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Jewish Journal

Passing the Torch

Jewish Federation Chairman Lionel Bell looks back fondly as his term comes to a close

by Michael Aushenker

December 9, 1999 | 7:00 pm

Looking back on the last year-and-a-half, Lionel Bell feels satisfied with what the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has achieved during his term as chairman of the board. He cites the reestablishment of 6505 Wilshire as Federation headquarters and the launching of its $20 million capital campaign as two accomplishments that he is proud of. Bell is also happy about the Leadership Council he started, which has united the organization's young leadership presidents, and facilitated an exchange of ideas and the creation of overlapping programs.

But even as Bell steps down, passing the office to Todd Morgan in January 2000, don't write him off just yet. Bell says he will remain an active presence in Federation efforts, such as seeing the capital campaign through to completion.

"I expect to stay with that, with my partner Ed Sanders [chairman of the capital campaign]," says Bell. "I expect to continue in some role with the national organization of the Jewish communities."

Bell -- who in the business world is a managing director of Bear, Stearns & Co. -- has a solid history of service to the local Jewish community that goes well beyond his closing tenure. Back in 1951, he was asked to join the Community Service Committee, the first young leadership program of the Jewish Federation. By 1958, he chaired the Financial Services Division of what was then the United Jewish Welfare Fund. Later shortened to United Jewish Fund, Bell became the branch's general chair in 1995. Bell has served as past president for both the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles and Wilshire Boulevard Temple, and he is a past vice president of the Jewish Community Foundation, where he is currently a board member.

When he assumed the position of Federation's top cat, Bell didn't have to go far to find a role model. His wife, Terry, also served as Jewish Federation leader, from 1992-94.

"She's always been an inspiration to me," says Bell. "Not only did I get the support that a spouse gives but it came from someone who had an extensive experience [in the job]. She's always been a leader. She served very well in the most difficult time... because of the serious occurrence of the earthquake... There was a major cutback at the Federation as a result. Major costs were incurred. She weathered it all very well."

Together, the Bells have a son, Ralph, in Seattle; a daughter, Nancy, who is a Los Angeles-based computer consultant and very involved with Federation and Jewish Community Centers; and two grandchildren.

Because the Federation's administrative year was altered to coincide with a new budget, allocation and campaign year as of 2000, the standard two year term during which Bell served was truncated. Nevertheless, Bell says that he will happily hand over the reins of the chairmanship and places the utmost confidence in his successor, Todd Morgan.

"We'll get a very bright, dynamic, energetic, capable leader who will bring many people into the Federation who have not been there before or only in a minor way," says Bell. "He's very capable... I think he'll do an outstanding job in the community."

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