Stuart Bern


This weekend is my 30th birthday. This year, instead of a fancy dinner or lavish party, I am asking friends and family to support me in my goal of raising $30,000 – #30Kfor30

Location: New York, New York

Profession: Finance

What motivates you to give?

For one, it feels good. I’ve been fortunate in my life to have received many gifts – from fancy new toys, to numerous promotions that have led to large monetary gains. But in the end, the greatest gift I’ve received has been the ability to be in a position to give back. I want to share a story with you that I feel is one of the greatest accomplishments I’ve had in my life up until this point.

A tragic moment from my past shaped how I give back. In high school, two friends committed suicide during a single summer. To cope, my high school bandmates and I wrote a song and recorded a CD in their loving memory. We hosted an awareness event and sold CD’s to raise funds for the Link Counseling Center – whose focus is suicide prevention and aftercare. That night one of our peers pulled our teacher aside and said, “I was thinking of committing suicide, but tonight provided an outlet for me, and ultimately saved my life.” This was the first time I realized how one person can directly impact the life of another.

Who inspires you to give? 

Living in New York City the past 8 years, I’ve never forgotten that moment. While I’ve been fortunate to rub shoulders with influential leaders on Wall Street, I admit that at first my naïve admiration was for their ambition and financial success. However, after getting to know their stories, it became apparent the broader purpose for their innate drive is to ensure that they will leave their legacy – by changing the world through giving both time and money – and ultimately inspiring others to do the same. Each of them has their philanthropic endeavors that have been shaped by prior experience. Now, years later, I realize that my desire to do good is rooted in my past and inspired by the present. The same entrepreneurial mindset and business acumen that they bring to the office each day is being used to change the world, and being around individuals with this type of mindset has inspired me to want to do much of the same.

What was your memory of your first philanthropic gift?

Since a young age, my family has encouraged giving – whether through our time or money. My parents would always remind us of the Jewish law that requires us to give one-tenth of our income to the poor. Our tzedakah (a Hebrew word for “charity”) box was always in sights view, and I can remember many Saturday’s spent participating at local Food Banks sorting cans for those who suffer from hunger.

One memory that stands out from the rest took place during an October while in middle school. One Halloween I went door-to-door to collect ‘treats’, which this particular year meant money for Lauren’s Run to cure childhood cancer – the rush of raising awareness and charitable funds was better than the sugar rush I had received in all of the previous years combined.

What is your philanthropy of choice and why?

In the past, I’ve donated my time and money to a wide variety of organizations including Memorial Sloan Kettering, Make-A-Wish Foundation, UJA-Federation, Wounded Warriors and many more.

Going forward, my focus will be on tackling issues around mental health. Around 450 million people worldwide suffer from mental disorders worldwide and at least 15 million American children suffer from a psychiatric disorder – more than the number of children affected by leukemia, diabetes, and AIDS combined and suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. One way that we can prevent depression and enhance human potential is through the use of mindfulness – an ancient technique that has been around and changed lives for thousands of years. Organizations like the Child Mind Institute and The Oxford Mindfulness Centre have made great strides in uncovering benefits of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) in lessening the effects of depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, and I’m becoming even more optimistic the more I read about these techniques that are available to anyone – rich or poor. Implementing MBCT during childhood – and even into our schooling system – could change our future in a big way, and we must continue to explore. I contribute meditation and mindfulness to a large part of my success and well-being, and I’m under the philosophy that we must take care of ourselves first before we can truly take care of others.

Why do you want people to participate with you in giving?

This weekend is my 30th birthday. This year, instead of a fancy dinner or lavish party, I am asking friends and family to support me in my goal of raising $30,000 – #30Kfor30– by donating to the Stuart D. Bern Philanthropic Fund – part of JCF’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity. I have started things off by contributing $3,000 and making a pledge to donate a portion of my future annual income and time to tackle issues around mental health. My hope is that together we can save a life – if not many more.

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About

Julia Levy, Founder, has a decade of development experience, including working for a philanthropist, a small nonprofit and now a large nonprofit. She has raised significant dollars for numerous causes, from education to religion and from donors of all ages. Julia holds a Certificate in Fundraising from NYU’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University. Julia has taught fundraising workshops, most recently at Brooklyn Brainery and coached development professionals.


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Why We Give tells stories of ordinary philanthropists, making a difference, dollar by dollar and hour by hour.  

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