French Heritage Society Gala Honors Jean Shafiroff at the Union Club

Jean Shafiroff, Malan Breton, Lucia Hwong Gordon
All Photos Lieba Nesis

On Thursday, November 17th, the French Heritage Society celebrated its 40th Anniversary at its Gilded Age Gala with cocktails beginning at 7 PM at the Union Club on 101 East 69th Street. Honoree Jean Shafiroff and two hundred other beautiful ladies and men joined in an epic night eerily reminiscent of the Renaissance era. Gowns, jewels, and tuxedos abounded in one of the most festive and glamorous New York evenings I remember.

Tickets sold out weeks in advance started at $1,000 and went up to $5,000 for a premier program mention.

Ann Van Ness and Sana Sabbagh

The enthusiasm of the evening was palpable as guests arrived up the winding marble staircase. New York’s gala season, which began in September, has continued unabated for the past three months, with four competing events on Thursday night alone, one of which was the Waxman Cancer Foundation Gala at Cipriani Wall Street.

Pamela Wright, Sharon Bush, Ann Van Ness, Nicole Salmasi, Lucia Hwong Gordon and Lexi Costello

Avowed Francophiles Ann Van Ness, Sana Sabbagh, Elizabeth Stribling, CeCe Black, Jean Shafiroff, and Maria and Ken Fishel had just returned from the Parisian shindig, which was held at the Petit Palais on October 15th and was anxiously anticipating this evening as they brought out their most fabulous attire.

CeCe Black, R. Couri Hay and Mai Hallingby

Founded in 1982, French Heritage is an American not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving, restoring, and promoting French heritage throughout the United States, with 10 chapters in the US and one in France.

Barbara Winston, Carole Bellidora Westfall, & Ambassador Brenda Johnson

Nearly 650 grants amounting to $14 million in direct aid have been distributed, with most of the work administered in France, including restoring treasures such as the Chateau de Ponce in Sarthe and the roof of the 16th-century Chateau des Millets in Allier. The emergency fund has raised more than $2.6 million for the fire that ravaged Notre Dame in 2019.

Liliana Cavendish, Ken and María Fishel, Anna Rothschild, Jack Hartnett, Standing Cheri Kaufman and Ruth Miller

Honoree and decade-long board member Jean Shafiroff, who fittingly received her magnanimous Malan Breton gown from Paris two days ago, spoke about the importance of the cross-cultural scholarship programs that have changed the lives of more than 530 university students who have studied abroad at esteemed institutions.

Marilyn Kirschner and David Hochberg

Special Events chairman CeCe Black remarked they had underestimated the attendees due to their assumption that the recent Parisian event would thin out this evening’s crowd. Since the Union Club can only hold two hundred people, the organization was forced to turn hundreds away due to the indefatigable efforts of Shafiroff and her cohorts.

Black spoke of the 6 restoration grants in New Orleans, the restoration of the Joan of Arc statue in Philadelphia, and the preservation projects in the Historic Huguenot Streets encompassing 30 buildings across ten acres that was the heart of the original 1678 New Paltz settlement.

Sylvia Hemingway, Patricia Shiah

After a lively cocktail hour of passed hors d’oeuvres, guests headed to the dining room for some guinea hen and fish, a couple of short but sweet speeches, and a live auction where 5 nights at a chateau were bought for $8,500 each by two different attendees.

The gala also contained a lot of royalty, including His Excellency Philippe Etienne, His Excellency Nicolas de Riviere, Consul General Jeremie Robert, and Cultural Counselor Gaetan Bruel.

If that wasn’t enough excitement, the evening concluded with lively music by The Bob Hardwick Sound as guests headed to the foyer for dancing and fraternization. Those who fretted about the ending of a magnificent night could seek solace in the upcoming February gala at Club Colette in Palm Beach.

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Lieba Nesis

My love of fashion, writing and photography were something that always dominated my lifestyle however it wasn't until I was approached by the editor of Lookonline that I realized I could utilize these three skills in combination.

1 Comment
  1. Thank you Lieba Nesis and LookOnLine for this very good article on the French Heritage Society Guilded Age Gala. Agree we had a lot fo good style there1

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