Bloomberg News

Schwarzman, Bommer, Wendi Murdoch, Soros, Princess Talal

September 19, 2012

New Yorkers for Children

Steve Schwarzman, chairman and CEO, Blackstone Group, and Christine Schwarzman. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Last night, being the fiancee of George Soros meant being asked to take his picture for an admirer.

“It looks pretty good,” Tamiko Bolton said looking into the screen of the point-and-shoot camera belonging to a junior staffer at the Institute of International Education.

The couple also looked pretty good posing together at the institute’s gala at Cipriani Wall Street, where Soros and others were honored for founding the Institute’s Scholar Rescue Fund 10 years ago.

First came dinner, beef and thinly sliced potatoes.

Soros ate his in the company of Princess Ghida Talal; she and her husband have helped more than 250 Iraqi scholars find a safe haven in Jordan.

Then Soros joined the other founders on stage: investor and economist Henry Kaufman; Thomas A. Russo, general counsel at American International Group Inc. (AIG:US); and Henry G. Jarecki, chairman of Gresham Investment Management LLC and father of Nicholas Jarecki, the director of the film “Arbitrage” starring Richard Gere, who bought a ticket to the gala, but did not attend.

Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat, gave tributes.

“I’ve often found myself in committee meetings saying, ‘Couldn’t we do at least as much as George Soros does?’” Senator Leahy said.

Martin Buber

Soros first heard about the idea for the Scholar Rescue Fund from Jarecki, who was inspired by the institute’s rescue in the 1930s of intellectuals such as Martin Buber and Paul Tillich through its Emergency Committee to Aid Displaced German Scholars.

“I wondered if the occasions when it would be needed were frequent enough,” Soros said. “It’s fair to say the fund has proven me wrong. With the bloodshed in Syria, we’re on the verge of another such occasion.”

The fund has provided aid to 467 scholars whose lives and work have been threatened, helping them find safety as visiting professors. Abdul Sattar Jawad, a professor of comparative literature, left Baghdad through the fund and found a permanent home at Duke University.

Arabian Nights

“It’s the Harvard of the South,” he said. “I am happy to be teaching what I like.” For his course “Arabian Nights in the West” this semester, the reading includes “The Canterbury Tales” and “The Decameron.”

At the lectern, Jarecki announced that he would match $3 million in new gifts made to the Scholar Rescue Fund, for a total of $6 million. The fund has an endowment of $27 million.

“We need dissidents,” Jarecki said. “They have endured harassment, isolation, interrogation, imprisonment, torture, death. And they all share one trait: They just won’t shut up.”

At the exit, guests received the goody bag: a Western Union Foundation tote containing a book by Soros -- “Financial Turmoil in Europe and the United States: Essays” -- and an Omanhene chocolate bar made in Ghana.

For Children

Steve Schwarzman, in a tuxedo, and his wife, Christine, in a blue-and-white gown and matching jewelry, stepped off 42nd Street into an expertly lit grove of trees, flanked by half a dozen cameramen. It was the very chic step and repeat at the New Yorkers for Children gala last night at Cipriani 42nd Street.

Also passing through: Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, models Hilary Rhoda and Jessica White, Aerin Lauder, who has her own beauty line, and New Yorkers for Children board members Donya Bommer, in a lilac gown, and Kelly Behun Sugarman, in a red one. There was also Wendi Murdoch, in a sequined Ashish cocktail dress, and Alexandra Kaufmann, who works in investor relations at Pershing Square Capital Management LP, in red Versace.

“It’s fun to get to see everybody looking beautiful, but this is about substance too,” Bommer, wife of hedge-fund manager Scott Bommer, said. “We fill in the holes for the kids. It’s all the things your mom and dad get you for school: a laptop, money for books and clothes.”

In the side hall, waiters offered pigs in blankets and little plates of risotto to about 20 young men and women who have been in foster care and received aid from New Yorkers for Children.

‘Double Work’

Amara Toure, 21, had the “double work” of being in foster care and coming from Guinea. Martin Jack, 24, chose to be a child-care worker after being in foster care for 13 years.

“I feel the best people out there to help kids are people who have real experiences,” Jack said.

“I got into foster care at the age of 9,” Brian Fleurimond, 21, said. “My mother was brutally murdered. I’ve moved to maybe 10 different homes in the past 12 years.”

Fleurimond is studying criminal justice at the State University of New York’s Genesee Community College “because the killer of my mother never got caught,” and social work, so he can “work with kids like me,” he said.

It was his first time attending the event, to which he wore saddle shoes and an Armani Exchange suit he bought with earnings from a summer job at a CVS Caremark Corp. (CVS:US) store on the Upper West Side.

“I’m into fashion,” he said. “That comes from people looking at me like a foster kid. I carry myself so I don’t have a stigma, so people don’t judge me.”

As for the event: “It’s something I’ve never seen before,” Fleurimond said. “I’m willing to meet new people. They may open up doors for me.”

(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 Jeremy Gerard on theater, Ryan Sutton on dining.

To contact the reporter on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at agordon01@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net


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