When Martha Stewart presented one of the UJA-Federation of New York fashion awards on Thursday afternoon to Yehuda Shmidman, chief executive officer of Sequential Brands Group, she questioned his judgment in selecting her.
“Wouldn’t it have been better for you if you brought Jessica Simpson?” said Stewart, whose company Martha Stewart Omnimedia was sold to Sequential Brands Group last year. The Jessica Simpson brand is part of Sequential Brands Group, too.
Shmidman was honored along with Andrew Rosen, cofounder and chief executive officer of Theory, and Daniella Vitale, chief operating officer and senior executive vice president of Barneys New York. The luncheon, attended by 500 people and held at The Pierre, raised $1.2 million for UJA.
Simon Doonan, creative ambassador for Barneys New York and author, served as emcee. “My name is Simon Doonan and I’m a shiksa [a Yiddish term that means non-Jewish girl or woman].” Doonan humorously recounted his life story and how he developed an affinity for Jewish people, even marrying a Jewish man, Jonathan Adler.
Stewart spoke highly of Shmidman and said he’s someone who’s so youthful. “He’s younger than my daughter,” she said. Since Stewart and Shmidman went into business together last year, she said she’s had to brush up on her Kosher cooking. “We had them for dinner a couple of times,” said Stewart, noting she now has a pantry full of Kosher dishes that match her own, and she’ll need Kosher dishes for her house in East Hampton. “It’s cost me a lot of money, maybe I need a raise,” she said.
Noting that she, too, is a shiksa and was once married to a Jewish man, Stewart said she was proud to be Shmidman’s partner “or employee, however you want to look at it.”
In accepting his award, Shmidman said they were clearly partners in the business, thanked the other honorees, and added, “that kosher food you made was absolutely delicious.”
Kenneth Cole presented the fashion award to his close friend, Rosen. Cole said when people ask him whether he and Rosen grew up in the business together, he replies, “Absolutely, he grew up in the business, and I intend to.” He noted that Rosen founded Theory without any marketing “and not a single pun,” and then congratulated his friend, “not just in theory.”
Rosen, a third-generation in the business, said it was an honor to win the award and it would have made his father and grandfather very proud to be honored by the UJA. “They instilled in me values and qualities that helped shape who I am today,” Rosen said.
Vitale was presented her award by her twin sons, Daniel and Luca Biro.
“She’s the most charitable, kind-hearted and gracious person we know. Therefore, to raise more money, we’re going to auction her off at the end of the luncheon,” Daniel said.
Luca said their family just got back from a trip to Israel, where they visited an Ethiopian Jewish absorption center, run by the UJA. “We were amazed by the hard work and effort put into it,” he said.
Vitale joked that after spending two weeks in Israel with her sons, “they should be auctioned off.”
She said that when she told her boys that she was winning this award they said, “What? You’re not even Jewish mom.” But Vitale said she put them in Hebrew school when they were eight years old so they could learn about their Jewish history, so she should get credit for that.
“UJA not only focuses on strengthening global Jewish community, but really helps people in need regardless of faith. That obviously is very important to me. Their support of family and children’s services, both here and abroad, are really exemplary,” Vitale said.