JCC Chicago Is Now Led by Women for the First Time Ever: One-on-One With the New Leaders

JCC Chicago again made history this year. Women assumed the top leadership positions for the first time at this 115-year-old powerhouse Jewish community organization — the largest in North America. Addie Goodman became the 12th President and CEO, as Marisa Mandrea rose to Board Chair. They bring infectious can-do attitude and energy, marketing and governance expertise, and an ambitious vision for the future to their roles. They’re also both working mothers of four, married to men with big careers too. 

Goodman, an Evanstonian, led development for Baker Demonstration School before joining JCC Chicago in March 2014 as Chief Advancement Officer. She was promoted to COO in April 2017. In those roles, Goodman substantially expanded programs for children, teens, families, and health and wellness. She also grew the annual JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival to over 17,000 people this past year and formed new, effective partnerships that broaden the JCC’s reach and impact for all of Jewish Chicago.

Mandrea owns her own residential interior design firm — Horizon Lane — and lives in Northbrook where she is active in the Beth Shalom Synagogue. Her varied professional experience — which includes fashion, TV, national magazines Glamour and TeenStyle, and teaching — prepared her well to succeed in service leadership too.

Better Founder and Publisher Susan B. Noyes interviewed the dynamic duo to help celebrate this inflection point for women and JCC Chicago (a Best of 2019 winner!), as well as to learn more about their ambitious vision for the institution’s future. 

You both have enjoyed success in multiple careers and would be a tremendous asset for any nonprofit organization you choose to support. Why did you choose JCC Chicago? 

AG: It’s personal. While I’ve always been committed to nonprofit agencies and causes, when the opportunity came to join JCC Chicago, I jumped. My Jewish journey has been replete with ups and downs, highs and lows — the J is in a unique position to both provide a pathway to Jewish choice and Jewish life and also serve as a convener of all community members. Having met my husband at our West Rogers Park center, sent my kids to a myriad of JCC Chicago programs, and worked as both a swim teacher and now executive for the agency, the J is very much my home.  

MM: I believe that the key to Judaism remaining relevant for today’s families and for future generations is “doing Jewish,” whether that means taking a Pilates class in one of our fitness facilities, celebrating Shabbat on the Lake with like-minded people, [or] sending your child to a Jewish preschool or camp. JCC Chicago offers something for everyone at every facet of life and I love being part of the J’s mission — we bring Judaism to you, however it fits in to your life. 


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You each have four children. Congratulations! How does this affect your perspective and your work on behalf of the largest JCC in America? 

AG: Four kids is a lot of kids! As an only child, I had no idea how different children within the same family can be — and how parenting differs from one child to another. You learn to be flexible, tolerant, the ultimate problem-solver. In many ways, JCC Chicago is the same. We have a dozen locations spanning from Lake County to Hyde Park and they each need something a bit different, as do the communities they serve.  

MM: Strength in numbers! I know for myself having four kids has made me pretty adept at multi-tasking, delegating, understanding where I need to focus and where I need to let go, and certainly not to sweat the small stuff — because there just is not enough time in the day. I think anyone who has worked with me knows that I am big on efficiencies, positive energy, and listening. I have learned to ask a lot of questions and to lean in when I need support.  

What are your hopes and goals for JCC under your joint tenure? 

AG: This is, indeed, a special moment in time as JCC Chicago has never before been led by women in both the CEO and Board Chair roles. Together, we aspire to continue to push JCC Chicago forward as a preeminent Chicago not-for-profit institution, growing reach from 60,000 community members to 100,000. What’s more, we are working to realize JCC Chicago’s future as a true community center, where all individuals can find community and connection at every life stage. Given the swell in engagement from 25,000 to 60,000 in just five years, we are well on our way!

MM: Addie has created this tremendous upward trajectory for JCC Chicago. She and I share a common vision for our community and I just want to see us continue to grow, become more relevant for teens and adults, and become a real center for Jewish life in Chicago.


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What can others do to help you achieve them? 

AG: Join in! From kids to adults, we are a society behind doors and behind screens; JCC Chicago offers an opportunity to engage and connect, to form relationships, to be part of something. That’s what we’re really about and we invite everyone to experience community with us.

MM: I think others can help by continuing to be ambassadors of our agency. The more people understand what we do, what we offer, and how we do it, the more people want to be engaged. 

What are fun facts about you, that others likely don’t know?

AG: I majored in Japanese, lived in Japan for six months, and taught Japanese for two years.

MM: Hmm … I worked at Glamour magazine in the late ’90s. I taught English at Fremd High School. I love to golf, play tennis, and ski. I am a super-fast reader and can devour a book a day if I have the time. I love dogs (I have two of them — a Poodle and a Havanese) and my favorite place to be is in the mountains.   

What book is on your bedside stand right now? 

AG: “The Power of Moments” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

MM: Hah! It’s so random … “The Genius of Judaism by Bernard-Henri Levy, “Dream Golf: The Making of Bandon Dunes by Stephen Goodwin, “The New Girl by Daniel Silva, and “Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens … and 10 other random books that I have started and not finished. 

What else do you want to tell us?

AG: I believe in passion projects. Immersing myself in Japanese was my first true passion project and JCC Chicago is my second — when you find something that sweeps you up, ride the wave and enjoy every minute.

MM: I am incredibly honored and humbled to be the next in line to lead our board. I have been very fortunate to have had incredible role models in the board chair-people who have come before me. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I am nervous about the huge shoes I know I need to fill. I am tremendously excited to be working with Addie, whom I learn from daily. I am passionate about spreading the mission of the J with our Chicago community.  

Susan B. Noyes is the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of Make It Better Media Group, which includes Better.

A mother of six, former Sidley Austin labor lawyer and U.S. Congressional Aide, passionate philanthropist, and intuitive connector, she has served on boards for the Poetry Foundation, Harvard University Graduate School of Education Visiting Committee, American Red Cross, Lurie Children’s Hospital, Annenberg Challenge, Chicago Public Education Fund, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, New Trier High School District 203, and her beloved Kenilworth Union Church. But most of all, she enjoys writing and serving others by creating virtuous circles that amplify social impact.