Less than a year after downsizing to one employee and making the remaining position three-quarters-time instead of full-time, the Arizona office of the American Jewish Committee is losing that one employee. Rabbi Maynard Bell, who became AJC area director after the departure of former director Rabbi Robert Kravitz, is leaving to resume pursuit of a career in mental health.
"What I'm doing is picking up where I left off four years ago," Bell said. "I have only the highest regard for the agency and believe in the nobility of its mission.
"I still think the AJC has viability here. It's just working in the downsized configuration in a very tough development and fundraising economy was not for me."
Bell, formerly the rabbi of Temple Solel in Paradise Valley, will remain in his position until April 29, after which he will begin a residency at Phoenix Interfaith Counseling. Currently a licensed associate counselor, his goal is to earn enough post-degree supervised hours to become a licensed professional counselor.
Of his tenure with AJC, Bell said, "I'm really very proud of the board that I built and the increased visibility of AJC and enhanced profile of AJC in the Jewish community." And, he added, he was "very, very proud of the work we've done in Latino-Jewish relations and immigration reform advocacy. I would say that's our signature work certainly in the last year and more."
Larry Cutler, president of AJC's Arizona regional board, said that Bell's departure will "definitely be a great loss for AJC and the Arizona region, but we really appreciate all of his good work over the past several years, and we plan on building on his efforts in the future."
Asked about the local chapter's future, Cutler said, "We intend that a full-time director will be hired, but at this point I don't think we've identified anyone in particular. We have a very competent and wonderful and dedicated board of directors with AJC, and we all without exception want to carry on the work that AJC has done over the past 40 years in the Valley."
Cutler said that he and former regional board president Ken Smith - both men are members of the national board of governors as well - will be talking with AJC officials at the annual AJC conference in Washington, D.C., April 28-30 to determine what will happen next.
Bell's immediate supervisor, AJC Director of Community Services Elizabeth Planet, confirmed that she had received Bell's notice of resignation and that he will be continuing until close to end of the month.
As for the next step, Planet said, "I will be meeting with our Arizona lay leaders (at the national meeting in Washington) because we'll be able to be in the same place. I will be able to comment after that meeting."
Asked if the AJC office of the Arizona region would remain open, she deferred comment, saying, "I really want to have a chance to talk to the lay leaders first."
Planet began as director of community services for the AJC last month, succeeding Bell's former immediate supervisor, Jonathan Levine.