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Generosity Event Brings Young Philanthropists Together rss

Posted on: January 19th, 2012

It’s a common punch line that if you ask 10 Jews a question, you’ll get 10 different opinions. Similarly, if you asked the more than 700 philanthropists in their 20s and 30s what brought them to UJA-Federation’s Generosity event on January 19th, you’d have gotten many different responses.

Generosity event chairs

Generosity event chairs Lisa Richenstein (left), Jerome Shapiro, and Jackie Friedman. Photo: Michael Priest

At first glance, it was evident that people came to have a good time. Men and women dressed to the nines drifted between the tawny Corinthian columns of Capitale, the swanky lower Manhattan venue in a converted bank that played host to last year’s Generosity event as well. From the schmoozing crowd and the pulsing music, you could tell that Generosity, which is part of UJA-Federation of New York’s Emerging Leaders & Philanthropists, is a great place to meet friends, new and old.

“Someone once said to me, ‘I love Generosity because I know I’m going to run into that girl I went on a teen tour with, or that kid I went to camp with but haven’t seen in years,’” says Aaron Zises, a Generosity division chair.

While some appreciate the chance to play Jewish geography in a luxe setting, Zises stressed that the philanthropic aims of the evening were on his mind. “I believe that you don’t just give to what’s hot right now. I trust that the organization makes the right decisions with the gifts they receive,” he says.

‘Need To Care For Each Other’

Jerome Shapiro, a Generosity event chair along with Jackie Friedman and Lisa Richenstein, echoed that sentiment, saying that an event like this helps him and the other attendees recall what they might otherwise forget. “In New York, we all lead such separate, and at times selfish, lives,” Shapiro says. “To come together for a good cause and remember we’re all Jews and we need to care for each other, especially for those who can’t be in the room and need it most, is really important.”

Generosity division vice-chairs Lee Brodsky (left) and Kyle Koeppel; Generosity chairs Aaron Zises and Peter Stern. Photo: Michael Priest

Generosity division vice-chairs Lee Brodsky (left) and Kyle Koeppel; Generosity chairs Aaron Zises and Peter Stern. Photo: Michael Priest

A huge video screen showed images of past Generosity events, including the mission to Cuba last summer and volunteer events, and it flashed words to express the sentiments of many: act, compassion, community, responsibility, and more. A giant banner under the screen said, “You Care, We Feed.” A record for Generosity of $85,000 was raised through text-to-pledge.

Friedman says she values the chance that Generosity events throughout the year offer her, not just to give back but also to play a hands-on role in the philanthropic process. “It’s not just giving, it’s also seeing how it’s being given,” explains Friedman. “We’re actually seeing the difference our work makes in people’s lives, whether we’re going to a soup kitchen on the Lower East Side or whether it’s going on a mission to Cuba to visit the small, but very active, Jewish community.”

Other attendees forged a connection to UJA-Federation at an early age and later found Generosity to be the best outlet for their desire to give back. “I’ve been involved with UJA-Federation since I was 8 years old,” recounts Peter Stern, another Generosity division chair. “My first experience was participating in 1991, sitting on the tarmac at an Israeli air force base, greeting Ethiopian Jews as they touched down in Israel for the first time during Operation Solomon. I will never forget the excitement and joy these people had in their eyes as they were about to begin their new lives.”

“Picture yourself changing the world,” said a sign outside a photo booth set up at the event. “You and your generosity look good together.”