Tzedaka, Wall Street Style: Howard Lutnick Honored By Museum of Jewish Heritage
“We are much more about life than death,” informed David Marwell director and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial To The Holocaust at the museum’s 19th Annual Heritage Dinner on May 26 held at the museum which honored Howard Lutnick Chairman and CEO, Cantor Fitzgerald, LP. “This building came together in the weeks and months following 9/11, the first construction in Downtown Manhattan…. We gave palpable expression to one of the most important messages of this museum: After a great tragedy you rebuild life and community.”
The honoree’s sister Edie Lutnick, co-Founder and president of the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund and author of “An Unbroken Bond: The Untold Story of how The 658 Cantor Fitzgerald Families Faced The Tragedy of 9/11 and Beyond” said: “No one ever imagines that they will be faced with the kind of tragedy that struck us. When you sit in a Holocaust museum you understand the gravity of what it means when you decimate even one family…so of the 960 employees on September 10 [there were] 302 on September 11 when we lost 658 people including 200 people [Howard] hired himself.”
Lutnick took the mic and recounted his firm’s saga to a stunned audience. “After the loss of 658 employees we had secretaries without bosses, divisions of 86 people down to four and the only way we could communicate with who was alive was with the news media. I told our employees we have two choices — we can shut the firm down and attend our friends’ funerals — -and it’s impossible to consider 20 funerals a day for 35 straight days… we couldn’t even attend friends’ funerals — or we can rebuild the company.”
Detailing the firm’s revival in minute detail an emotional Lutnick said: “This is how we hired people. We had an assembly line meet one person, then another, then the third was me. ‘Can you start on Monday?’ They were grieving, they said ‘yes’.” The other imperative was: “You are going to have to make 25% less because we are going to give 25% of everything to the families. If you are hired for $200,000 you got $150,000 for five years. There have to be profits at the end of the day… We started sending money to the families at the end of the first quarter! The press was rather nasty…they picked on us for having a good PR strategy, but it was not strategy, it was all a broken heart. We reopened on the 13th of September and we got huge support from our clients.”
“On our 10th anniversary we sent the families $180 million (gasp in the audience!). We also paid for 10 years of their health care…so that mothers should not worry about their kids… Since then every year all the business that comes in on 9/11 goes to charity. Last year, we raised $12 million and gave to 150 different charities of which this museum is one…. After Hurricane Sandy we adopted 19 elementary schools in tough neighborhoods. We took each kid in those schools and gave the family a prepaid VISA card…Then there was the tornado in Oklahoma…”
Museum chairman Bruce Ratner declared: “Howard Lutnick and his sister represent the very best of the tradition of remembering to be charitable beyond measure…practicing Jewish values.” The evening concluded with a performance by actress, singer, dancer LaChanze winner of a Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in the 2006 Musical “The Color Purple.”
This story "Tzedaka, Wall Street Style: Howard Lutnick Honored By Museum of Jewish Heritage" was written by Masha Leon.