Diamond Mogul Meets a Star-Studded Controversy

By Marissa Brostoff

Published October 30, 2008, issue of November 07, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A group of A-list celebrities who appear in a new photography book wearing shimmering jewels (and not much more) have become caught in a tussle between an Israeli diamond mogul, an international poverty relief organization and a couple of highly irritated public relations firms.

It all started a couple of years ago when 23 female stars, including Mary-Kate Olson, Susan Sarandon, Kate Hudson and Vanessa Williams, agreed to take their clothes off for a good cause. Timothy White, a celebrity photographer, enlisted them as subjects for a coffee table book called “Hollywood Pinups.” White’s proceeds from the book were to be donated to the aid organization Oxfam.

What Oxfam representatives say they did not know is that Lev Leviev, billionaire diamond merchant and major donor to the ultra-Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement, was also enlisted in the project: He provided the gems draped across the stars’ scantily clad bodies.

Leviev has become a controversial figure in recent years for his use of diamond mines in Angola and what detractors say is his extensive involvement in housing construction for Jewish settlers on the West Bank. This January, after articles in Women’s Wear Daily and other publications reported that Leviev was an Oxfam donor, the organization announced on its Web site that it had not and would not receive money from the mogul, citing Leviev’s involvement in the Israeli settlements.

“Lev Leviev began talking about Oxfam as an organization that he supports, and we had no idea who the guy was,” said Adrienne Smith, an Oxfam representative.

In September, Smith said, she was informed by the organization Adalah-NY, an anti-occupation group that has been fervently protesting Leviev, that the diamond merchant’s claim to affiliation was probably based on their “Hollywood Pinups” connection, a link as thin as a string of jewels.

So where does that leave the celebrities who posed for the book?

They have been informed of whence their diamonds came, Smith said. Oxfam has put up a new statement on its Web site denouncing Leviev, and a picture of Kristen Davis, a star of “Sex and the City” — and an Oxfam ambassador — wearing Leviev jewels has been taken off Leviev’s Web site (the reasons for the removal of Davis’s picture are unclear). And the PR organizations that represent Leviev, White, and the celebrities in the book are very, very annoyed.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.