Kollel, longtime rabbi face uncertain path

Kollel, longtime rabbi face uncertain path

Weeks after Rabbi Aaron Kagan’s announced departure from the Kollel Jewish Learning Center, plans are underway for his replacement.

“The real work is starting now,” said Kagan, the Kollel’s longtime executive director and son of its late founder, Rabbi Shaul Kagan.

Dr. Abby Mendelson, president of the Kollel, along with members of the transition team, asked Aron Pfeffer, the organization’s treasurer, to become the Kollel’s interim executive director.

“[Pfeffer] accepted and will be looking at various tasks that Rabbi Kagan and his wife handled and determining who best should perform them now,” said Mendelson.

Along with Kagan’s departure, the Kollel will lose its business manager, Efrat Kagan.

“We are a package deal,” Kagan said of his wife.

For the next several weeks, Pfeffer will follow both Kagans, as he learns more about the Kollel’s operations.

“Aron has familiarity with the Kollel,” Mendelsohn said in explaining the temporary appointment. “He has been the treasurer and has been involved.

“The transition team wants to see — with oversight by Aron — what the staff can handle,” he continued. “[Pfeffer] will make recommendations, and we’ll make recommendations. We are feeling our way through this process.”

Pfeffer agreed that his role with the Kollel is a “work in progress.” 

“I am going to take the opportunity to more familiarize myself,” he said. “[It’s] not about making changes, it’s about running the product.”

Pfeffer’s position will be part time. As such, he will remain involved in his family’s real estate business. Although Pfeffer will begin working with the Kollel immediately, Kagan plans on staying throughout the summer.

“I’m still currently involved,’ said Kagan. “I’m raising money for the Kollel and will until the day I leave.”

Kagan has yet to accept another position but noted that an associate in New York is helping him explore his options.

“I currently have some conversations with national organizations,” he said.

Kagan would like to join a larger organization than the Kollel, and is hoping to find one with a budget of $2 million to $3 million. 

“We had a lot of fun building this place,” he said. “But if I want to take my skill set and abilities to the next level, now’s the time.”

Kagan, 47, emphasized that now is the time to explore. 

“I wanted to step off the cliff while I was still young enough,” he said. “This has become the new CEO role. You don’t see this as a position for life. For a while I did, and then you get older.”  

Addressing the void that his departure likely will cause, Kagan offered that Rabbi Levi Langer, the organization’s dean, has indicated that he wants to have a greater leadership role.

“There’s a part of me that will always be here,” said Kagan. “My father’s name is on the cornerstone.”

(Adam Reinherz can be reached at adamreinherz@gmail.com.)

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