The close of Todd Morgan's tenure as chairman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles could not have come at a more chaotic time: post-Sept. 11, with the umbrella outreach nonprofit still reeling from recent layoffs and its much publicized and scrutinized role in L.A.'s Jewish Community Centers crisis.
"Running your own business is much easier than running a charitable institution," Morgan said. "Here at The Federation, it's a process. You have a lot of constituents.
"It's more frustrating to affect change. It's not a quiet business. It's very complex, and there's a lot of moving parts, and at every quarter there's another emergency. It's a very challenging institution. Like working at an emergency in a hospital. You never know what's going to happen the next day."
Did he achieve his goals over a two-year term?
Morgan, with trademark candor, put it bluntly: "I have not accomplished everything I wanted to. It was one of the more meaningful experiences in my life. My only regret is that I couldn't have done more."
Which is not to say that he feels like a failure. Morgan has done much to revitalize The Federation's inner sanctum.
"My goal was to bring it into the modern world," he said. "To give it a tuneup so that it'd be more appropriate for the next generation. We changed the complexion of the board.
"We brought the average age down 15 years younger. But I'm still not satisfied. It needs to continue to change. The more important issue is to get the next generation more involved," he said.
Coming aboard at 2000's debut, Morgan knew that to assure The Federation's future and to impact the way the nonprofit outreach organization was perceived, he would have to get more youth involved in programming and decision making.
"Part of the deal with the old guard was to give me free reign and make it entrepreneurial," the 54-year-old Morgan said. "It's absolutely critical for my generation and younger to play a significant role in guiding The Federation's future. A lot of people out there have an obligation and duty to give back."
Part of his plan to reinvigorate The Federation was to bring in more support from entertainment industry Jews. "I'm disappointed that the entertainment community did not step up to the plate," Morgan said.
Another of Morgan's ideas that did not reach fruition was the Jewish Community Campus, a $40 million Jewish community center complex on the Westside. Because of a weak economy, the concept, which only reached predevelopment, was shelved before Sept. 11. However, Morgan does not rule it out in the future.
"All of this is possible," he said. "All we need to do is to light up the Jewish community here and convince them that they have a responsibility and an obligation to take care of our people. Because if they don't, who will?"
Yet Morgan is a pragmatic man. His practical worldview has established the CEO of the Century City-based Bel Air Investment as a business world success story, and he understands that grand gestures are not completed overnight.
"It's like turning a supertanker around," Morgan said. "It's turning."
Morgan credited the tireless support and partnership of his wife as an ingredient to this success. Cheri Morgan, a prominent co-chair of The Federation's recent Addiction Conference, is vice chair for the United Jewish Fund, associate general campaign chair for 2001 and past chair of the Women's Campaign of The Federation.
"Cheri's my secret weapon," Morgan said. "My wife works tremendously hard. Both for Beit T'Shuvah and for The Federation. She's got the heart the size of a skyscraper."
"This experience has brought great meaning for my life," Morgan said. "It's been a great stabilizer. It's so easy to get caught up in career. Anyone who has become involved with Federation life, it's enriched their life."
"Every time we forget and become too affluent and assimilated," he continued, "something comes back and bites us in the rear. We need to take care of our people."
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