By James Bernstein
When Jean Shafiroff crosses a Manhattan street and comes across a well-known figure in the world of philanthropy, fashion, business or government, there is an immediate recognition and a pleasant exchange. The same happens when she in spending time in the Hamptons. Shafiroff is a well-known figure in New York City and in the Hamptons. She stands out, even in places where stand-outs are the norm. Shafiroff is known for her work with women’s and children’s organizations. She also works with the under-privileged, animals and in the healthcare field. She serves on seven philanthropic boards, including the New York Mission Society, the New York Women’s Foundation, the French Heritage Society, Couture Council (Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology), and the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. She has been honored by the America Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, among several other organizations. But perhaps most electrifying of all, Shafiroff says anyone can be a philanthropist, according to her recently-published book, “Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life By What You Give.”
Anyone can be a philanthropist, Shafiroff says, even if they don’t have money to give. There are so many other ways they can donate, such as giving their time and their skills. As a result, Shafiroff is recognized as the vanguard of a new movement of modern philanthropists who move beyond financial contributions and give of their time and knowledge. Her book provides details and explains just how someone can be fulfilled by a philosophy of doing good. Those who have sufficient resources, Shafiroff feels, have an obligation to donate their own funds.
“I have made a life out of giving, raising money for causes in which I believe, and I want to share what I have learned with as many people as possible,” Shafiroff said. She says she is not an authority on the subject, but has learned enough over the years to discuss the issue and provide guidance. And she has been expanding her philanthropy work, which began in New York City, where she lives with her husband, Martin Shafiroff, an investment advisor, and their two daughters, Jacqueline and Elizabeth. Their girls share their mother’s passion for charitable causes.
Among the exciting events that have been occurring in Shafiroff’s life recently are overseas trips to rescue homeless dogs with her daughter Elizabeth Shafiroff and Lindsey Spielfogal who plan to start an animal rescue charity. She has also funded several dog rescue groups. Shafiroff has traveled several times to Costa Rica and to Nicaragua, and managed to bring home with her suffering canines that badly needed medical care, love, and a forever home. The dogs Shafiroff brought back with her to New York are now with loving families.
The expansion of Shafiroff’s philanthropic endeavors now include television and radio talks, including a recent talk at the Princeton Club in Manhattan.Shafiroff is often asked what she personally gets out of her life of giving. “I think those who are blessed must have a sense of service, duty and responsibility to others,” she has said. “We cannot forget that we are all put here on this earth and we are all the same. We must look out for one another.” And that’s what Shafiroff has been doing. She has helped raise a great deal of money for charitable organizations, including several million dollars for Southampton Hospital. At the hospital, she is regarded by top executives as indispensable to the medical facility’s charitable and fund-raising operations. She has chaired some of the most successful fund-raising Galas Southampton Hospital has ever held. She is involved with the Ellen Hermanson Foundation, which raises money for breast cancer research and care.
Shafiroff has played a large role in fund-raising and helping to raise awareness for the Southampton Animal Shelter, a particular favorite of hers because of the work theShelter has done over the years. Shafiroff has appeared at news conferences with the Suffolk County SPCA to help bring a spotlight to its work rescuing abused animals that are found living in filthy conditions or on the streets. Since Shafiroff divides her time between homes in Southampton and Manhattan, she has come to understand the differences in philanthropic work in both places. Such work in the Hamptons must be done in a shorter period of time, since vacationers and tourists spend summers there only. The winter scene in New York City is longer. Events can be held weeknights, after working hours.
In addition to honors from the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society, Shafiroff has been honored also by the New York Mission Society, the Youth Counseling League, the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, Surgeons of Hope, the Ellen Hermanson Foundation, Pet Philanthropy Circle and Animal Zone International. Shafiroff is a standout in the media world. She was featured in Hamptons Magazine’s “Best Dressed List,” and was ranked as the fourth most-photographed woman in New York City by New York Magazine. She has also been featured on many regional magazines covers. She has been the subject of articles in The Wall Street Journal, Gotham Magazine, The New York Times, the New York Social Diary, and the Huffington Post, among others.
For Shafiroff, life began in a small Long Island town, where her father was a music teacher and director of music in a public school district. Her mother and father instilled in her a sense of giving, purpose and drive, Shafiroff has said. She learned those lessons well. “I’ve always kept the ideals I learned from my father close to my heart,” Shafiroff said. “He was loved by everyone, his students, the administrators, parents and other teachers. His life has always served as a guidepost for me.” Education has always been important to Shafiroff. She earned an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University and a BS in Physical Therapy from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. After graduation, she worked as a therapist at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City. Once she earned her MBA, she took demanding and fast-paced positions with Wall Street firms, working in public finance and private partnerships. While getting her MBA, Shafiroff met the man who would later become her husband, Martin Shafiroff.
What is ahead for this remarkable woman? She wants to expand her philanthropic work nationally and internationally. What does this entail? More travelling for rescue missions, lending a hand to help Southampton Hospital raise money and expand in the community, giving her time to the Southampton Animal Shelter as well as the womens and children’s organizations on which she focuses, and seeking out opportunities to help others to continue the cycle of philanthropy, even if they do not have a lot of money themselves to give. “That’s the whole point of philanthropy,” Shafiroff says. “It’s all about passing along what you have learned, turning other people into giving and loving individuals, and spreading the word that it is possible to do good in this world, no matter your own personal circumstances.” Shafiroff lives a whirlwind life of organizing, meeting, planning, giving, serving and seeking. She seeks no personal gain from any of it. Her goal is to spread the word of giving, something she never gets tired of doing.