Diane von Furstenberg on Her Work rss
“Eighteen months before I was born, my mother was in Auschwitz,” Diane von Furstenberg, the legendary fashion designer, told 180 women at a UJA-Federation of New York event on May 6th.
The event was held at von Furstenberg’s studio and was part of a UJA-Federation program that is reaching out to the community in Lower Manhattan.
Born and raised in Belgium after her mother was liberated from the concentration camp, von Furstenberg noted that her mother’s greatest gift to her was the conviction that “fear is not an option.” She added that she has tried to teach her own children to “be independent … and accountable … that is the first step to freedom.”
“My vision in life is to empower women through clothes, through mentoring, through philanthropy,” von Furstenberg said. She also expressed her belief that “I think it’s important to work and for women to have an identity of their own.”
Mixing gentle humor into her remarks as she answered questions from the audience, von Furstenberg said of New York, “I think what’s special about New York is that it’s built on granite, and that gives everyone so much energy.”
About her Jewish identity, she said, “Well, I’m a real Jewish princess … Being Jewish is just who you are. It’s just who I am.”
Von Furstenberg was introduced by Nina Levene, the event chair, and Levene talked about her mother’s story as a Holocaust survivor.
Also speaking at the event was Stuart Kaplan, CEO of Selfhelp Community Services, a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency. Selfhelp provides social services, senior housing, and home-care services to 20,000 older adults in New York City. It is also the oldest and largest provider of Nazi-victim services in North America.
Kaplan said that although Selfhelp has provided services to Nazi victims since 1936, when it first helped people flee persecution in Europe, he noted that this year “Selfhelp is seeing more Nazi victims than ever served in our 70-year history … Of the 6,000 Nazi victims served this year, 1,000 came to Selfhelp for the first time this year.”
“Having come this far,” Kaplan said, “none of the survivor population should ever live without dignity again.”
The event ended with an opportunity for shopping at the studio and von Furstenberg donated a portion of the proceeds to UJA-Federation.