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Increasing the Light at Chanukah rss

By John S. Ruskay

Chanukah arrives when the days are short and cold, when we yearn for more light and warmth. On Tuesday, the first night of Chanukah, we will begin with one candle and as we add one candle each evening, we increase the light. By the final night of Chanukah, we are basking in the glow of a fully lit menorah. It is far more satisfying to increase light than to diminish it.

I thought of this at the Wall Street Dinner Wednesday night, when Paul J. Taubman, co-president of Institutional Securities for Morgan Stanley, received the Gustav Levy Award. A Wall Street giant by day, he is a natural teacher and he shared his personal journey. Paul had shied away from the philanthropic spotlight, being more comfortable with anonymous giving. He spoke of how a decade ago, Peter May, then campaign chair, invited Paul to see our network agencies in Brooklyn. Seeing our work firsthand, including more recently a program at the JCC in Manhattan for young adults with autism and other disabilities, helped connect him to his values and recognize his blessings. He spoke of how he came to accept a more public kind of giving, willingly making himself uncomfortable by standing at the podium, “if together we can make less fortunate people a little more comfortable.”

The evening’s young leadership honoree, Scott Shleifer, managing director of Tiger Global Management, was equally eloquent and powerful. Scott said he gives “not because he seeks gratitude but because he feels gratitude.” He said he hoped his young son would feel the gift of community this Chanukah. In sharing their stories, both Paul and Scott were increasing the light.

Knowing the ups and downs of Wall Street these last four years, it was an evening to treasure — a hall filled with leaders of today’s financial services industry and young professionals who came to meet one another, continuing a tradition that goes back more than 40 years. These 1,200 men and women came to learn from the honorees about the importance of giving back to community and reaching out to those left out of the bounty so many still enjoy. In doing so, they became part of an extraordinary legacy, helping raise a record-breaking $22 million, funds that will increase the light in every corner of our city, in Israel, and throughout the world.

As we kindle the Chanukah lights next week, let us remember that a small group of people do indeed have the capacity to ignite change. Each of us — individually and when we come together as a community — bring light to darkness.

Wishing each of you and your loved ones a joyful and light-filled Chanukah.

John S. Ruskay is executive vice president and CEO of UJA-Federation of New York