When Jennifer Mamlet first heard last spring that the JCC of Central New Jersey in Scotch Plains was looking for a new executive director, she thought “it was almost too good to be true.”
She and her family had moved to nearby Westfield about 16 months before. She had been doing a two-hours-each-way commute to Manhattan, where for 10 years she had been working for the Ad Council. The JCC position was “a working mother’s dream,” she said, a job five minutes’ drive away. She and her family were already members, and enthusiastic supporters of the organization.
Plus, she said, “It had been my long-time dream to be the executive director of a nonprofit.”
Still, she hesitated. “I said to my husband, ‘Would I be crazy to look into it?’ I hadn’t had a position like that and I wasn’t sure I could compete,” she told NJ Jewish News in an interview on Jan. 24.
The JCC, a constituent agency of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, United Way of Greater Union County, and the Westfield United Fund, was looking for someone to replace Barak Hermann, who was leaving in the fall after five years to take up a position in Baltimore.
Mamlet decided to take the plunge. “I’ve always been a pretty confident person. My attitude is, ‘This is who I am. Let’s make it work,’” she said.
Mamlet, who grew up in East Brunswick, has a master’s in social work from Columbia University and a dual BA from Bucknell University. She served as the senior vice president of development at the Ad Council, and before that as director of SCOPE (Summer Camp Opportunities Promote Education), where she oversaw fund-raising for summer camps for underprivileged children. She started her career as a social worker, and also taught for a while.
After months of interviewing prospective candidates, the JCC’s selection committee and the board of directors voted unanimously to appoint Mamlet. She stepped into her new role on Jan. 14.
In a press release to the membership, JCC president Suzanne Tucker said, “We are so excited that Jennifer has joined us as executive director. We are confident that her intelligence, passion, skills, and commitment to the JCC’s mission make her absolutely the best person for the position.”
Assistant executive director and Early Childhood director Robin Brous also welcomed her appointment. “Jennifer is a great fit for our JCC,” she declared.
As for Mamlet, she told NJJN, “I feel as if all the roads in my life have led to this — to this organization, in my community, where my kids will grow up, with all of us participating in it.”
She and her husband Alex and their children, five-and-a-half-year-old Amelia (“She’ll kill me if I leave out that half,” Mamlet said) and two-year-old Jacob have been using the center since coming to the area in December 2010. Getting to know those at the helm, Mamlet said, just deepened her appreciation for it. “I fell in love with the organization. It is an incredibly engaged board and lay leadership,” she said, “and the staff members are wonderful.”
She met Hermann only once. “He left very big shoes to fill,” she said. “He did a fantastic job getting people involved and motivated, and professionalizing the board.” This past weekend, attending a national JCCs Association executive directors’ conference in California, she was hoping to meet up with him and have a chance to talk more.
Now, she said, she is eager to “roll up my sleeves” and get going. Priority number one is to continue to strengthen the JCC’s financial base. “We have a very strong infrastructure, and as a fund-raiser that makes it much easier to make my case,” she said.