Federation’s new CEO is New Orleans’ latest French influence

Robert French has been named the new CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.

The current executive director of Jewish El Paso and The Jewish Community Foundation of El Paso, French will succeed Arnie Fielkow, who is retiring at the end of the year.

In a community email on Nov. 7, Federation Board Chair Brian Katz said French “is a thoughtful, caring and engaging leader who we believe will be able to connect with everyone in the community.”

Fielkow congratulated French, along with Katz and the search committee. “New Orleans has an important, impactful and inspiring Jewish community, and I look forward to supporting Robert’s arrival as much as would be helpful,” he said.

A native of London, French has been in El Paso, which has a Jewish community of about 5,000, since 2018. He oversaw the rebranding of Jewish El Paso, and emphasized outreach to community members and partners, and building endowments for the long term.

He previously was executive director of Temple Israel in New York City for 10 years, reinvigorating the Upper East Side congregation. He also developed programming to engage thousands of unaffiliated young professionals.

He also spent 19 years at Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles, working in education, administration, communications and programming.

French graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University, California State University Northridge and California Coast University in business administration.

He was co-chair of StandWithUs in New York City for nine years, and serves on the board of Nirim USA, which helps disadvantaged youth in Israel.

“I am excited and humbled to assume the Federation CEO position,” French said. “My professional and personal lives have always been immersed in engaging meaningfully with everything Jewish and Israel.”

He sees New Orleans as leading by example for other Jewish communities in the country.

“One of the central roles of our Federation is to build community, to welcome the newcomer, to engage our partners, and to secure the Jewish future in Greater New Orleans and beyond,” French said. “I have already felt the warmth, camaraderie and hospitality of your leadership and look forward to engendering this value into our diverse and dynamic community.

“I am thrilled to become Jewish New Orleans’ newest resident.”