There’s big news tonight from the Educational Alliance, one of the Lower East Side’s largest and oldest non-profit organizations. Robin Bernstein is resigning as president and CEO, after 25 years with the social service agency. In a lengthy letter distributed earlier this evening, she wrote, “it is with bittersweet emotions I have decided that I will step down… at the end of this calendar year.”
It’s a particularly sensitive time in the history of the 125-year old organization; its flagship building on East Broadway is undergoing a multi- million dollar gut renovation. But Bernstein said, “I feel that the time is right for the organization, and also for me, to forge ahead into new and exciting endeavors.” Noting that $59 million has been raised for the project, she added that the Educational Alliance’s determination “allowed us to take on ambitious challenges even in the most difficult times.”
Here’s more from the letter:
As a community-based agency, we are bound to face difficulties at various junctures, but we know now that we have the capacity to surmount any obstacle we encounter, just as we have in these past two and a half decades. I must confess that I have been thinking for a while about the need to make a transition as CEO of this Agency. I know in my heart that once the Manny Cantor Center opens, this new structure needs new leadership. Certainly, after 25 years I feel that it is the right time for me to explore what I want to do next personally and professionally. In my travels over the past two years, including trips to Africa, Washington, and the Aspen Institute, I have begun to open my mind to my desire to find the next frontier. As those of you who know me well understand, when I work I give my all. My work at the Alliance is consuming, and that is why I need to be free of these responsibilities before I entertain ideas about my future. There is never a perfect time to make this kind of transition but this feels as close to perfect for me and for the organization as I can imagine. We have taken big risks as an organization in the past five years. Some of you may even feel that at times our audacious reach has exceeded our grasp. I truly believe that had we not acted to build our new flagship building and create a vision that could take this agency into the 21st century, we would have risked becoming weak physically, financially and programmatically. We saw the future emerging, and we were courageous enough to reach out to meet its challenges.
Bernstein, who been CEO for 15 years, said she would stay on while the board of directors searches for a new leader. In a separate statement, Board Chair Russell Markowsky said, “We thank Robin for all of her work at the Educational Alliance over so many years, for her leadership and friendship, her great and gentle humor, her deep commitment to and caring for this community, and the foundation she has built for its future.”