Following a successful run as CEO of the Jewish National Fund of Canada starting in 2012, Josh Cooper said he’s looking forward to a new challenge at the helm of the Baycrest Foundation.
Outgoing Baycrest Foundation president and CEO Garry Foster announced Jan. 5 that he would be passing the torch to Cooper next month after a 3-1/2-year stint.
“The foundation is in very good shape. We’re going through a record year this year, and we need someone as we gain more and more momentum for the 10-year campaign,” Foster said.
Since the campaign launched about two years ago, Baycrest has raised $180 million toward its ambitious $600-million goal. Baycrest has an annual operating budget of $160 million.
“About a year ago, I stepped back and said, ‘What’s the best for Baycrest?’ They probably need someone who is going to be here for the next five to 10 years. And given my age, I don’t think I’m going to be here in five to 10 years,” said Foster, who is pushing 70.
“I’m totally confident that we’ve got an outstanding candidate who will do a great job for Baycrest and a great job for the community.”
Before Cooper served as JNF Canada’s CEO, he helped raise JNF’s profile as JNF Toronto’s executive director. Cooper came to JNF after founding the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC), which he led from 2005 to 2009.
Cooper said people may be surprised about his decision to leave JNF, given that it’s just had the best fundraising year in its history.
“I’m a big believer that community organizations shouldn’t have the same person running them for 25 years… and I’m a big believer that you’re better off leaving two years too early than two minutes too late,” he said.
“I just wanted a new challenge, and Baycrest is an institution that is a century old and is known for specializing in health care for older adults and for adding life to years, and who isn’t passionate about that?”
In the interim, CFO Karen Belinsky will take his place at JNF.
Cooper said he helped change public perception about JNF from a charity that plants tree in Israel to an organization that is 100 per cent Israel, and he has ambitions to do the same for Baycrest.
“A lot of people think Baycrest is only an old-age home… but there is a lot more to it,” he said.
“There are a lot of people in the community who rely on the organization for everything from rehab to day programs, to out-patient clinics and research. It is a tremendous institution, and I feel that I have a lot to add to Baycrest, getting it ready for its second century.”
Foster said Baycrest’s future will include a revitalization of its 22-acre campus.
“It is hard to believe that the Apotex Centre [Jewish Home for the Aged] is 16 years old now. That is the newest building around the campus, and the hospital needs revitalization… so I think the opportunity for Josh is to help seize that vision and raise the money to make sure we can meet that vision,” said Foster who plans to re-join Baycrest in the near future as a volunteer.
Cooper anticipates that raising the funds to meet those goals will be one of his biggest challenges.
“You look at the costs today in providing health care and it’s becoming higher and higher, and the fact that Baycrest is a kosher facility makes it even higher. Only two-thirds of Baycrest’s revenue is coming from the provincial government, so donations are critical to maintaining and augmenting the renowned level of care,” he said.
“I would say the No. 2 challenge is being able to tell the story of Baycrest and explaining to people exactly what is going on there. There are some who don’t realize there is a 22-acre campus in the heart of Toronto that is solely dedicated to adding years to people’s lives and helping them age with more dignity.
“People are living longer and if you’re fortunate enough that your parents or grandparents are still alive, everyone wants to see them age better and healthier. It’s a tremendous challenge, but one that is being addressed right here in the heart of the city.”