Leadership changeup

Linda Mirels, Marc Rowan take top spots at UJA-Federation of New York

New president, board chair previously served in top volunteering roles, come with experience in fighting antisemitism

The two newly tapped lay leaders of UJA-Federation of New York — President Linda Mirels and Board Chair Marc Rowan — bring deep experience in the fight against antisemitism as they step into their posts amid skyrocketing rates of anti-Jewish incidents.

“I’ve worked shoulder to shoulder with UJA’s dedicated staff and nonprofit partners for years and have seen their tireless work on behalf of our community,” Mirels, a former board chair of the charity, said in a statement. “Now, in the face of rising antisemitism, we are uniquely positioned with our expertise and resources to respond.”

Rowan, the CEO of the private equity fund Apollo Global Management, has made combating antisemitism a priority and was a founding supporter of UJA’s Community Security Initiative (CSI), created by UJA and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

Mirels and Rowan, who already held the top volunteer positions in the organization, succeeded outgoing President Amy Bressman, and Board Chair David Moore, whose three-year terms expired at the end of last month. Though the two assumed their positions on July 1, UJA-Federation of New York announced their appointments on Monday.

Eric Goldstein, UJA-Federation’s CEO, expressed eagerness to work with the two. “Having had the privilege of working with Linda when she previously served as UJA chair from 2013 to 2016, I’ve seen firsthand how she approaches every issue with intellectual rigor, a willingness to respectfully hear all sides and singular vision,” Goldstein said. “Marc’s exceptional commitment to the Jewish community and our neighbors, combined with his renowned business leadership, will amplify UJA’s work around the world.” 

Born in South Africa to Nathan and Frances Kirsh and raised in Swaziland, now Eswatini, Mirels is the chair of the Ki Corporation, a diversified global investment company with holdings in food distribution and real estate. 

Mirels has deep ties with UJA, having served as chair of the board and is an honorary lifetime member of the board. In addition, she serves on the board of governors of the American Jewish Committee and the Metropolitan Opera of New York. The daughter of businessman Nathan Kirch, Mirels also advises her family foundation.

Mirels noted that she steps into the position amid rising rates of antisemitism, with a 39% spike in antisemitic incidents in New York in 2022 compared to 2021, according to the Anti- Defamation League. 

UJA-Federation of New York currently spends more than $25 million a year responding to antisemitism, 14% of its total budget, according to its 2022 annual report. While Mirels stressed the importance of that work, she added that the organization “will also pursue transformational opportunities that shape the Jewish future.”

She added: “I’m grateful to the staff for their efforts and to the board for giving me the opportunity to lead the organization.”

Rowan, 60, a native New Yorker, co-founded Apollo Global Management in 1990, which is now one of the largest U.S. private equity firms. He took over as CEO in 2021. Bloomberg estimated Rowan’s net worth at $5.74 billion in August 2021, making him one of the wealthiest people in the country.

Marc Rowan, in an undated photograph.

A long-standing philanthropist, Rowan co-founded the Youth Renewal Fund in 1989 and serves as vice chair of Darca Schools, which operates and manages schools in underserved communities in Israel. Additionally, Rowan serves on the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and the board of advisers of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In 2018, he donated $50 million to the Wharton School, the largest single gift in Wharton history. In 2013, he contributed $1 million to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which provides education about Jerusalem’s Western Wall. He also serves on the board of OpenDor Media, a digital media organization providing Jewish and Israeli content. 

“UJA is a tremendous organization that cares for people in need in the most personal of ways, at scale,” he said. “They have built a global platform with an unparalleled ability to swiftly support communities in times of crisis and have the unique ability to be a force multiplier in responding to issues ranging from poverty to mental health to supporting refugees. I am excited to help build on their great work and create even more connections across the world for the benefit of our communities.”