Taking stock

UJA-Federation of N.Y. raises $45 million with Wall Street gala

Marc Rowan, chair of the UJA board, said funding is needed for the organization as American Jews fight 'our own war here in the U.S.' against antisemitism

Israel’s war against Hamas was front and center at UJA-Federation of New York’s annual Wall Street Dinner on Monday at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan. But the ripple effects of the war — the frightening rise of antisemitism in the U.S., and in New York in particular — were also felt at the record-setting gala fundraiser. 

“We have our own war here in the U.S.,” Marc Rowan, chair of the UJA board and and CEO of Apollo Global Management, said in an address to more than 1,600 financial professionals, who pledged $45 million for UJA’s annual campaign to support a wide network of nonprofits – almost 50% more than its previous record in 2021.  

Rowan has made headlines by halting his donations to his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, over the college’s handling of campus antisemitism and has urged other donors to close their checkbooks as well. 

“It’s very clear that we need the power of organizations like UJA to amplify our impact and accomplish the kind of meaningful work UJA is doing right now,” Rowan said.

Since the Oct. 7 terrorist attack in Israel, the UJA Israel Emergency Fund has raised $156 million, with $75 million raised from the Wall Street community, according to the federation.

Michal Cotler-Wunsh, Israel’s special envoy for combating antisemitism, delivered the keynote address. She emphasized that the war in Israel is not just about Israel or Jews experiencing antisemitism across the globe, but it is also about protecting all civilization. She concluded by saying it is critical to recognize anti-Israel rhetoric as a dangerous and insidious form of antisemitism requiring the community to unite to stand up against antisemitism.

“Hope is the belief that together we can make it okay. In that sense, optimism is passive, whereas hope is active. It takes not very much courage to be an optimist, but a great deal of courage to have hope,” Cotler-Wunsh said. 

Eric Goldstein, CEO of UJA-Federation of New York, told the audience about his recent trip to Israel. “I spent this recent trip meeting with many of our partners on the ground – all leading players in crafting the next stage of Israel’s civilian emergency response. And everywhere I went across Israel, people were immensely grateful for UJA’s immediate mobilization and significant support,” he said. 

Wesley LePatner, a global head of Core+ real estate business at Blackstone, and Brian Friedman, president of the Jefferies Group, an investment banking company, were the event’s two honorees. Both delivered speeches about growing up Jewish in the New York area. 

“So much of my childhood [in Manhattan] was spent with people who cared about me, seemed to not care what religion I was,” LePatner said, adding that her parents always reminded her, “I was an American, but I was first and foremost Jewish.” 

Friedman recalled his father keeping a gun under the car seat while growing up in Paterson, N.J., where he attended a yeshiva and his family owned a Jewish bakery. “We must never allow ourselves to be where Jews were in the past,” he said.