Martin Nachimson of Los Angeles was installed Sunday night as President of the Orthodox Union, at a reception for the OU’s Ben Zakkai Honor Society, an alumni group of NCSY, the OU’s international youth arm. The scene was most appropriate, because Mr. Nachimson spent six years, beginning in 2004, as Chair of the OU’s Youth Commission, which oversees NCSY and other programs for young adults.
Mr. Nachimson has been a key lay leader at his synagogue, Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Valley Village, for more than 30 years. He succeeds Dr. Simcha Katz, who was Orthodox Union President from 2010 to 2013.
Martin Nachimson is the first OU President to come from outside of the New York Metropolitan area. However, he is no stranger to Lower Manhattan, where the OU has its headquarters. He was born in Brooklyn and lived in Merrick, Long Island until heading west in 1974, at which time he began his involvement with the Orthodox Union’s West Coast Region; he served as Regional President for six years, among a variety of senior leadership positions. (Mr. Nachimson says that he did not follow the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles; rather that the Dodgers moved west to pave the way for him.)
Mr. Nachimson was educated in the East, obtaining his B.A. from Cornell University and his M.B.A. from Columbia University. His latest national position was Chairman of the OU’s Synagogue Standards Commission, for which he visited OU synagogues and potential OU synagogues throughout North America, intensifying his national outlook, which he brings to the presidency.
Jerry Schreck, a member of the OU Steering Committee who chaired the presidential nominating deliberations said, “Marty Nachimson is revered and well-respected throughout the organization, both among professionals and the lay leadership. He was the perfect choice to be president.”
“Marty is a thoughtful and caring leader,” said OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Steven Weil, who was rabbi of Congregation Beth Jacob in Beverly Hills for nine years, and developed a close working relationship with Mr. Nachimson. “Under Marty’s leadership, the number of attendees on NCSY Summer Programs almost doubled. For four decades, Marty has mentored, supported, and nurtured the OU and all of its activities. I am delighted that he now can bring his talents and enthusiasm to the OU’s most senior lay leadership position.”
Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, Director of the OU West Coast Region, declared: “It’s been a privilege to work closely with Marty for nearly three decades. He has been a strong advocate of having a meaningful OU presence on the West Coast. Although living in Los Angeles, he has been a very active and significant player in the national leadership of the OU and thus he is able to bring a perspective to the OU that is fresh and unique.
“Having lived in California for the last 40 years, he recognizes that the strength of the OU is the ability to connect and serve the communities that are the backbone of what the OU is all about. This was clearly evident to me in a recent visit Marty and I made to Denver. I am certain that Marty will energize other officers of the OU to follow his example and to visit many communities and to engage rabbis and presidents to be more involved in the work of the Orthodox Union.
“Having a president from the West Coast is indicative of the fact that the area has grown tremendously in recent years,” Rabbi Kalinsky continued. “Los Angeles has come of age when a national Jewish organization has chosen a local person to be its leader. Everyone on the West Coast will feel a sense of pride and connection with Marty’s presidency.”
Professionally, Mr. Nachimson is Managing Director and Senior Restructuring Advisor in the Los Angeles office of Macquarie Capital, a global provider of banking, financial, advisory, investment and funds management services. He has more than 45 years of experience in public accounting with a major emphasis on business loan workouts, debt restructuring and investigative matters. He has earned a national reputation through directing engagements on major restructurings throughout the country. Prior to Macquarie Capital, Mr. Nachimson occupied key positions at Giuliani Capital Advisors and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young, where he was a partner.
In his acceptance speech, Sunday evening at the Ben Zakkai NCSY reception, Mr. Nachimson declared, “The heart and soul of the OU are our kehillot (communities). We must never forget our first mission, our fundamental core mission, is to service our communities and their members.”
Recalling his involvement with NCSY, he said, “Can you imagine the Orthodox Jewish community without the contribution and impact of NCSY? Some of us can still remember the obituaries that were being written for Orthodox Judaism a half century ago. NCSY rescued a generation of children who were wandering out of the Orthodox community, even as it helped reintroduce thousands of estranged teenagers to the majesty of Torah living.”
Mr. Nachimson referred to JLIC, the Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus program of the OU, in which a young rabbi and his wife serve as Torah educators on 16 campuses in the United States and Canada, including UCLA, in Los Angeles. Their purpose is to provide an Orthodox environment on a secular campus and to empower the Orthodox students there through learning, socializing, and continued observance of the mitzvot.
“We can’t stop with high school,” Mr. Nachimson said. “Even yeshiva high school graduates who spend a year or two in Israel are often overwhelmed by the secular college environment. Studies show that we are losing between a third and a half of such students. NCSY is a precious core mission of the OU. JLIC is a continuation of this core mission. They demand our attention and our support.”
NCSY and JLIC represent the kiruv - outreach - aspect of the Orthodox Union.
Mr. Nachimson also paid tribute to the kashrut division of the OU, whose excellence sets the tone for every OU department; and to other departments, such as Yachad for individuals with disabilities, all of which contribute to Kiddush Hashem, the sanctification of God’s name.
“Kashrut. Kiruv. Kiddush Hashem,” concluded Mr. Nachimson. That is what the Orthodox Union is all about and that is the Orthodox Union that Mr. Nachimson now leads.