“A Once in a Generation Leader” – Thank You Dr. Conrad Giles

30.05.23

Glowing tributes have been paid to Dr. Conrad Giles after the long-standing leader retired from his role as President of World ORT.

With many years of service to the global Jewish network and more than half a century of service to the Jewish community, Dr. Giles has been a familiar and much-loved presence during missions to ORT schools and at events worldwide.

His commitment and dedication to strengthening Jewish life locally and globally, and his determination to improve educational opportunities for children worldwide, has been the driving force behind his work.

Dr. Giles served as World ORT President since 2016 following a long rise through countless Jewish organizations.

He stepped down from his role in May at the conclusion of a lengthy process to re-structure the organization’s lay leadership. A new Board of Trustees has been elected and a new group of World ORT Officers will be announced in the coming days.

Described by colleagues, peers and friends as “a mensch”, “exceptional”, “passionate” and “smart”, Dr. Giles has been a constant guiding presence for dozens of ORT professionals and lay leaders.

World ORT Director General and CEO Dan Green said: “Rarely do you have the chance in life to meet, let alone work with, someone as dedicated and committed to the cause as Connie. His is an example we should all follow, locally, nationally and internationally.

“I have been immensely fortunate to rely on his good humor, great counsel and infinite patience to help me in my role. Thank you Connie for everything you have done.”

Dr. Giles with his wife, Lynda, and World ORT Director General and CEO Dan Green in April 2023

Writing in a farewell letter to the network, Dr. Giles said his time as World ORT President had been “the most exciting and satisfying experience of my journey in Jewish life”. He said new leadership would ensure the organization had a bright future.

In a message to Dr. Giles, Simon Alberga, who served as his deputy on the World ORT Board, said: “Connie, it’s been an enormous pleasure and privilege working with you over the past seven years. You are a treasured mentor, friend and coach companion, and you’ve led the organization with characteristic charm, wit and enthusiasm through a challenging period.

“Thanks to your wise and thoughtful leadership, we’ve met each challenge head-on and come through it all stronger and smarter. Thank you for everything you’ve done and continue to do for ORT, and Kol Hakavod and best of health as you stand down as President.”

Judy Menikoff, who also served as a World ORT Deputy President, said: “Connie’s impact – in Detroit, in the American Jewish community and on ORT’s global stage – has been profound. His vision, and the eloquence with which he imparts it, have made him one of the most effective leaders of our time. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with him and learn from him.”

Howard Lanznar, Chair of ORT America’s Board of Directors, said: “Of the many accomplishments that have marked Conrad’s tenure as President of World ORT, there can be no doubt that one of the most meaningful has been the strengthening of the bonds between World ORT and ORT America.

“While many leaders – both professionals and lay – have contributed to this, it has been Conrad’s inspiring leadership that has been the driving force for this change. His unshakable focus on ORT’s mission of Educating for Life has enabled both organizations to overcome all obstacles and forge a partnership that continues to benefit ORT’s beneficiaries worldwide.

“On a personal level, Conrad, you are a role model and mentor without equal. Your focus and dedication to our mission, your articulate and impassioned advocacy for ORT, and your unflappable goodwill set a standard that I can only try to attain. I know that you will continue to be a part of the ORT family and I look forward to continuing to work with you and learn from you.”

At a tribute dinner honoring Dr. Giles hosted by ORT America in 2022 [see below], Gary Torgow, a leading Jewish communal figure in Michigan and within the JFNA, paid tribute saying: “Conrad is a once in a generation leader on the international stage. He has elevated everyone around him through his regal personality and his brilliant and creative leadership skills.”

Dr. Giles first joined the Men’s Chapter of ORT in Detroit and went on to serve as its president from 1978 to 1980. He then served 13 years as national vice-president of the American ORT Federation.

His other positions have included president of the Council of Jewish Federations in the late 1990s, during which he helped to facilitate the merger between the United Jewish Appeal – where he was a former national vice-chair – and the CJF, which resulted in the United Jewish Communities (UJC), which he then also served as a vice-chair. The UJC later became the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).

In 2006 Dr. Giles became vice-chair, and later chair, of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, a hub of U.S. community relations representing more than 120 local councils and 16 national Jewish agencies across America.

His international leadership has also been significant – he was a member of the board of governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel between 1990 and 2000, of the Joint Distribution Committee twice in the 1990s, and was on the executive committee of both organizations from 1996 to 1999.

Dr. Giles has worked as a pediatric ophthalmologist in Metropolitan Detroit for 60 years and has held a series of significant medical and academic positions in Michigan throughout his professional career.