Reform gets Rich with executive choice
Ben Rich: Impressed with his team
The Movement for Reform Judaism, which has been professionally headed by a rabbi for the past 16 years, has chosen public relations expert Ben Rich to be its new chief executive.
He will succeed executive director Rabbi Shoshana Boyd-Gelfand full-time in May, although he will begin working with her next month to ensure a smooth transition.
Reform chairman Stephen Moss said that Mr Rich, 44, had stood out from a strong field of candidates "because of his strengths as a strategist and communicator, his outstanding knowledge and contacts across the Jewish community and his expertise in leadership, stakeholder relations and fund-raising".
For the past few years Mr Rich has run his own communications consultancy, advising Mitzvah Day and the Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS) among others, and the Reform movement on such projects as the launch of its new siddur three years ago.
He feels Progressive Judaism has reached a "potentially very exciting" stage.
"If you look at the demographics, there is a good chance that Progressive Judaism will come to represent the majority of British Jewry within the next 10-15 years.
"I want that to be a positive story about Judaism - and not a negative story about other movements going through hard times. It's a communications challenge and that's why I think they were interested in employing me."
The product of a Liberal family and a former chairman of York University Jewish society, Mr Rich attends the Reform Middlesex New Synagogue and Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue with his wife and two young children.
He was a deputy policy director for the Liberal Democrats under Paddy Ashdown's leadership before joining PR company Luther Pendragon, where his clients ranged from Wrigley's to the National Grid and where he ran an award-winning campaign for Holocaust Memorial Day in 2005.
Although enjoying his 15 years at Luther Pendragon, it had been "emotionally hard to engage with chewing gum residue". His Reform role will enable him to focus on concerns closer to his heart.
He did not want to reveal any plans until he had got his feet under the table but said he was "very impressed" with the movement's senior team. He has worked previously with Reform's incoming director of operations Pam Goldsmith on JCoSS.
Rabbi Boyd-Gelfand had been groomed to lead the movement following the retirement of its head Rabbi Tony Bayfield at the end of last year. But she is leaving it to become the new director of JHub, the Jewish innovation and social action centre.