‘Work hard, play hard’

West Hempstead rabbi named to leadership position with Orthodox Union


An outdoorsman and avid sports fan, West Hempstead resident Rabbi Ari Rockoff said he believes in having a “work hard, play hard” mentality. While many sports analogies are cliché, he said, they hold true to several different aspects of life.

“True success is based off of the success of others,” Rockoff, 44, said. “I embrace that challenge of making sure that everyone around me is successful in what they do.”

Rockoff said he hopes to carry this idea into his new position at the Orthodox Union — the nation’s oldest and largest umbrella organization for the North American Orthodox Jewish community. He was recently named the union’s first director of strategic partnerships.

“It’s a huge honor, and I’m very humbled by it,” Rockoff said. “This group goes back over 100 years, and I understand the great history of this group and what they stand for. There’s a lot of responsibility in this new role, but it’s about taking it one day at a time.”

Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union has over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. The OU does advocacy work on the state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, Birthright Israel/Israel Free Spirit, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs.

In this role, Rockoff will be responsible for managing the OU’s portfolio of major funding partners, including foundations, federations, corporations and major Jewish organizations. He will be working with all OU departments and reaching out to a broad spectrum of community partners. He will work with senior OU management and lay leadership to create strategies for short- and long-term development initiatives, and will fundraise for programs consistent with the OU’s strategic communal and partnership objectives.

“Rabbi Rockoff brings a commanding knowledge of the Jewish communal world, along with an encyclopedic awareness of key strategic players and potential partners,” said Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Allen Fagin, the OU’s executive vice president in a news release. “Ari will be a key player to identify opportunities for collaborative initiatives and to build long-term strategic relationships that will enable the OU to take the next leap in support for our work around the world.”

Rockoff joins the organization’s institutional advancement department after spending five years as the OU-NCSY director of leadership development, in which he worked on training, mentoring and leadership development. Before joining the OU, Rockoff spent more than a decade at his alma mater, Yeshiva University, where he was on the founding team of the Center for the Jewish Future and the lead designer of ChampionsGate, a leadership conference that brought together hundreds of Jewish lay leaders and professionals from around the country. He currently lives with his wife, Deborah, and their five children.

“What I’ve learned through my past experiences is that it’s all about the people,” Rockoff said. “I’m well-adjusted to the needs of this organization, but whenever you start something new, you have to approach it with humility and you have to approach it with the right mindset.”

Rockoff said that his short-term goal is to develop a better understanding of the organization’s partnerships. “We’re very diversified with the synagogues, special needs populations, college campuses, and so on,” he said. “In this position, I now have the opportunity to spread my wings and put forth the organization’s goals.”