MARGATE — Jack Fox was met with a grand sendoff as he walked out of the Milton and Betty Katz Jewish Community Center on Friday.
A crowd of about 50 people slowed traffic on Jerome Avenue as they held signs, clapped and cheered for Fox as he headed home on his last day. City firetrucks and ambulances blared their sirens.
Fox waved, walked across the street with his fiancee, Pamela, got into his car and drove off.
Fox, 73, of Galloway Township, retired from the JCC on Friday. He had been the CEO since 1998.
“I’m old enough to retire,” he said. “I’m eligible. I think you reach a point in your life where you want to have other experiences.”
Chief Operating Officer Marg Rosenblatt took over as CEO on Saturday.
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Before coming to the JCC in Margate, Fox was the director of the Harold & Sylvia Kaplan Jewish Community Center of the Greater Palm Beaches in Florida. Prior to that, he served as the associate executive director of the Leo Yassenoff JCC of Greater Columbus in Ohio.
“I think what I love about the JCC is we change people’s lives every day,” he said. “We do so much to help people in positive situations. If you’re a preschooler, you come to the JCC to learn. If you’re a senior adult, you come to the JCC to learn, but you also come here to extend the longevity of your life. Everything we do enhances people’s lives, enhances family’s lives, and that’s what’s important.”
During his tenure, Fox raised $10 million to build a new JCC building in 2000, raised money to save the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic City and took over the Atlantic City Marathon in 2010 when it was in trouble of going under.
He said the challenge of running any nonprofit is raising money, which has become even more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This crisis was certainly the biggest challenge ever,” he said.
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Eric Share, president of the Katz JCC board, said Fox was an “incredible mentor” to him and taught him to be a better leader.
“He’s taught me immensely about what it means to lead versus just manage things and to have a vision,” Share said. “Jack’s not shy, but he’s not trying to be the star. He’s trying to make everybody not just good but excellent at what they do.”
Fox always had time for everybody and anybody, Share said.
In retirement, Fox plans to work on his pottery skills, spend more time with family and travel with his fiancee. They’re hoping to go to Italy.
But he’ll miss the people at the JCC the most.
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“We’re a family. Everybody working here cares about each other,” Fox said.
“To say ‘Jack will be missed’ is an understatement,” Share said. “Not only our JCC, but our entire community is better off because of who he is and what he has accomplished. As sad as we are to see him go, we’re happy that he gets to start a new chapter of his life.”
The search for a new CEO started more than year ago, and it was nationwide.
“We knew that Marg would be a candidate, but we didn’t want to just say, ‘Well, she’s here. She knows the place,’” Share said.
After receiving 75 to 100 applications, the board decided Rosenblatt was perfect for the job.
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“We’re so thrilled to have her,” Share said.
Rosenblatt, who has been at the JCC for 22 years, said Fox has been a catalyst in bringing the community together.
“And he’s raised enough money to build the place,” she said.
Aside from being a mentor, he was a father figure to many.
“I’ve learned things to do, and I’ve learned things not to do,” Rosenblatt said, adding Fox taught her to always treat people the way she wanted to be treated.
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And as CEO, she says she wants to continue the legacy Fox started and to make the organization a bigger and better place.
She was sad to see Fox leave but was excited for her next chapter.
“There’s a lot of work to be done in the community,” Rosenblatt said. “We’ve become a beacon of a doorway for everyone to enter no matter what your background.
“I have so many ideas,” she added. “Even though these are challenging times, and no one knows what could happen next, what a time to take the leadership role in an organization and a nonprofit.”
And she’s ready for the challenge, a quality she said she learned from Fox.