by Ozzie Nogg
On April 1 of this year, Karen Gustafson’s promotion to Executive Director of Jewish Family Service became official. “It’s extremely morale boosting to know that one’s hard work is recognized and rewarded,” Gustafson said. “I’m very thankful to my Board President, Jim Farber, for facilitating my promotion. And I’m grateful to the entire community for their support over the years and during this new step in my career.”
According to Gustafson, many of her colleagues — upon hearing the news of her promotion — said, “I thought you already were the Executive Director.” Others asked, “So, what’s changed?” Her response is typically to-the-point Karen.
“Twelve years ago I left my position at Child Saving Institute and joined the Jewish Family Service staff as a therapist. At the time, JFS was moving forward as a recognizable agency of the Federation and also as a respected Counseling Center for the Jewish and Omaha community. Eventually, it was determined that the best support for the agency would be to merge with The Rose Blumkin Jewish Home and Jewish Senior Services, which morphed into what is now known as JSS — Jewish Social Services. Mike Silverman was Executive Director of JSS and I was promoted to Director of Jewish Family Service. After five years of working closely with Mike, I assumed greater responsibilities for JFS with Mike always having my back. When Mike was promoted to Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Federation of Omaha, I was ready. It’s true that the services provided at JFS work in conjunction with other Federation agencies, but our function is unique and takes someone who knows ‘the business.’ Truthfully, I’ve been taking ownership of Jewish Family Service from the day I walked in the door. No matter who was ‘technically’ the leader, I did what had to be done and learned what had to be learned to put myself in the position to lead the agency when the opportunity arose. I’m glad to say, the opportunity arose. Adding the word “Executive” to my title feels great, but my goal at JFS remains the same. To do the best work for our clients and to maintain an agency of highly qualified, respected and diversified staff to serve the many faceted needs of the community.”