How do you replace the “Jewish pope”?
That’s the nickname for Abraham H. Foxman, who announced Monday that after 27 years at its helm, he will retire in July 2015 from the Anti-Defamation League, perhaps the world’s most prominent organization founded to fight anti-Semitism and bigotry.
Several activists in the Jewish community said Foxman’s successor as national director would do well to share the power of the organization rather than concentrate it at the very top.
A Holocaust survivor known for his quick — some say too quick — defense of Jews and the Jewish state, Foxman stood up for Muslims, gays and others, too. He was a man called on by presidents. Politicians and celebrities apologized to him when they had offended Jews.
“Abe is irreplaceable,” President Obama said in a statement released Tuesday, “but the causes that he has dedicated his life to will continue to inspire people in the United States, Israel, and around the world.”
Foxman may be irreplaceable, but there’s no shortage of experienced leaders who could succeed him. Here are 10 possible candidates, in no particular order, culled from conversations with activists across many segments of Jewish life — religious, cultural and political. None are known to Religion News Service to be actual candidates.
●Lonnie Nasatir, an ADL regional director based in Chicago and a former lawyer for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.
●William Daroff, director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America, regional groups that support the Jewish community and the less- fortunate throughout the United States.
●Stacy Burdett, the ADL’s director of government and national affairs.
●Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat who retired from the U.S. House in January 2013 after serving 15 terms.
●Michael Salberg, head of the ADL’s international affairs office.
●Hannah Rosenthal, former head of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and former head of the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism for three years in the Obama administration.
●Rudy Boschwitz, who fled Nazi Germany as a child and was a U.S. senator from Minnesota from 1978 to 1991, affiliated with the Independent-Republican Party.
●Simon Greer, president of the Nathan Cummings Foundation and former head of the Progressive Jewish Alliance and Jewish Funds for Justice.
●Noam Marans, a rabbi and the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations.
●Ira Forman, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, who served as Jewish outreach director for the Obama for America campaign.