Reprinted with permission from Crain's New York Business.In his dark blue suit, pressed white shirt and sleek gray tie, Rabbi David Clyman looks more like a savvy Wall Street dealmaker than an unassuming man of God. That's probably a good thing, given the exclusive company he keeps.Clyman pays weekly calls on some of the most accomplished professionals on Wall Street--people such as hedge fund manager Mark Kingdon of Kingdon Capital Management and investment banker Salem Shuchman of Patricof & Co.--counseling them on everything from family life to Jewish scripture.Can it be that the Masters of the Universe are actually recognizing a higher power?"This is an opportunity to examine what's important in life," says Kingdon, who has earned tens of millions of dollars managing a $1.7 billion offshore fund. "I have two small children, and I've got to think about what lessons I'm going to pass on."The new spiritual quest on Wall Street is becoming a broad ecumenical movement.Officials at Trinity Church, the Episcopalian landmark a stone's throw from the New York Stock Exchange, say the number of Wall Streeters attending services is on the rise. Faith Exchange Fellowship, a downtown church founded by a former commodities trader, has seen its membership swell to 225 people since opening its doors a year and a half ago. And the number of business leaders participating in the Executive Jewish Enrichment Group--the program run by Mr. Clyman--has more than doubled, to 50, since 1997.In addition to its Wall Street congregation, Clyman's group has quietly recruited such high-level corporate executives as apparel honcho Kenneth Cole and Toys "R" Us Chairman Michael Goldstein."I think a lot of it has to do with the end of the millennium and concerns that the bull market is ending," says Dan Stratton, the trader-turned-preacher at Faith Exchange Fellowship.To be sure, Kingdon and the others are accepting God into their lives on their own terms and schedules. Rarely do they have time for Friday-night services, and Clyman--who likes to describe himself as a personal trainer for the soul--knows better than to try to schedule a session between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Making the time
"I can't compete with the market," the rabbi says.Still, despite their intense schedules, more and more Wall Streeters are making time to develop their spiritual side. Working in the securities industry requires long hours and means being constantly judged by your last trade. The pressure is intense and often contributes to broken marriages and substance abuse problems. The ultimate payoff, of course, is the bonus check. But when financial executives finally reach their seven-figure promised land, many of them find themselves feeling strangely unfulfilled.

"At some point," says Clyman, "people realize that just having more money doesn't improve their family life or enhance the quality of their life in any meaningful or spiritual way."

Michelle Clayman, a money manager and another of the rabbi's clients, says that while she is by no means unhappy with the prosperity the bull market has brought her, she has started to question the single-mindedness of her professional goals. "I enjoy being successful," says the 40-something executive, whose firm, New Amsterdam Partners, has seen its assets under management balloon to $900 million from $240 million in four years. "But there's more to life than just the material world."The search for a higher purpose led Stratton to give up his 17-year career as a commodities trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange last February to become a full-time Christian minister. The nondenominational church he leads culls its members from Wall Street and meets in a high-rise building across from the World Trade Center.
When they need God most
"Wall Street burns you out," says Stratton, who worked on the floor of the Nymex, spending seven nerve-wracking hours a day trying to outshout fellow traders."I made a lot of money in the markets, but I'd come home and I couldn't talk to my wife," he recalls. "I usually get guys when their wives have left them or when they're all drugged out. That's when they need God most."Still, one man's salvation can be another's exploitation. Skeptics like Maggie Craddock, a therapist and organizational consultant with Manhattan's Focus Partners, worries that executives are being targeted as much for their money as their souls."Even with the millions of dollars some people on Wall Street make, there's still a lot of unhappiness and emptiness," says Craddock, a former mutual fund manager with Scudder Stevens & Clark. "In my opinion, that makes some people vulnerable to spiritual movements that are interested not only in their hearts and minds but their pocketbooks as well."In the case of the Executive Jewish Enrichment Group, businesspeople seeking rabbinical house calls must first agree to make a substantial, usually five-figure, donation to Aish Hatorah International, the Jewish education organization with which Clyman is affiliated.Aish Hatorah's broader mission is to bring secular Jews back into the religious fold. To that end, it offers a variety of relatively inexpensive seminars and classes at its Upper West Side offices. Donations from the Executive Jewish Enrichment Group help support these programs.The executives writing the checks say they are perfectly aware of Aish Hatorah's agenda and are simply looking to expand their own intellectual horizons or perhaps reconnect with their Jewish heritage."I had a traditional Jewish upbringing, but as an adult I drifted away from that," says David Gerstenhaber, a well-known hedge fund manager who recently began studying with Clyman.Before clergy arrived on the scene, Wall Street headhunters often doubled as their clients' confidants and confessors. Brian Sullivan, one of the top financial recruiters, at first expresses surprise when told of some of the executives' spiritual pursuits.

Then he reconsiders. "Actually, it makes a lot of sense," says Sullivan. "It's the ultimate hedge."

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