Edgar M. Bronfman (from left), Leonard Feinstein, Morris W. Offit, Wayne L. Firestone.
More than 500 admirers from around the world gathered at the Pierre Hotel in New York City on May 25 to pay tribute to businessman, philanthropist and community leader Morris W. Offit as Hillel honored him with its Renaissance Award for “enriching the campus, the Jewish community and the world.” The event raised $1.75 million for Hillel.
In presenting the award to Offit, Bed Bath and Beyond cofounder Leonard Feinstein said, “Morris represents the best of the Jewish community. He is a man who cares deeply about his family, his community, and his world. This is exactly the type of individual that Hillel seeks to nurture.”
Edgar M. Bronfman, the founding co-chair of Hillel’s International Board of Governors, added, “Morris: This evening is a success because of your hard work, dedication and graciousness. As someone who has known and respected you for many years, I am pleased that you will soon be entering the unique and exclusive fraternity of Renaissance Award winners.”
In his acceptance remarks, Offit thanked Bronfman and Feinstein for their leadership. He thanked Hillel for presenting him with the Renaissance Award and added, "Hillel has never had a case statement more meaningful than it has today."
A longtime leader of the New York Jewish community, Offit was chairman of the Board of the UJA-Federation of New York from 2001-2004 and president from 2004-2007. He is also a trustee and former chairman of the Board of the Jewish Museum.
Offit received a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University in 1957 and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. Offit has remained connected to his alma mater, serving as a trustee of the Johns Hopkins Board since 1973 and as chairman from 1990 to 1996. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the university in 1996.
Offit’s professional career has spanned more than 50 years. A former partner at Salomon Brothers, he later founded OFFITBANK, a wealth management private bank, which merged with Wachovia Bank in 1999. He is currently chairman of Offit Capital Advisors, a wealth management advisory firm, with Ned and Daniel Offit serving as co-chief executive officers. In April 2005, Offit was elected a director of American International Group, Inc. (AIG).
Morris W. Offit (left) with William Ackman.
William Ackman, the chief executive officer of Pershing Square Capital Management, LP, praised Hillel in his keynote address. A graduate of Harvard College, Ackman said that the food at Harvard Hillel was much better than on the rest of campus. “I didn’t make it there every Friday night but there was a connection. It was a home away from home,” he said. Most importantly, Ackman added that he met his wife through Harvard Hillel.
Hillel President and CEO Wayne L. Firestone noted that Ackman was not the only future community leader to pass through Hillel’s doors. Citing three former Hillel student leaders who are contributing to the community today, Firestone said, “Some of these former Hillel students are now formal leaders in our Jewish community; others are leaders promoting informal Jewish education. Some are taking on leadership roles in our secular community and government, while others are leading their families in creating Jewish homes and communities in their neighborhoods. Tonight, we are celebrating the investment that Hillel supporters made several years ago in Hillel and Jewish students on campus. And we are seeing that the return on that investment is the next generation of Jewish leaders and the new faces of our Jewish future.”
Emily Stecher, a 2009 graduate of Northwestern University, described how her leadership role at Hillel continues to impact her life. “As an analyst at Goldman Sachs, I barely have the time to breathe… But when I do have free time, I spend it in Jewish-oriented activities. One of these programs is 3GNY, a New York-based group for the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Through 3GNY I learned to tell the story of how my grandfather and his family survived the ghetto, the death camps, and ultimately the Second World War. Hillel truly enriched my life and I hope that I have given a little something back.” (Read her remarks.)
Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, of Offit’s Park Avenue synagogue, added that his experience at University of Michigan Hillel influenced him to pursue a career as a Jewish leader.
The event co-chairs were: Edgar M. Bronfman, Founding Chair, Hillel International Board Of Governors; Jeffrey H. Aronson, Centerbridge Partners, L.P.; Daniel A. Burack, ABS Partners Real Estate, LLC; Leonard Feinstein, Bed Bath & Beyond; Charles De Gunzburg, First Spring Corporation; Jane H. Goldman, Sol Goldman Charitable Trust; Michael G. Jesselson, Jesselson Capital; Joshua Nash, Ulysses Management LLC; Daniel W. Offit, Offit Capital Advisors LLC; Ned S. Offit, Offit Capital Advisors LLC; Brian T. Schreiber, AIG.
The gala was covered by the Bloomberg News Service, The New York Times, The Forward and will be featured in an upcoming broadcast of Shalom TV.