Many people might hear a heart-rending story on the news and wish they could do something to help, but it takes a unique breed of person to respond immediately. More than 400 attendees gathered at UJA-Federation of New York’s Investment Management Division (IMD) Event at the Plaza to honor just that breed of leader.

Bruce Richards and John Shapiro UJA-Federation
From left to right: Bruce J. Richards and John M. Shapiro at UJA-Federation's IMD event. Photo: Chloe Apple Seldman/Michael Priest Photography

Bruce J. Richards, president and chief executive officer of Marathon Asset Management, was the IMD Event honoree and John M. Shapiro, managing director and co-founder of Chieftain Capital Management, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. The event raised $2 million to support UJA-Federation’s work.

These men “have taken personal responsibility to improve lives within the Jewish community,” said Larry Robbins, chair of UJA-Federation’s Wall Street & Financial Services Division.

Richards was showered with praise by friends and colleagues from the division. “Bruce embodies leadership in all facets of his life,” said Robert S. Kapito, president of BlackRock and incoming chair of the Wall Street & Financial Services Division. “We’ve all read Bruce’s sterling resumé, but what you don’t see next to all his accomplishments is his admirable values, his integrity, his commitment to giving back to the community, and his passion.”

Richards in turn thanked “everyone who came on John’s behalf, that came on my behalf, that came on behalf of UJA-Federation to support this wonderful cause. It’s because of you that we’ve raised the money that we’ve raised tonight and that we can make the impact in the community that we can make,” he said. “In the Jewish community, there’s no organization that makes an impact on our community more than UJA-Federation.”

Jerry Levin Alisa Doctoroff John Shapiro Larry Robbins UJA-Federation
From left to right: Jerry W. Levin, president of UJA-Federation; Alisa R. Doctoroff, chair of UJA-Federation's board; John M. Shapiro, and Larry Robbins. Photo: Chloe Apple Seldman/Michael Priest Photography

“Whether it’s someone living at the poverty line who UJA-Federation’s providing help for,” Richards continued, whether it’s “people needing soup kitchens or needing housing over their head, UJA-Federation is there to help them. UJA-Federation is there to help the homeless, help those that are disabled, that need medical care, that can’t help themselves.”

The uncommon caliber of the honorees was also illustrated by an anecdote that UJA-Federation’s Executive Vice President & CEO John S. Ruskay shared about an e-mail exchange he’d had recently with Shapiro.

A Late Night E-mail

Late on a Saturday night, Ruskay received an e-mail from Shapiro saying he was saddened by a television news story about an elderly couple in Brooklyn who are Holocaust survivors and who had lost their son on 9/11. They had fallen ill and were trapped at home because their building had no working elevator, and Shapiro wanted to know what UJA-Federation could do for them. The next day Ruskay found the couple’s names and helped arrange for a social worker from Selfhelp Community Services, a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency, to go and make sure the couple got the care they needed.

“John’s character sets him apart and makes him so worthy of this award this evening,” Ruskay said of Shapiro, a former UJA-Federation president who this year has been the top lay leader in the organization’s Hurricane Sandy relief effort.

Bruce Richards Linda Mirels John Shapiro Morris Offit UJA-Federation
From left to right: Bruce J. Richards, Linda Mirels, John M. Shapiro, and Morris Offit, a board member and past president of UJA-Federation's board. Photo: Chloe Apple Seldman/Michael Priest Photography

Shapiro recounted one instance where he witnessed UJA-Federation’s impact when he spoke about getting involved in its Hurricane Sandy relief work, only to then travel to Israel just as the rocket attacks began, and immediately start to hear about UJA-Federation’s involvement in that crisis. “What organization could simultaneously be taking care of an emergency in New York and an emergency in Israel, and at the same time deal with the day-to-day work we do where we touch the lives of 4.5 million people?” he asked, incredulously. “We make the impossible seem mundane.”

Before Shapiro spoke, the audience heard from one of the participants in the Shapiro Family Fellowship that John started six years ago with his wife, Shonni Silverberg, to create an opportunity for young New York Jewish leaders to strengthen their connection to Israel. Eric Goldberg, one of the fellows, talked about how meaningful the experience was for him and how it helped him see Israel in different ways. “Dialogue is what will sustain our relationship with the state of Israel,” he said of the opportunity to speak to Ethiopian Israelis, Haredim, Israeli Arabs, and others while in Israel for the fellowship.

Linda Mirels, who was nominated as chair of UJA-Federation’s board, spoke about other programs the organization supports to connect young Jews to their heritage, such as Birthright and summer camps. “It’s our privilege and responsibility to make sure that all who choose to attend a Jewish summer camp or participate in Birthright can do so,” Mirels said. “And this is the way we’re going to ensure the continuity of our Jewish people.”

The event was chaired by Alan C. Greenberg, vice chairman emeritus, JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Kapito; Daniel S. Och, CEO, Och-Ziff Capital Management Group; and James S. Tisch, CEO, Loews Corporation.