Mizrahi Kills At Purim Ball

By Masha Leon

Published March 16, 2007, issue of March 16, 2007.
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When fashion guru Isaac Mizrahi mounted The Waldorf-Astoria’s ballroom stage with the aid of a walker, he assured the festive crowd at the Jewish Museum’s February 27 Purim Ball: “It was only a car accident. I’ll be fine… I’m your fabulous celebrity Purim shpiel host.” Turning the Esther/Purim tale on its politically incorrect head, Mizrahi could have invoked Bette Davis’s immortal line from “All About Eve”: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night!”

According to Mizrahi, to find a replacement for his “bitch” wife, Vashti, Persian king Ahasueros plans a ball with all the kings showing up for “a days-long debauche. The queens were not allowed. Wink, wink. That should be a hint. When was the last time you were in a palace in the middle of the desert with hundreds of men in furs and jewels?….The Jewish guests were the first ones on line for moo goo pork and the pigs in the blankets….Of course, the wait staff was cuter and sexier than any of the guests…dressed in tiny loincloths.”

As for the categories for King Ahasueros’s beauty pageant, Mizrahi included “blondes, brunettes, big girls, little girls, she-males, even an underage category… [the king] liked them young.” Continuing his spoof, Mizrahi cast Esther as a Korean adoptee named Yung Lin who had been brought from Korea some 20 years earlier by her uncle Mordechai and his roommate Marc. She’d been renamed Esther after Marc’s grandmother, who had a lingerie chain in Persia called “Esther’s Secret.” Mizrahi mused on such weighty issues as keeping Esther’s hair “frizz down in the desert and Brazilian bikini waxing, her duo daddies’ booming decorating business, and the accessorizing of their ‘Korean adoptee.’” My table was in hysterics.

Mizrahi, a recipient of three Designer of the Year awards, has created costumes for movies, theater, dance and opera. He was the subject of the 1995 documentary “Unzipped”; his sportswear line is at Target, and his haute couture creations at Bergdorf Goodman. The event was chaired by Lynn and Glen Tobias, with co-chairs artist Alex Katz and his wife, Ada (Mrs. Katz was the subject of the museum’s recent exhibit “Alex Katz Paints Ada”, and Fern Mallis, vice president of IMG Fashion. Mallis is also known as the “Queen of [New York City’s] Fashion Week” (which attracts nearly 100,000 to the city and generates more then $235 million for the Big Apple’s coffers). Leni May, the Jewish Museum’s chairwoman, accepted the Mayer Sulzberger Award from the museum’s director, Joan Rosenbaum. And the exquisite menu — with its devastating, palate-pleasing chocolate mousse teardrop with brandied cherries — was created by **Sirio Maccioni ** of Le Cirque, who sat a few tables away from me. He seemed to have a ball, shpiel and all.


The festive February 26 gala dinner for Reuth (formerly the Women’s Social Service Organization), held at the St. Regis, was very much a haimish, family event. Honored were longtime board member Rosa Strygler of Krakow, Poland, and Hamburg, Germany-born Sidney Weingarten. Weingarten’s mother had immigrated to Palestine from Germany and had been among the first involved with the organization. Its initial task was to assist their fellow refugees in their new homeland. Also honored with the Future Builders Award were Samantha Lerner and Jane Oster, granddaughters of Holocaust survivors. The ladies movingly articulated their commitment to Israel and their decision to continue “in the footsteps of our mothers,” Ann Oster and Rita Lerner, who are both trustees of the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

When Strygler was a child, she and her family ended up in Auschwitz, where only she survived. After a convoluted journey that took her to Hungary and then to a displaced persons camp in Lansberg, Germany, she arrived in the United States in 1947 via a kindertransport. She and her late husband were in the pearl business, and they traveled frequently to China.

After losing their only son, the Stryglers adopted a baby girl from China. “That was nearly 50 years ago,” mused Strygler when I mentioned the New York Times (March 8) front-page article “A Chinese Orphan’s Journey to a Jewish Rite of Passage.” The article was about Cecelia Nealon-Shapiro, who had been adopted by Vivian Shapiro and Mary Nealon 13 years ago. “You were ahead of the trend,” I said to Strygler. Proud of her family’s Bobover yikhus (lineage), Strygler, who revealed that the Bobover rebbe used to stay at her family’s home in Krakow, told me she had gone to the grand Bobover rebbe (in New York) for advice. “He told me to go ahead with the adoption. He said to me, ‘[Jews] may not be so nice about some things, but one thing is sure — we are not racist.’ My daughter, Olivia Or Strygler, is now a lawyer and runs the business.”

Reuth, one of Israel’s oldest and largest not-for-profit organizations, has, since 1937, filled the health care and social needs of children, wounded soldiers and the elderly. Its current major project is the Reuth Medical Center, a 310-bed state-of-the-art chronic care and rehabilitation hospital that serves patients of all ages.

On a personal note: Aware of the more than 50,000 Chinese children— most of them girls — have been adopted by American families, I was walking behind a Chinese couple who, between them, were swinging a little girl whose long golden curls, poking out from under her hat, were flying in the wind. What a turnaround, I thought. A Chinese family adopting a Caucasian child! I hurried to pass them by so that I could get a good look at the 3- or 4-year-old girl. Don’t know what the parents made of my surprised look — the little girl was Chinese. The fake blond curls were attached to her hat.


“Jewish Protectory of Boys Opened” proclaimed the May 13, 1907, New York Times headline announcing the May 12 opening of the Hawthorne School of the Jewish Protectory and Aid Society in Westchester County, “which would be used as a reformatory for the Jewish boys who have been sentenced in the Children’s Court.”

One hundred years later, on March 1, 2007, the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, a beneficiary of UJA/Federation of New York, celebrated l00 years of service to the young at Hawthorne by honoring Karen and Jay Kasner, who, with their children Brett and Jared, have volunteered on the Hawthorne campus for the past 10 years. Also honored was IBM, “whose mentors have touched the lives of so many children” and recently presented the facility with “$7,500 to provide the children with PCs and software.”

In her acceptance speech, Karen, an attorney and lay leader in the New York Jewish community, informed: “In 1907, Teddy Roosevelt was president… a stamp cost 2 cents [and] the ice cream cone was merely three years old. Upon returning to New York from a long stay in Europe, the author Henry James observed the different components which made up New York society: ‘In this dawn of the 20th century, New York was divided and fragments were torn between multiple forces and constant efforts toward unification and order.’ Significant numbers of immigrants came from all walks of life… to America, the land of opportunity…. In 1907, nearly five of six New Yorkers lived in tenements. The need to help the poor and troubled resonated deeply throughout the streets of New York.” Jared noted that, despite the advances that would have “made those immigrants marvel, the New York metropolitan area faces similar challenges today as it did 100 years ago: comfortable lives for some, poverty and sustainability for others.”

She went on to describe how, as a unit, her family visited Hawthorne, where their sons played baseball, offered comfort and interacted with the youngsters whose lives the facility helps transform. Following a long roster of “thank you’s,” Jay Kasner, a senior partner at the firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, alluded to the 1941 letters written by Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, who was desperate to find a way for his family to emigrate from Holland to America. “In one letter, he wrote: ‘Perhaps you remember that we have two girls. It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance.’ Tonight has been all about the children….” A short video presentation included testimonials from present as well as past Hawthorne alumni — now productive, caring citizens who continue to return to Hawthorne to encourage new generations to succeed and become productive citizens.

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  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
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  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
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