Submitted by Jewish Federation of Cincinnati
“I’m ready to meet the Jewish community of Cincinnati where they are and help them realize their goals.”
David Harris has returned to the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati as their new Chief Development Officer. He most recently served as the Executive Director of the Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati (JCGC), and was formerly the manager of the Create Your Jewish Legacy (CYJL) initiative through the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.
Harris is excited to rejoin the Jewish Federation team, with an eye towards keeping the Federation relevant in the lives of Cincinnati community members and working actively to be inclusive of both the people and their ideas. “I’m excited about current projects in development,” says Harris. “As Chief Development Officer, I want to help our community achieve their philanthropic goals.”
Calling JCGC “a gem,” Harris is proud of his time there. As they turn to raising their profile and enter their next phase of growth and engagement, Harris says it was the ideal time to turn over the reins to new leadership. Richard Barasch, a JCGC Board and Executive Committee member, will serve as interim Director of JCGC, while the Board identifies a new Executive Director. Barasch will be able to continue to build the organization with the JCGC staff and Board and Harris looks forward to continuing to work with them via his role with the Jewish Federation, where he will help support community agencies and their initiatives.
A crucial starting point in Harris’ new role as Chief Development Officer will be the Cincinnati 2030 initiative. “The priorities of Cincinnati 2030 will be a guiding light as we look to deliver on the needs, promises, and hopes of our community members.” Furthermore, the Israel Community Mission in 2024 will be an incredible opportunity to showcase and support the work the Jewish Federation does there. “We need to recognize that this is a critical time in Israel’s history. I want the community to be aware of the work our Federation does in Israel, that we represent our interests there.”
Israel has always held a special place in Harris’ heart. After being active in the Young Judaea youth movement, he made Aliyah at age 18 and spent eight years living there, first on a kibbutz and later in Tel Aviv. He served in the Israeli military as a lone soldier and was a sergeant in the Artillery Corps, and finished his enlisted service in the Education Corps, training officers and commanders how to understand other lone soldiers. He is also proud to have been an activist and an educator, promoting Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, and working to bridge the divide between religious and secular Jewish Israelis, particularly following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
When Harris first arrived in Cincinnati, his first job was with the Jewish community, and to him that felt like “coming home.” He sees his new role as Chief Development Officer as the apex of his professional career; this is a position that is “fueled by deep values in order to mobilize donors, staff, and volunteers to do what we do best: care for the vulnerable, build bridges wherever we can, and enrich the lives of our entire community through a shared vision.”
Being back at the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati allows Harris to work with former colleagues as well as new associates. “The Federation team is made up of amazingly talented individuals,” says Harris, “and I look forward to supporting their fundraising efforts. It’s our job to help donors make an impact in the best interest of the community at large, while also meeting the individual donors’ goals.”
Harris grew up in Wichita, Kansas, where his parents were both deeply involved in their small Jewish community. Before moving to Cincinnati, Harris helped found an outdoor adventure company in NYC, leading backpacking and wilderness excursions. Spending time in nature is still a balm for Harris, though these days it is more likely to be with his partner and family flying a kite in the park.
“I grew up watching my parents give of their time and resources to my Jewish community. Now that Cincinnati has become my home, I’ve loved the opportunity to feel that I am living out the values that they instilled in me and helping others find ways to live their Jewish values. The fundraising that is at Federation’s core is the act of creating opportunities for donors and our community to accomplish our dreams. Truly, what could be more enriching than that?”