The Avodah Blog

Introducing AVODAH’s New Executive Director

A message from AVODAH’s Board Chair, Steven Dow:

Dear Friends,

On behalf of the board and staff of AVODAH, I’m pleased to announce that Cheryl Cook will be the new Executive Director of AVODAH, effective January 2015.

Cheryl Cook Color Headshot
Working in partnership with our Transition Consultant Donna Zalichin of Third Sector New England, our board engaged in an extensive and thoughtful search process. My fellow board members and I feel confident that Cheryl is the right leader to guide AVODAH through our next chapter of growth.

Cheryl brings over twenty years of experience in organizational leadership in the Jewish social justice field. Since 2006, she has served as the Chief Operating Officer of Hazon, playing a vital role in guiding the organization through an era of significant growth. During her tenure, Hazon grew from a New York-based organization with six staff members and a budget of $650,000, to a staff of close to eighty across the country and a budget of $6 million.

“I have been an admirer of AVODAH since its founding, and I am excited to work with such an incredible board, staff, funders and current and past corps members and Fellows,” says Cheryl. “The American Jewish community has a long history of being at the forefront of key social justice issues and we have a critical role to play in developing leaders and resources to fight poverty. I am humbled and delighted to be following Rabbi David Rosenn and Marilyn Sneiderman in taking on the role of Executive Director at AVODAH.  I share their commitment to AVODAH’s mission and I look forward to continuing the important work of engaging the Jewish community in the fight against poverty in the United States.”

Nigel Savage, Hazon’s founder and President, says, “When Cheryl joined Hazon we had five staff members – she was the sixth. She has been intimately involved in all of our work and our growth since then, and she deserves not insignificant credit for much of it. Her last day at Hazon will in fact be nine years, to the day, since she joined. So we are sad to see her go – and also thrilled and excited for her, and for everyone at AVODAH, as she begins this next phase of her professional journey. AVODAH and Hazon have grown up together, and in recent years we have been partners in the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable. All of us at Hazon wish Cheryl, and everyone at AVODAH, much success in the future.”

Cheryl has the full support of the board to lead AVODAH in partnership with our talented senior leadership, city directors and advisory councils as we navigate the future of our work engaging a network of Jewish leaders in the fight against domestic poverty.

I want to take this opportunity to express our deepest gratitude to Suzanne Feinspan who has so capably served as Acting Executive Director since June. Not only has Suzanne provided AVODAH with a sense of stability during a time of transition, but she took steps to strengthen our work as well. We are grateful that she will continue to act in this capacity until January, at which point she will return to the role of Deputy Director.

I also want to thank the other members of the AVODAH board Executive Search Committee, Debbie Goldman, Margaret O’Connor, Gene Sofer and Kelly Viselman, with special thanks to the Search Committee Chair, Benetta Mansfield, for so capably leading the Committee to this wonderful outcome.

Please join me, AVODAH’s board, advisory councils, and staff in offering a warm welcome to Cheryl as she prepares to join us.

Thank you, as always, for your continued support of our work to develop and engage a network of Jewish leaders in the fight against poverty. I hope that the Thanksgiving holiday provides a meaningful time for all of us to reflect on the many blessings we have and to recommit ourselves to the sacred work – avodah – of bringing justice and healing to our communities.


Steven Dow, Board Chair

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