Last week, Stu Turgel stepped down from his position as president of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix, marking the end of a 42-year career in the nonprofit sector, which centered on philanthropy, marketing communications, nonprofit management and communal service. He started with JCF in August 2006.

In a June 28 email to the community, Turgel wrote from the heart: “Enabling donors to fulfill their charitable goals has been a true calling which has enabled me to help so many outstanding charitable organizations, which in turn have helped millions of people improve the quality of their lives. I could not have hoped to have accomplished any more important work during my professional career.”

And what a career it has been. Over those 42 years, Turgel has helped nonprofit organizations raise nearly $1 billion, according to JCF.

What does the Phoenix Jewish community mean to you?

I have lived in seven cities from coast to coast throughout my career, so Phoenix means I now have a permanent home from which I will never again have to move. As for this Jewish community, it is still young enough, still continuing to evolve and open to new ideas that, together, each of us can work to develop this Valley in ways that can help make ours one of the next great American Jewish communities. But to do so, we need to develop a communal vision and aspiration and an enthusiastic commitment to invest in our potential greatness.  

What are you most proud of during your tenure at JCF?

Creating the Jewish Technical Assistance Center as a JCF center of excellence to help strengthen local Jewish nonprofits and their professional and volunteer leaders through capacity-building training. This was an in-kind form of support from the foundation that hopefully has made these organizations better able to manage themselves. The workshops, seminars and consulting provided by JCF has strengthened the fabric of the local tapestry of Jewish communal organizations, agencies and synagogues. In addition, the three phases of the Jewish Community Conversation have helped to empower a diverse, and in some cases, disengaged group of Jews in the Valley to give voice to the kind of Jewish community they would like to see here in the future. And most importantly, I am proud that the JCF is widely regarded as one of our community’s most trusted, admired and respected organizations committed to improving the quality of Jewish life in our region.  

What advice would you give to somebody who is just starting their career in communal service?

Always remember to keep service above self. Strive to live and work by the motto: “It’s not about who is right but what is right.” Work at developing an appreciation for and skills in servant leadership in which you share power, put the needs of others first and help people develop and perform at the highest level possible. Understand the true meaning of stewardship. And remember that your organization has no needs; rather, those who look to your organization for help and service have needs and it is your job to communicate their needs to those who are able and inclined to help. 

What do you plan to do with all your extra time?

At 65, I have become a first-time dog owner and I look forward to spending time learning how to care for my 2-year-old Maltipoo, Emmie. I hope to see more of my three kids who live in San Francisco, Denver and Scottsdale. And I hope to continue my lifelong commitment to communal service by consulting with nonprofits and teaching professional and volunteer leaders about fundraising, marketing communications and nonprofit management.