At the American Jewish Committee’s fund-raiser Monday night raising $2.3 million for the human rights organization, Bloomingdale’s vice chairman Frank Doroff gave his uncle’s formula for writing a good speech: “Start with a great opening, have a great ending, and put the two as close as possible.”
This story first appeared in the December 7, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Then without taking any shortcuts, Doroff, who received AJC’s Human Relations Award, delivered an inspirational message about the importance of partnerships, citing his 20 years working beside Bloomingdale’s chairman Michael Gould, and Doroff’s wife, Stephanie, “my better half.” In between, Doroff’s theme shifted to plurality as he explained the mission of the AJC, founded in 1906 by American Jews concerned about pogroms against Jews in Russia but taking on a larger cause. “For over 100 years, the AJC has understood that the most effective means of abolishing bigotry towards any one group is through the advancement of human dignity for all. I sleep better knowing that the AJC will always speak out on anyone’s behalf — Jewish or not,” Doroff said.
In presenting to Doroff, Gould explained the meaning of “tzedakah,” saying, “It really doesn’t mean giving. It means righteousness. When I think of righteousness, I think of Frank Doroff.”
Sharing the spotlight with Doroff was Paula Sutter, president of Diane von Furstenberg, who also received AJC’s National Human Relations Award, in an evening drawing a crowd of more than 800, including Andrew Rosen, Richard Dickson, Frank and Rita Castagna, and large contingents from DVF and Bloomingdale’s. In another moving speech, Sutter recalled when she got the call from Gould to accept the award: “He said there’s no agenda and nothing to prepare. That made me nervous. Then I called Frank and he didn’t say much. That made me more nervous.…I am a humble Italian Catholic and honored to be recognized by the AJC.”
In presenting the award to Sutter, Barry Diller filled in for his wife, Diane von Furstenberg, who was in China. He cited Sutter’s “enormous help” in reviving the business and virtually rescuing von Furstenberg from exhaustion during the difficult rebuilding years. “There was so much stress on Diane,” Diller said. “The family had to intervene.” Diller recalled the family told von Furstenberg she could have six months to revive the business and von Furstenberg responded that she would take a year and could get the job done because she had the right talent on board. She was referring to Sutter.