Diane Von Furstenberg “Wraps” Us Around Her Finger at the 20th Annual Jewish Heritage Dinner

Lieba headshotStory & Photos by Lieba Nesis

The Museum of Jewish Heritage held its 20th annual dinner at the Museum on 36 Battery Park Place on May 10 from 6:30 to 9:30 PM, honoring Diane Von Furstenberg (DVF). There are very few people except Furstenberg that could gather an illustrious crowd that included: artist Anh Duong, businesswoman Wendi Deng Murdoch, television host Andy Cohen, former President of ADL Abe Foxman, President of HBO documentaries Sheila Nevins, comic Gad Elmaleh, Real Estate moguls Barry Sternlicht, and Larry Silverstein, developers Lisa Silverstein and Tal Kerret, socialite Annette de la Renta, former DA Robert Morgenthau, TV personality Seth Meyers and so many more. The event began with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres accompanied by an abundance of picture taking and socialization. Madoka Sugihara, granddaughter of Chiune Sugihara, who saved 6,000 Jews by issuing transit visas to Lithuanians so they could travel to Japanese territory, was at the dinner to show solidarity with the Jewish people.

Artist Anh Duong, With CEO of Starwood Barry Sternlicht, designer Diane Von Furstenberg, and businesswoman Wendi Deng Murdoch
Artist Anh Duong, With CEO of Starwood Barry Sternlicht, designer Diane Von Furstenberg, and businesswoman Wendi Deng Murdoch.
Designer Diane Von Furstenberg, with television personality Andy Cohen, and President of HBO documentaries and co-chair of dinner Sheila Nevins
Designer Diane Von Furstenberg, with television personality Andy Cohen, and President of HBO documentaries and co-chair of dinner Sheila Nevins.
Former District Attorney Robert Morgenthau
Former District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
Real Estate developers Lisa Silverstein and husband Tal Kerret
Real Estate developers Lisa Silverstein and husband Tal Kerret.
Socialite and wife of Oscar-Annette de la Renta
Socialite and wife of Oscar-Annette de la Renta.

Many others were friends of DVF who sang her praises including CEO of Hudsun media, Michael Rourke, whose fondest memory of Diane includes her trying to teach him and his partner Wes Powell how to cook dinner and be parents before they welcomed their own children via surrogate. They particularly admired her strength as a businesswoman and mother. Likewise, advertising executive Hamilton South said he loves her “curiosity, loyalty and originality” and has counted her as a close friend for more than thirty years. The most interesting conversation was with dinner co-chair Sheila Nevins who is the President of HBO Documentary Films and has known Diane for more than 35 years. Nevins, a magnificent 77-year-old woman said she met Diane in the 70’s when she was hired by CBS to do a documentary on the wrap dress. She recounts being very intimidated and said the aspect she admires most about Diane is that she “is proud and fond of herself.” Nevins favorite film subject is Gloria Steinem who taught her so much about herself and Nevins is currently producing a documentary with Dwayne Johnson called “A Rock and a Hard Place” that documents the journey of children with long prison sentences trying to go straight. Nevins has an incredible presence and has broken records by winning more than 29 individual Primetime Emmy Awards. While Nevins claims not to be a “fashionista” she was wearing a fantastic Annie Sez ensemble that had low-key dynamo written all over it. After a dance performance that included a topless woman and some underwear clad dancers, Andy Cohen, the master of ceremonies, told me his favorite outfit at the Met Gala was of Sarah Jessica Parker and his favorite aspect of the Gala was conversing with Megyn Kelly at the after party at the Boom Boom Room. Andy Cohen who then took to the stage, said that he was honored to pay tribute to Diane who “is on the one hand an unstoppable force of nature and on the other also an earth mother.” Cohen said he enjoyed the cocktail hour where he got to engage in some Jewish geography and that there are millions of women who want to be Furstenberg and that even “he {Andy} wants to be her.” After French comedian Gad Elmaleh spoke about meeting Diane on a delayed Air France flight and how she is his guardian angel it was time for the wrap dress queen, Diane, to enlighten us. Diane has an ethereal beauty with high cheekbones and an enigmatic elegance that is difficult to articulate. She is a fashion powerhouse and has been at the top of her game since the 70’s. Her husband, media mogul Barry Diller, was unable to attend but Diane enthralled her audience with the story of her mother surviving Auschwitz. Diane said that in 1944 her mother was arrested in Brussels and shipped to Auschwitz where she spent 13 months in the camps until she was liberated in 1945-weighing only 49 pounds! After her mother married, the doctor ordered her not to have a child for 5 years or else her offspring would be abnormal; a couple of months later she had the “not normal” Diane. I could feel the tears streaming down my face when Diane said her mother often said, “G-d saved my life by giving you to me-you are my torch of freedom.” Diane whose mother died 15 years ago, said growing up she barely knew she was Jewish, marrying a German Prince, Egon Von Furstenberg, which she joked was okay because “he was a little bit Italian.” Diane said her mother bought the most expensive sable coat with the money from the German’s restitution and she was living the American dream with her successful wrap dress and her glamorous lifestyle. However, everything changed when she attended an Anti-Defamation League luncheon at the Pierre and got up on stage to cathartically proclaim “18 months before I was born my mother was in Auschwitz.” Diane has gradually gotten more connected with her Jewish roots and is obsessed with reading books concerning the Holocaust. Diane’s book “The Woman I Wanted To Be” examines her journey from fashion designer to social activist and was given out at the end of the evening to all the attendees. Former District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who was born in 1919, presented Diane with her award and said “we as Jews must always remember where we came from.” On that note Diane said that she “must pass on the torch” and immortality is what the Museum of Jewish Heritage is all about. After these moving and lachrymose moments, the guests headed downstairs to enjoy some sugary delicacies and discuss the evening. I grabbed Diane’s book and headed home-ready to immerse myself in the journey of Von Furstenberg.