For more than 25 years, the UJA-Federation of New York’s launch of its fundraising season was so closely associated with the man who hosted it that the annual soiree of top-tier donors became known as the “Greenberg event.”
This year’s gathering was the first since Alan “Ace” Greenberg died last summer at the age of 86. But the longtime UJA-Federation volunteer and Bear Stearns chairman was a strong presence at last week’s event, where the charity noted the creation of the Alan C. Greenberg Young Leadership Award in his honor.
Attendees reminisced about the man whose devotion to philanthropy inspired those around him to donate tens of millions of dollars each year to a cause he held dear.
This year’s event raised $48 million — $2 million more than last year and an all-time record, according to the Federation. The gathering of more than 150 people included former Israeli President Shimon Peres, who was interviewed by the organization’s CEO, Eric S. Goldstein.
“This past summer demonstrated in the clearest terms why our annual campaign matters,” Goldstein said in a statement. “These are the funds that sustain an unparalleled network of beneficiary agencies that provide for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and respond with immediate and life-saving measures in Israel, Ukraine, and wherever there are Jews in need. And at the same time, we’re supporting Jewish life and education. There is no other organization that has that breadth of reach, and it all starts on the night of campaign launch — thanks to the incredible generosity of our community’s leading philanthropists.”
Cindy Golub, a member of the charity’s executive committee and chair of its division of women’s philanthropy, called the energy at the 2015 Annual Campaign launch “palpable.”
“I always find the event very powerful because there are so many very committed people in one room who really believe in the collective responsibility of the Jewish people,” she said.
Lynne Koeppel, Greenberg’s daughter, said the evening was “a very nice tribute” and the young leadership award was an apt way to memorialize her father. “He loved the UJA and he particularly loved getting young people involved,” Koeppel said in a telephone interview this week.
She said it wasn’t easy to attend the first campaign launch since her father’s death. “It was kind of hard to have the Greenberg event without the Greenberg, at least for me,” she said. But still, she said the night’s atmosphere was upbeat.
“It wasn’t somber at all. It was more about gratitude and reminiscing,” she said. “It was a celebration of all the things he did.”
Golub agreed. “The mood was very positive, I think people were very happy that they could pay tribute to him,” she said.
Speakers reminisced about Greenberg’s “card calling,” his technique of asking donors to announce the size of their contributions in front of each other. Despite the direct method, Greenberg managed to do it in a way that left everyone feeling good, Koeppel said.
“He just made you feel very proud,” she said. “He gushed over each announcement. He treated the $1,000 donors the same way he treated the $1 million donors, which was a very nice thing.”
William Mack, a UJA-Federation board member who chairs the capital gifts committee, hosted this year’s event with his wife, Phyllis.
“I’ve always had great admiration for Ace and for the event, and my parents were very active in UJA and attendees of the event before me. The event was a tradition in the family,” he said.
Having Peres as the special guest was a reunion of sorts for the Macks. They first met him several years ago at the then-president’s home in Israel. “He’s very charming, he’s very diplomatic. He’s worldly and his knowledge is very broad,” Mack said, adding that even at the age of 91, Peres still “talks with a clear head and clear mind.”