution of each activity that served our larger goal. Each team member now represents a cohesive programmatic area and oversees an expansive portfolio of related objectives.


  • We focused on education: creating the Prepare to Respond, Educate to Prevent (PREP) program, training 1150 educators, and graduating over 100 Jewish high school students through Leaders for Tomorrow (LFT).


  • We then expanded our contemporary antisemitism trainings: developing our DEI and workplace program, Making Space, through which we’ve trained 1400 leaders.


  • We made a powerful legislative impact: helping pass the NO HATE Act in 2021, achieving adoption of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism in Kansas in 2022, IHRA adoption in 12 municipalities in 2023, and securing half a million dollars in the Kansas budget for Jewish community security in 2024.


  • We built new and deepened existing relationships with faith and community partners, through new programs like the Unity Seder, and Clergy Conversations.


  • We diversified our Board, engaged new parts of the community, and launched an ACCESS chapter.


After October 7, we deepened our work with universities as we seek to keep Jewish students safe. And to mark the ten years since the tragic shootings here in Overland Park, we recently held the region’s first summit on antisemitism, welcoming the Second Gentleman of the United States.


Five years later, JCRB|AJC is not just a transformed organization in Kansas City – we are a national model charting new paths in the field. I know that this incredible team will continue to lead our community from strength to strength.


There are too many people to thank, because not one of these achievements is mine alone - they are ours. I am grateful to our Board and leadership for investing in this vision. I am grateful to each one of our donors, our community partners, elected officials, Jewish agency executives, and volunteers. The outpouring of love and appreciation that we have felt from the Jewish and the broader community has been our fuel on the hardest days.

The American Jewish Committee, which joined us in a unique organizational model, has been an essential partner in facilitating our work. I am grateful to my colleagues at AJC – the organization I credit for my professional development – who directed my strength and passion toward productive engagement. AJC has been my home for nearly a decade, and deserves much of the credit for undergirding our accomplishments here in Kansas City these past five years.


And I am forever grateful, and humbled, for the opportunity to work with this team: Sarah Markowitz Schreiber, Hillary Thomas, Neta Meltzer, Rachel Kaseff, Barb Douglas, and Carol Burton – you stand at the forefront, prepared to educate, advocate, or organize, and you are models of resilience. Kansas City is lucky to have professionals of your caliber working for our community, and I am blessed to have learned from you all.


It is the honor of my life to have been able to serve the Jewish community in Kansas City - the community that first instilled in me a fierce commitment to the wellbeing of the Jewish people.


My internal mission since I entered this field ten years ago has been consistent: to do my part in ensuring the Jewish people flourish and thrive. My late father, who passed when I was ten, was deeply connected to his Judaism. In everything I do, I have sought to honor his memory, and the memory of my ancestors who fled persecution to chart a new life as Jews here in Kansas City five generations ago. And I have sought, with every breath, to ensure a safe, inclusive society for my future children, and all of yours.


This is a very challenging chapter in the history of the Jewish people. It will take unity, and it will take strength to lead us through. But make no mistake - the Jewish people will not just survive, but will grow stronger through this hardship, as we always have.


If I have given one gift to this community, it is the team I have been privileged to build. They will value your support in the coming months and years as they lead the community through a more demanding time than most could ever know. My children will be 6th generation Kansas Citians, so you can count on me to remain in active support of my colleagues’ fearless work. I may be stepping away from this role, but never from the passions that led me to it. My next steps will keep me close to this work, and close, I hope, to all of you.


The oft-quoted Pirkei Avot tells us: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” With gratitude and pride in what we’ve built together, I move on knowing that this organization is in the best of hands and has the tools necessary for continued impact. Though I am now called upon to direct my energies elsewhere, I will be forever humbled by the opportunity I had here: to be a link in the chain connecting generation to generation, securing our shared future.



Yours in service,

Gavi

Gavi

Gavriela Geller

Executive Director

JCRB|AJC


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