Shalom Austin Names Rabbi Daniel Septimus as New CEO
By Julie Zweig
Rabbi Daniel Septimus, a fifth generation Houstonian and proud Texan, has been named Shalom Austin’s new Chief Executive Officer. He succeeds Jay Rubin, who will be retiring at the end of August after ten years at the helm of the organization.
Shalom Austin, the Jewish community’s central organization, encompasses the Jewish Federation, Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family Service and Jewish Foundation, manages the Dell Jewish Community Campus and publishes The Jewish Outlook.
Septimus, 38, currently serves as the Executive Director of Texas Hillel, a position he has held since July 2014. During his tenure at Texas Hillel, he significantly enhanced the organization’s fundraising, financial stability, operational efficiency, and community outreach efforts. He also attracted national attention for his leadership. AIPAC named him 2016's Campus Partner of the Year, recognizing his and Texas Hillel’s pro-Israel education advocacy and their success fighting BDS on campus. He is also a participant in the prestigious Shalom Hartman Institute Fellowship for Campus Professionals and the Schusterman Fellowship.
“Clearly losing Daniel will be a big loss and challenge for us,” Jim Sud, President of the Texas Hillel Board of Directors declared in an email to stakeholders. “We are gratified for the leadership that Daniel will bring to Shalom Austin and know that he will continue to be a supporter and advocate for Texas Hillel going forward.”
A past Grand Aleph Godol of BBYO International’s AZA, Septimus graduated from Tulane University in 2002, and was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 2007. Before coming to Austin, he served for seven years as Associate Rabbi and Director of Congregation Learning at Temple De Hirsch Sinai, the largest Jewish congregation in the Pacific Northwest.
Septimus and his wife Amanda are the parents of three children and active members of Temple Beth Shalom and the JCC’s Early Childhood Program community.
In officially announcing the appointment, Randi Shade and Billy Osherow CEO Search Committee Co-Chairs, and Joan Swartz, Shalom Austin Board of Directors Chair wrote: “We are delighted to have Rabbi Daniel Septimus as our new Shalom Austin CEO. He is an inspirational leader with the broad experience, personality and strength of character to guide Shalom Austin into the future. We appreciate the hard work of everyone who served on the CEO Search Committee, and want especially to thank the Shalom Austin Board, staff and the many members of our community who dedicated their time and talent to this important effort.”
“We will be planning opportunities for the community to welcome and meet Daniel, and we will share more details about this in the coming months. We also are mindful of the extremely important work of our partners at Texas Hillel and will make every effort to support and assist them during Daniel’s transition and the search for his successor,” the email continued.
The Shalom Austin CEO search process began eight months ago when the Search Committee hosted a comprehensive and inclusive series of community discussions, designed to get input from key stakeholders and constituencies within Austin’s Jewish community. Through these discussions the committee shaped a job description for the next CEO.
The Search Committee partnered with the Jewish Federations of North America’s Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence, which managed the national search and identified over 40 candidates from across the country. The committee reviewed a subset of these candidates and chose to interview in-person five highly-qualified Jewish professionals. Two outstanding finalists then came to the Dell Jewish Community Campus for in-depth community engagement. After receiving tremendously useful and much-appreciated input from staff, lay leaders, donors, and community partners the CEO Search Committee recommended Rabbi Daniel Septimus to be the next Shalom Austin CEO. The Shalom Austin Board of Directors agreed with that recommendation, voting unanimously at its June 16 Board meeting to offer him the position.
Calling this “an exciting time to begin a journey with Austin’s growing and dynamic Jewish community,” Septimus outlined several priority areas, including the completion of the Generations Campaign; creating a robust engagement program; collaborating with synagogues, schools and local organizations to expand vibrant Jewish learning opportunities; strengthening the volunteer and leadership pipeline and attracting, training, supporting and retaining talented staff team members.
Integral to his strategic vision for the community is the growth of the Jewish Federation’s annual campaign and the Jewish Foundation’s planned giving and endowment development efforts to serve as catalysts for innovation and building a culture of excellence.
As a rabbinic student, Septimus was inspired by a recording of a sermon from Rabbi Bob Kahn, one of his childhood rabbis at Congregation Emanu El in Houston. Rabbi Kahn pointed out that the Hebrew letters of the word Rabbi, resh, bet and yud could be interpreted as roeh b’nai yisrael, meaning shepherd of the people of Israel.
And that’s the way he sees his role as CEO of Shalom Austin: “At Shalom Austin, I hope to convene and guide individuals, families, leaders, synagogues and organizations, using Jewish tradition to shape our vision, as we look toward a very bright future for Austin’s Jewish community.”