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JCC's CEO retiring after more than 33 years in position

January 31, 2017

After more than 33 years leading the organization, the CEO of JCC Indianapolis is stepping down. Ira Jaffee, who started working for the not-for-profit Jewish Community Center in 1977, announced Tuesday that he will retire in mid-June.

Jaffee served as the youth and young adult assistant director for two years before being promoted to assistant director in 1979 and then CEO in 1984.

JCC Indianapolis offers early childhood education, afterschool care, a fitness facility and an arts program. It serves more than 5,000 member households (about 10,000 people) and 25,000 non-members.

During Jaffee’s tenure, he oversaw a $15 million renovation and expansion of the facility in 1999, opened the $4.6 million Sid & Lois Eskenazi Aquatic Complex in 2003, built 30 raised beds for a community garden in 2010, launched a weekly farmers’ market in 2014 and received the licensing last year to expand the early childhood education program from 10 classrooms to 17.

“Although we knew this day would come, it’s bittersweet,” Keith Pitzele, chair of JCC Indianapolis’s board of directors, said in a prepared statement. “We’re grateful for all that Ira has done for the J and happy for him as he starts this next chapter in his life, but he will be missed. He’s leaving very big shoes to fill.”

Membership more than doubled under Jaffee’s leadership, and the organization’s annual budget grew from $1 million in 1984 to $9 million today.

“The major role of a non-profit CEO is to be fundraiser-in-chief and cheerleader-in-chief,” Jaffee said in a written statement. “I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to fulfill those roles because I believe in the mission and work of the JCC. Although the majority of our members are not Jewish, the JCC is anchored in Jewish values.”

The not-for-profit on Tuesday also announced that it received its largest-ever endowment gift of nearly $1 million from the family of Irwin and Ann Katz. Irv Katz was a founding partner of accounting firm Katz, Sapper & Miller and was involved with JCC for more than 70 years.

The Irwin and Ann Katz Cultural Arts and Education Endowment Fund is expected to provide $35,000 annually to support arts programming.

Lisa Waite, director of marketing for JCC, declined to provide the exact amount of the donation due to family wishes. The previous record-setting gift amount also was not disclosed.

A search committee has been formed to select a new CEO, and a hiring is expected before Jaffee retires in June.

According to the organization's 2014 tax records, Jaffee was paid $196,044 annually.

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