New Director at Vilna Shul

Barnet Kessel has been named executive director of The Vilna Shul.

Kessel, who will begin his post on July 22, brings over 24 years of business experience and exceptional leadership in the Jewish community. He is currently the vice president of commercial products at Mantua Manufacturing Company.

Emily Leventhal, incoming board member and leader in the Boston community said, “The Vilna’s strategic plan is to restore the historic building as the center of Jewish cultural and religious life in downtown Boston. Through building restoration and active leadership the Vilna will become more than ever a place in which a community and congregation can develop and engage in activities that are essential for the continuity and growth of Judaism in Boston. We are a small entrepreneurial organization and we are thrilled to have Barnet join our team. He is a passionate executive that will provide the vision and leadership to bring the Vilna into its next phase as Boston’s Jewish cultural and religious center.”

According to Deborah Feinstein, president of the organization and chair of the search committee, Kessel stood out among many candidates.

Feinstein said, “Barnet is an inspirational leader, he is dynamic, and he is dedicated to the Boston Jewish community. His great-grandfather immigrated to Boston and settled in the West End, just steps from the Vilna, starting the firm that Barnet eventually successfully ran, built and sold. Barnet did all this while taking time to give back to his community. He’s the ideal candidate to execute our vision for the future of the Vilna. We are very blessed to have found Barnet. “

Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, said, “Barnet knows first-hand from his time as chair of CJP’s Young Leadership Division that the defining characteristics of our community and our people are Torah, Chesed and Tzedek. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing one of CJP’s young leaders taking on the role to lead an organization that is committed to our mission of helping the next generation of Jews, of every background, to make the connection to Jewish life. We look forward to working with Barnet, he is a leader that understands the importance of collective wisdom and being part of a greater community.”

In addition to his professional accomplishments, Kessel has been a volunteer at CJP for over nine years. He currently sits on the board of directors of Jewish Community Relations Council and the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts. For over 15 years, Kessel has been involved in the Pan Mass Challenge as a rider, corporate sponsor, recruiter, and team co-captain of the Patriots Platelet Pedalers. Over the last 13 years, Kessel has volunteered for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and participated in over 16 of their events in Boston, New York and Dallas.

Feinstein added, “Kessel is a selfless and caring individual. He has the ability to build community around his areas of interest and to raise awareness of issues.”

Kessel holds a B.S. from Syracuse University’s School of Management. Originally from Canton, he lives in Newton with his wife Nava and their son Louis.

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