Jack Smorgon, AO, delivered a lunchtime address at Chabad of Melbourne CBD on Wednesday, 27 May 2015, entitled “One Never Knows What the Future Holds for Them.”
The relevance of the title became clear as Mr Smorgon described the various positions that he had held since the Smorgon Group of Companies disbanded in 1995, following his involvement that had extended back to 1954. He had served as Managing Director from 1976 until 1991.
Even before 1995, Mr Smorgon has been invited to be a member of the Committee for Melbourne, alongside The Late Richard Pratt. In 1995, he was appointed as Chairman. Earlier, in 1992, he had served as Chairman of the Committee’s Infrastructure Subcommittee, developing an interest in transportation. As a result, he was appointed by then Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett to chair the State Government’s “Freightways Melbourne”, a project which ultimately led to the building of Citylink.
Mr Smorgon told of how he had been asked to chair the Australian National Railways Commission in 1995, discovering that the ANRC as then constituted was unsustainable. Upon the recommendation of his committee, the Federal Government agreed to privatise the railways. Mr Smorgon was then appointed Chairman of the Federal Government’s “Revitalising Rail” taskforce in 1999 by then Prime Minister John Howard.
Another unexpected opportunity was to be invited to be Deputy Chairman of the Australian Defence Reserves Support Council and later National Chair. He met many distinguished military officers and thoroughly enjoyed his involvement with the Defence Reserves.
Jack Smorgon, AO, has always had a deep involvement with the Jewish community, especially with the United Israel Appeal/Keren Hayesod, serving as Federal President of Australian UIA for six years until 2012 and Victorian Chairman for twelve years prior to 2006. In 2001, he joined the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors and has served ever since as Chair of the Partnerships and Activism Committee.
As a result of his work, the Jewish Agency has developed many important projects that help less fortunate Israelis, helping to provide a bright future for Israeli youth who would otherwise be at risk. These include “Youth Villages”, a highly cost‑effective boarding school setting for youth with severe emotional, behavioural and family problems; “Youth Futures”, providing mentoring for at‑risk children; “Project TEN”, where young Jews from Israel and the Diaspora volunteer with vulnerable populations around the world and “Net@” which increases opportunities for youth living in Israel’s peripheral communities, teaching computer skills which are useful both during their IDF service and then in providing plentiful opportunities in the workforce.
Judging by Jack Smorgon’s rich and varied contribution to Australia and Israel, it appears that one indeed never knows what the future might hold.