(July 28, 2021) – The Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston is pleased to announce that it has unanimously selected Renee Wizig-Barrios as the Federation’s next President & Chief Executive Officer.
A native Houstonian, Wizig-Barrios comes to the Federation after more than two and a half decades rising through leadership positions in Texas nonprofits. For the past 11 years, she has served as the Senior Vice President & Chief Philanthropy Officer for the Greater Houston Community Foundation (GHCF). There, she led a fundamental shift in the organization’s approach to its work and focused on moving from being an effective transactional platform for Donor Advised Funds to becoming a true hub for philanthropy that benefits both to donors and the Greater Houston community.
Wizig-Barrios’ accomplishments as a senior leader at GHCF include: assisting in nearly tripling the foundation’s assets; guiding the foundation’s disaster response fundraising and allocation efforts following multiple disasters including Hurricane Harvey, COVID-19, and Winter Storm Uri; building private/public partnerships to address complex community needs; and developing the vision for GHCF Next Gen Institute and Center for Family Philanthropy which the GHCF team has expanded into nationally recognized programs.
Prior to her work at GHCF, Wizig-Barrios worked as a community organizer for both The Metropolitan Organization in Houston and similar community-based organizations in Austin and El Paso. Her community organizing career focused on working with interfaith organizations across religious, racial, and economic lines to build common ground for positive local community change. She began her career, founded on a passion for helping others, as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua.
The Federation’s search for its new CEO began in March when current CEO, Kari Dunn Saratovsky, announced plans to relocate her family to Washington, D.C. Immediately thereafter, the Federation’s Board of Trustees focused the search process on exemplary candidates familiar with Houston’s Jewish community.
“Renee assuming this position is such a win for the Federation and our Houston Jewish community,” said current Federation Board Chair Bobby Lapin.
“Just as we were so fortunate to have Kari lead our Federation out of the wake of Hurricane Harvey and into a course-changing strategic planning process which will best position the Federation to evolve as an organization and to serve our community partners, so too does Renee’s knowledge and expertise create just the right fit to enable the Federation to move from strength-to-strength to meet the needs of the next generation of Jewish Houstonians,” Lapin said.
Wizig-Barrios is humbled and excited to begin in this role. “This feels like a full-circle moment for me. Jewish values like the prophet Micah, who teaches that we must “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with G-d,” have motivated me to pursue this role,” stated Wizig-Barrios. “As a native Houstonian and a parent of children raised in this community, the importance of fulfilling our obligations l’dor vador, from generation to generation, is paramount,” she continued, “I look forward to guiding the Jewish Federation as it grows and adapts to meet the needs of our evolving and diverse Jewish community.”
Wizig-Barrios is a summa cum laude graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. She and her husband, Alvaro Barrios, have lived in Houston for more than 20 years. Their two children attend The Emery/Weiner School. Her official term with the Federation will begin in October, and she has already begun working with Saratovsky and incoming Board Chair Ben Samuels on defining organizational priorities so the Federation is poised for success.
Samuels shared, “The Federation serves as a connector, innovator, convener, and funder for our Jewish community. I’m eager to see how we can continue to grow and evolve this work. With the guidance of our lay leaders, along with the partnership and engagement of our great community, I am confident that Renee will use her strategic vision and leadership to take our organization and the Houston Jewish Community to new heights.”