Ben Rich named as new Reform Judaism head

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2011

The Movement for Reform Judaism has appointed public relations consultant Ben Rich to be its next 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.

Mr Rich, 44, is already familiar with the movement, having acted as its PR adviser on projects such as the launch of the Reform siddur three years ago.

His communal experience also includes work for the Jewish Community Secondary School and Mitzvah Day.

Reform chairman Stephen Moss said: “The post attracted an extremely strong field from a range of different backgrounds. In the end, however, Ben stood out and was the Board’s unanimous choice 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 fundraising.”

Mr Rich said: “I believe Reform Judaism represents the values and practices of the vast majority of British Jewry, even if old habits and affiliations die hard. Yet the remarkable success of cross-communal organisations such as JCoSS and Limmud, the increased prominence of Reform Judaism, and the changing of the guard in Jewish communal leadership, all combine to throw in the air many traditional assumptions.”

He looked forward to “leading the Reform movement into the next stage of its journey”.

Rabbi Shoshana Boyd-Gelfand, who took over from movement head Rabbi Tony Bayfield at the end of last year, is moving to JHub, the Jewish innovation centre.

Mr Rich, who grew up in a Liberal family and is a former chair of York University Jewish society, attends Middlesex New and Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogues with his wife and two young children.

Before setting up his own communications consultancy, he worked for PR company Luther Pendragon, where his clients ranged from Wrigley’s and the Cabinet Office and ran an award-winning campaign for Holocaust Memorial Day in 2005. He had previously been deputy policy director for the Liberal Democrats.

Rabbi Tony Hammond, chairman of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK, said; “Ben and I have worked closely together over the past three years and I am absolutely thrilled by his appointment. He brings to the post a gravitas, commitment to Reform Judaism and entrepreneurial spirit which will serve us extremely well in the years ahead.”

Last updated: 9:12am, February 18 2011