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."
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."