Bet Tzedek Legal Services Names Diego Cartagena New President & CEO

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 17, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Bet Tzedek announced today that its Board of Directors has selected attorney Diego Cartagena as its new President & Chief Executive Officer. The Los Angeles-based organization is an internationally-acclaimed force in poverty law and advocacy. Cartagena's appointment concludes a comprehensive, four-month, nationwide search. Cartagena succeeds Jessie Kornberg, who will become the next President & CEO of the Skirball Cultural Center in July 2020.

Diego Cartagena, President and CEO, Bet Tzedek

Only the eighth person to oversee Bet Tzedek in its 46-year history, Cartagena will be the first person of color to lead the organization. He has been with Bet Tzedek since 2012, first serving as Director of Pro Bono Programs and then as Vice President Legal Programs. A graduate of UCLA School of Law, Cartagena has dedicated his entire legal career to public interest law, including an Equal Justice Works Fellowship at the Los Angeles Center for Law & Justice and leadership of the pro bono programs at The Alliance for Children's Rights.

Meryl Chae, chair of Bet Tzedek's Board of Directors and partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, said: "We conducted a nation-wide search that reached over 800 individuals to discover something that will come as no surprise to anyone who knows Diego: the best, next leader for Bet Tzedek was already an integral part of our organization. A tireless force for good in our city and our world, Diego will be a terrific new leader for Bet Tzedek. He brings a true passion to help those who need it most – and the skills required to get things done. We are beyond thrilled to welcome him as our new CEO."

Cartagena will manage Bet Tzedek's 90-person staff and will also guide the work of the organization's 1,600 volunteers and pro bono attorneys, who contribute 60,000 hours each year to Bet Tzedek clients.

Cartagena said: "As an immigrant myself, I could not be prouder to lead an organization which is founded upon the Jewish value of welcoming the stranger and providing for the poor. To me, Bet Tzedek's core principle 'Justice, justice you shall pursue' means that the work of justice is not just the work of judges or lawyers: it is all of our collective responsibilities. It means standing with and working among the communities we serve, from Holocaust survivors whose dignity, health and well-being we help preserve to the abused abandoned and neglected immigrant children whose future we help to build."

"I am deeply humbled to be trusted with this important role during a moment at which so much is at stake. Our city, our state, our country and our world face major challenges that have rarely been seen before. Working to tackle them as the head of an organization committed to forging the right path and firmly rooted in the Jewish culture, history and tradition of doing so is both an energizing challenge and a tremendous honor."

Outgoing President & CEO Jessie Kornberg applauded the Board's decision, saying, "I have had the pleasure of working with Diego Cartagena for the last five and a half years. Diego is a builder, developing many of our flagship programs and nurturing our most important community partnerships. I am confident that under his leadership, Bet Tzedek will continue to respond to our community's most urgent legal needs and innovate new solutions to the systemic challenges our client communities routinely face."

About Diego Cartagena

Diego Cartagena has focused his entire legal career on addressing issues of access to justice. As a former Equal Justice Works Fellow and Teen Advocate with The Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice's Teen LA Project, Diego helped give low income teen mothers and fathers a voice in court by providing them with legal advocacy and outreach in the areas of family and immigration law. Diego then went on to serve as Pro Bono Director for The Alliance for Children's Rights.

Diego joined Bet Tzedek in 2012 as Director of Pro Bono Programs and was promoted to Vice President Pro Bono in 2015. In 2017, Diego became Bet Tzedek's Vice President of Legal Programs. Under his leadership, Bet Tzedek launched a number of the organization's flagship programs including: Preventing and Ending Homelessness Project, Bet Tzedek's Rapid Response: Family Preparedness program, the Harbor UCLA Medical Legal Partnership, and the SSI Advocacy Project.

About Bet Tzedek

In 1974, a small group of lawyers, rabbis, and community activists came together to assist aging, low-income residents who were being displaced from their homes as their neighborhoods gentrified. The group individually contributed $5 per month to rent a small storefront where, one night a week, they offered free legal assistance to the community. They named the organization Bet Tzedek – Hebrew for "House of Justice" – after a central precept of Jewish law and tradition: "Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof" – "Justice, justice you shall pursue."

Today, Bet Tzedek is an internationally-recognized force in poverty law. Harnessing an award-winning pro bono model of service, Bet Tzedek has provided expert legal assistance to more than 500,000 people. Bet Tzedek's mission is to provide free legal services to those who need them most, helping people of all communities and generations secure life's necessities.

 

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