A banker, a doctor and HBO star Lena Dunham took the stage last night at the Jewish Museum’s benefit.
The lawyers were in the audience, including Michael A. Levitt, a corporate partner at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, and Noelle Lilien, general counsel at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
“Welcome to my bat mitzvah,” Dunham said, capturing the feeling, if not of her generation, then certainly of the more than 900 guests at the party.
The banker, Morris Offit, an independent director of American International Group Inc. and a member of a panel reviewing Deutsche Bank AG’s compensation system, gave a tribute to Robert Benmosche, the chief executive officer of AIG.
Benmosche’s honoree gift: a silver Kiddush Cup, an accoutrement of Jewish ritual used for the blessing over wine. He said he planned to bring it to his home in Dubrovnik, Croatia, where he has a vineyard, “so people can learn about Jewish tradition.”
Dunham -- who as 24-year-old Hannah in “Girls” has not exactly been devoted to finding a good Jewish husband, yet, but who in real life is dating Jewish musician Jack Antonoff -- was the evening’s entertainer.
She is Jewish because her mother is Jewish, she explained:
“Here’s the thing about Jews. They really couldn’t care less who your father is -- unless he is on the board of one of the better New York hospitals.”
Dunham identified her father as a “white anglo-saxophone Protestant.” It was he who took her to the Jewish Museum as a child. She recalled those trips, speaking as her six-year-old self, a conceit inspired by Eloise.
“For me museums are like my Sunday school,” she said. “Every Sunday we go to a museum and look at whatever my Dad says we should look at. If it were up to me we’d just stay in the gift shop and try on rings that architects designed but he says no way. The Met is the one I like a lot and also the Jewish Museum. Everything there is not just boring stuff, it’s people doing interesting things who just happen to be Jewish, and not even making a big deal of it.”
“We’re trying to make the museum more forward, more current to our existing audiences as well as new audiences,” said Robert Pruzan, the museum’s chairman and co-founder of Centerview Partners LLC.
One year on the job, director Claudia Gould is bringing in a slew of contemporary artists including Tim Lee, who described himself as “Korean Canadian Presbyterian,” and the fashion collective Three As Four.
As for last night, Gould and Pruzan proved themselves as party planners. It was wonderful to be out of the Waldorf-Astoria’s ballroom, for years the usual venue. At the Park Avenue Armory, Weezer played during cocktail hour.
The theme, a celebration of the Jewish holiday Purim, which calls for costumes, masks and drunkenness, remained the same, but felt freer. A favorite costume was a miniature tiara atop a beautifully blown-out raven mane.
Harvard-bound high-school senior Lauren Volpert -- daughter of Barry Volpert, chairman of Crestview Partners -- danced at the after-party alongside artists Kiki Smith and Lisa Yuskavage.
The scene really did bring back memories of bat mitzvahs, a pretty incredible one at which James Rosenquist, who was honored, dined with Caroline Kennedy, and the amount raised was more than $1.8 million.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Rich Jaroslovsky on technology, Philip Boroff on theater.