Ned Goldberg set to retire from JCRS after distinguished career
Ned Goldberg, who, since 1988, has served as executive director of the Jewish Regional Children’s Service (JCRS), an agency that serves a seven-state area in the Mid-South, will be retiring in early 2022.
Since relocating from from South Florida, Goldberg has become the public face of JCRS, overseeing the organization as it expanded its existing programs intended to help special needs children and to provide financial relief for Jewish families in the area.
Originally founded as a home for Jewish widows and orphans, many of whom were victims of yellow fever epidemics in New Orleans. Begun in 1855, JCRS is the oldest continuously operating Jewish charity in the nation, but since the 1940s has turned its focus to becoming more of a full service family agency.
JCRS now funds or serves over 1800 Jewish youth each year.
A licensed social worker by training, Goldberg has overseen many revamped goals for JCRS, which includes providing funding for undergraduate college education and Jewish summer camp scholarships.
Many of the families typically served by JCRS have limited income due to single-parent or immigrant status. Some have health issues or may be impacted by natural disasters or economic downturns.
Goldberg worked with JCRS board member Alan Krilov to develop what is now the Oscar J. Tolmas Hanukkah Gift Program, where various gifts are sent to needy, deserving Jewish children.
Under Goldberg’s leadership , JCRS also began administering the nationally heralded, PJ Library Program across the area it serves with major support from the Goldring Family Foundation. Currently JCRS oversees over 1200 PJ book subscriptions a year for area Jewish children and youth.
Soon after moving to New Orleans, Goldberg met the woman he would marry, Wendy Diamond, who was working at the New Orleans Jewish Community Center. Wendy Goldberg is still working at the JCC and is now the associate director with almost four decades of work experience there.
Goldberg credits his own tenure and the ongoing growth and success of JCRS as being a combination of a “number of factors.”
“First of all, you have incredible dedication from the JCRS board, staff, volunteers and donors,” he explained. “When you have them behind you, you can respond quickly to emergencies, as JCRS did during hurricanes and floods that have repeatedly hit East Texas and Louisiana over the last five years. During the fall of 2020, as Hurricane Laura pounded Lake Charles and surrounding areas, the current JCRS president, Michael Goldman, was on the phone calling all of his former neighbors and fellow congregants in Southwest Louisiana, and checking on their personal safety and property damage.
During the floods that hit Baton Rouge in 2016, it was Goldberg’s staff who was on the phones, checking on the status and safety of all the PJ Library and scholarship recipient families that were spread out across South-Central Louisiana. In each case, the agency had department store gift cards to distribute to Jewish families within a couple days of the crisis.
Goldberg additionally listed the warmth and generosity of communities outside Louisiana, as an additional “resource” to the organization and “benefit” to the job. In August 2005, as Hurricane Katrina bore down on New Orleans, Goldberg heard from a number of JCRS board members and supporters from cities in the region, offering shelter for both his family and the JCRS offices.
Ultimately, Goldberg his wife Wendy, and their two children, Jodie and Adam, spent the next nine months living in Houston, and operating their agencies, while their children attended Houston Jewish day schools. Before returning to Greater New Orleans to live, the Goldbergs were hosted and treated graciously by numerous Houston families and new friends.
Operating a social service agency that exclusively serves Jewish families and children, while concurrently, having a family of his own, brought Goldberg perspectives that he might not otherwise see, or experience. “Once back in New Orleans after Katrina, my children seemed to have numerous friends who not only were from single-parent families, but these children and teens were also being raised primarily or exclusively by the fathers,“ Goldberg noted.
Thus began the idea for a Jewish fathers’ lunch-time support group, sponsored by JCRS and led by Goldberg, that over a course of about six years, had involved 25 single Jewish men from Greater New Orleans. About a quarter of the men were the exclusive caregivers of their children. “At the time, I called around the country to similar Jewish family agencies and nobody had support groups for single Jewish fathers,” Goldberg added.
Giving up the role of being a full-time executive for an agency after 33 years will be admittedly very hard for Goldberg.
“What other job is there where you can see the benefits of your work every day from current clients, and receive a phone call, email, or letter of gratitude from a past aid recipient every week?” he concluded. “Such wonderful services, hardworking and talented staff, and dedicated and generous board and volunteers are the reasons JCRS endures, and explains why I have tried to stay a few years beyond a typical retirement age. Who wouldn’t miss that experience?”
A national search is being conducted to determine Goldberg’s successor by the JCRS Board.