With more than 30 years of experience in Jewish nonprofit philanthropy and management, Mariam Shpeen Feist is the new CEO for the Jewish Federation & Foundation of Northeast Florida. Originally from Cherry Hill, New Jersey (outside of Philadelphia), Feist is the former president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. While there, she successfully changed their philanthropy model from transactional to personal and engaging by creating and implementing benefits to giving societies, stewardship and missions, and restructuring Women’s Philanthropy and Young Adult Divisions. These actions resulted in an increase in Dallas’ Annual Campaign of over two million dollars during her tenure.
Like many people she knew, Mariam spent time during COVID-19 lock-down searching for gratitude and life priorities. She realized that Dallas wasn’t where she envisioned being for the long term and decided to search for a place that would fulfill both her professional and personal priorities. After doing her research, meeting the Federation & Foundation Search Committee, community volunteer and staff leadership and becoming more familiar with the excellent reputation of the organization, she and her husband Bob realized that the organization and community checked off almost all their boxes. They wanted to relocate to a place similar in size and feel to where they spent most of their married life and where they left lasting footprints. She remarked, “I’m excited to contribute professionally to a growing community, working with leadership that articulates a clear vision, and to joining a dynamic professional team.”
What does Mariam hope to learn in her new role? “I eagerly anticipate listening to and learning from the community. From donors and leaders and from those community members who are not involved or who chose to ‘opt out.’” She hopes to build on the strong foundation that has been laid by professionals and volunteer leadership by continuing to enhance the partnerships with local Jewish organizations, synagogues and the secular community to strengthen confidence in the organization and increase its relevance. Mariam believes there are no other organizations in the world that has, does, and will do the type of work and have the global impact that Jewish Federations do. “Being part of the collective is empowering and inspiring. I love Federation work and believe this is a calling, not a job.”
It must run in the family. Her late father, Harold Shpeen, DDS, was so involved in the Jewish community–synagogue, Federation, JCC, Bureau of Jewish Education Presidents–that she thought he worked for the Jewish Federation until she needed her first filling and realized he was a dentist!
Mariam’s love for Israel is strong, too. On her first trip of more than 20 to Israel in 1973, the Yom Kippur War broke out and her memories of that time continue to inspire her passion for Israel, its people and its importance to Jewish survival.
Mariam and Bob are parents of two adult sons. Jacob lives in Washington, D.C., and Max lives in St. Louis. They also care for two rescue dogs, Archie and Hawkeye.
“We look forward to continued growth and fulfillment of our mission under Mariam’s leadership,” said Jewish Federation & Foundation of Northeast Florida President Jennifer Plotkin. She added, “We are excited to welcome her to our Jewish community and look forward to many years of success working together.