The exit interview: Adam Hertzman
TransitionsHertzman leaves Federation to start own consulting firm

The exit interview: Adam Hertzman

I have immense optimism for the future of Jewish Pittsburgh.

Adam Hertzman is readying for a new journey nearly a decade after beginning his tenure as the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s vice president of marketing.

He’s leaving his post at the Federation this month to launch a consulting firm.

Hertzman was with the organization through tumultuous times, including moving from its longtime home in the heart of Oakland to Technology Drive along the Monongahela River; the horror of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting; shifting its mission after commissioning a community study; COVID-19; and Hamas’ terrorist Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The Chronicle sat down with Hertzman as he reflected on his time with the nonprofit and spoke about his future.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

You’ve been with the Federation for almost 10 years. Why leave now to start your own consulting business?
The single biggest reason is that there are different opportunities in the Jewish nonprofit [world] that lend themselves to somebody with my expertise — not the least of which is the Federation system is moving to a new customer relationship management system, and Pittsburgh is on the leading edge of that transition. I feel I can bring some of that knowledge to other Jewish Federations.

You came to Pittsburgh almost 20 years ago when you and your wife relocated for her job at the RAND Corp. Now that your role at Federation is ending, do you plan on staying in the region?
For certain. We love Pittsburgh,` and really love this Jewish community. Monica [Hertzman’s wife] and I moved here with our baby in tow, who’s now 21. Neither of us had ever lived in a Jewish community that’s quite so tightknit as this one. I lived in the D.C. area and Boston and L.A. Monica had lived in L.A. and Dallas and overseas — London and Bologna, Italy. Neither of us has ever lived in a Jewish community that has quite the feeling this one does.

How did you get involved with the Federation?
I started volunteering. Federation helped me do some networking and to get my first job in Pittsburgh. I had volunteered with the young adult group, Shalom Pittsburgh, and I had volunteered on some marketing initiatives. So, when the Federation job opened, I happened to be looking for a new job at the time, and it looked interesting. I had met Brian Eglash (Federation’s chief development officer) already through my volunteer work and one thing led to another. It was a good fit.

I don’t know that I had planned to stay this long at Federation. Certainly the Oct. 27 attack changed my thinking. I saw that there was a lot of work to be done, I saw how much the Jewish community needed Federation’s leadership. I wouldn’t have made the switch from a for-profit to a nonprofit if I didn’t believe in the mission to begin with. I tell people it took a couple of years of therapy before I came around to reconcile two feelings. One was how terrible I felt. Both for myself and for the families who lost loved ones to a terrorist attack. But the other feeling was that I felt immense professional fulfillment in the work I did after the attack. It took therapy to make me realize that those two feelings were compatible, that I could feel both pride and a sense of accomplishment, that didn’t diminish feeling terrible for the families. That’s a hard set of thoughts to put together. I’m immensely proud of the work the Jewish Federation did after that attack and the work that I was able to do to help in healing.

You mentioned Oct. 27. You were also with Federation for its COVID-19 response, when it moved buildings, a community study, shifting its mission and the ongoing war in Gaza. That’s a lot.
This is part of the work I find energizing. This is the work that I think I’m good at and that I’ve done a lot. I find it energizing. It’s in those moments where I feel I can do the most to help.

What changes have you seen over your time with Federation?
When Monica and I moved here, people looked at us like we had three heads: “You moved from LA to Pittsburgh?” And I think that the feeling when we first moved here was, people felt almost apologetic for their pride in Pittsburgh. Now people are calling Pittsburgh the new Brooklyn and that pride doesn’t feel misplaced.

I think another thing that’s honestly changed for the better, I hope partly because of the work that Federation has done, is I see people more open to change. There’s a recognition that things go well when Jewish organizations and synagogues work together and collaborate. There’s a recognition that sometimes mergers of organizations are good for the community. I see the people who volunteer and care a lot about the Jewish community getting involved in more strategic ways. There are more people who understand that volunteering doesn’t just have to be about picking out napkin colors for a dinner, that it’s valuable to have people with strategic insight in a variety of areas — finance, strategy, human resources, organizational psychology, counseling, fundraising, marketing. I see an appetite for volunteers who want to contribute their valuable skills.

Any last words for the community?
I hope this won’t be the last word. I hope to continue to work with the community in a consulting and volunteer capacity.

I have immense optimism for the future of Jewish Pittsburgh because I see how passionate people are and how willing they are to make changes. I see this passionate, new generation of volunteers coming in with new ideas and different ways of doing things. That doesn’t mean that Jewish Pittsburgh will look like it does today, or it did 20 years ago. These are changes that we have been making to make our community more welcoming and inclusive. These are changes being made to make the experience of participating in Jewish life more interactive and empowering. Those things are great for Jewish Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh as a whole. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at

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