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30th Anniversary Northeast Tribute Dinner

Honoring Richard Born and Rita Born Distenfeld

Since coming together as a community on October 16, we continue to watch the events unfolding in Israel. Painful moments like this underscore the importance of the Museum’s ongoing work to share the lessons of the Holocaust. We ask that you take a moment to reflect upon this tribute video of our event honorees, Richard Born and Rita Born Distenfeld. Their parents’ story of persecution and survival is a powerful testament of the Museum’s mission to preserve Holocaust history for generations to come.

In 2018, Richard and Rita donated a collection of their parents’ papers to the Museum for safekeeping in our state-of-the-art David and Fela Shapell Collections, Conservation and Research Center, including the diary their mother, Esther Born, kept during the Holocaust. Personal evidence such as this in the Museum’s collection serves as the foundation of our increasingly urgent work to counter antisemitism through education. If you or someone you know would like to discuss supporting our mission by entrusting the Museum with family artifacts or would like to arrange a visit to Washington, please contact the Northeast Regional Office at 212.983.0825 or

Featured Guests


  • Richard Born

    The son of Holocaust survivors Esther and Robert Born, Richard is a real estate developer, hotel owner, and philanthropist with a long-held commitment to Holocaust remembrance.

    Richard’s business ventures began in 1985, after deciding to step away from his burgeoning career as a surgeon in New York City. With several early real estate successes in hand, Richard founded BD Hotels, in partnership with Ira Drukier, and focused on developing a series of hotels in Midtown Manhattan. In 1996, Richard and his partners turned a landmark industrial building in SoHo into the renowned Mercer Hotel. From there, they went on to develop several other iconic boutique hotels in Manhattan—including The Maritime, The Bowery, The Greenwich, The Marlton, and The Ludlow hotels—as well as a chain of properties called The POD Hotels. Their most recent addition is the restored Chelsea Hotel. In 1980, Richard married Deborah Hammerman. Together, they have three children: Caroline (Zachary) Gleser, Jennifer (Benjamin) Gerut, and Max Born. They also have six grandchildren: Julia, Abigail, Beatrice, Noa, William, and Robert. Richard and Deborah serve as benefactors to numerous charitable organizations, including Colel Chabad, New York University, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the International Center of Photography, Yad Vashem, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, and the Ramaz School. Richard sits on the board of the Hotel Association of New York City and NYU Hillel and is the chairman of Colel Chabad. Richard’s involvement in Holocaust remembrance began early in life. From the age of five, he participated in the annual commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization, of which his father served as vice chairman. Likewise, his involvement in Yad Vashem and the Museum of Jewish Heritage stems from his parents’ dedication to both organizations. Photo: Richard Born. Michael Olsen

  • Rita Born Distenfeld

    Inspired by her parents, Holocaust survivors Esther and Robert Born, and their longtime support of the Jewish community and Holocaust remembrance, Rita has spent more than 40 years working as a philanthropist and volunteer fundraiser in New York City.

    Early in her philanthropic career, Rita lent her time, resources, and talents to supporting critical fundraising efforts at the Ramaz School, which her children attended, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She served as vice president of the school’s Parents Council and, for many years, as its Dinner and Auction Committee chair. During this time, she was also deeply involved in the Yeshiva University Women’s Organization, serving as co-chair of the annual auction. Today, Rita continues to perform countless acts of chesed in the community. She and her husband, Fred, have been active members and supporters of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun (CKJ) since joining the shul in 1978. Over the years, she has served as a board member and social secretary of the CKJ sisterhood, spearheading major fundraising events, and her husband, Fred, has served as president of the synagogue. Rita and Fred are also major supporters of Friends of Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF), an organization founded by her parents and other Holocaust survivors. Most recently, they co-chaired two highly successful Chairman’s Leadership Missions to Israel for FIDF. Rita and Fred are proud parents to Michael (Erica) Distenfeld and Claire (Michael) Olshan and enchanted grandparents to Lucy, Sophie, Joe, Maxwell, and Colette. Photo: Rita Born Distenfeld. Fred Marcus Photography


  • Sara J. Bloomfield

    Director, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

    Sara J. Bloomfield has led the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for 25 years, working to build a global institution that raises Holocaust awareness, deepens understanding of the lessons of the Holocaust, confronts denial, and advances genocide prevention.

    She serves on the International Auschwitz Council and is a recipient of the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland and five honorary doctorates. She joined the planning staff of the Museum in 1986 when it was a project in development and served in a variety of roles before becoming director in 1999. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Ms. Bloomfield holds a bachelor of arts degree in English literature from Northwestern University, a master’s degree in education from John Carroll University, and has studied business administration at the graduate level. Ms. Bloomfield is the 2021 recipient of the Roger E. Joseph Prize, which is awarded annually for exceptional work done in the field of human rights and Jewish survival. Photo: Sara J. Bloomfield. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Event Leadership

Tribute Dinner Board Chairs

Ira Drukier Rena Hoffman Gary Jacob§ Elisa and Alan Pines§

Regional Co-Chairs Andi and Tom Bernstein Debrah Lee Charatan Eva Cooper§ Laura Gurwin Flug Marcia and Alan Lazowski§ Howard M. Lorber§ Stacey and Marc Saiontz§ Betty Pantirer Schwartz and Howard Schwartz§ Susan and Jeffrey Stern Caryn and Howard Unger§ Diane and Howard Wohl

§denotes past tribute dinner honoree

Program Agenda

A Memorial Tribute To Our Honorees' Parents

Esther and Robert Born

Richard Born and Rita Born Distenfeld, honorees at the 30th Anniversary Northeast Tribute Dinner, grew up with the lessons of the Holocaust. Their parents, Esther and Robert Born, both experienced the German occupation of Poland and survived the Holocaust. Esther Born (née Wittlin), grew up in Żółkiew, Poland (present day Zhovkva, Ukraine), and survived the Holocaust with the help of local non-Jews. Esther and her mother hid with a Polish couple, but when a neighbor unexpectedly caught sight of them, they fled to the woods, where they met up with Esther’s father, Abraham, and older brother, Harry. At one point, several locals came upon the family in the woods, threatened them, and planned to turn them in, but the family escaped. They remained in hiding until the Soviets liberated them. Then, in 1949, the family immigrated to the United States with the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). Robert Born was born in Warsaw, Poland, the son of a wealthy businessman. After the Nazis invaded Poland in the fall of 1939, German authorities forced the family to give up their business and home and move into the Warsaw ghetto. Authorities then sent Robert, after surviving the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, to a series of concentration camps, including Lublin/Majdanek, Buchenwald, and Mauthausen. After liberation, Robert learned that his sister Regina had survived, but the rest of the family had been murdered at the Treblinka killing center. Robert immigrated to the United States in 1951 and began investing in real estate. Esther and Robert met in New York at a Purim ball in 1952. Later, on March 14, 1954, they married. Their children, Richard and Rita, donated their mother’s diary, as well as a number of other mementos of their parents’ wartime experiences to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for safekeeping in its state-of-the-art conservation center. You can view the Born family’s artifacts and learn more about their story in our online collections search. Our Collection of Holocaust Evidence The Museum’s David M. Rubenstein National Institute for Holocaust Documentation houses an unparalleled repository of Holocaust evidence that documents the fate of victims, survivors, rescuers, liberators, and others. Learn more here. Today, the Museum faces a race against time to rescue evidence like Esther’s diary. Artifacts documenting the truth of the Holocaust are at risk of being lost forever if they are not preserved and protected. You can help us share this history by contributing to the Museum’s unparalleled collection of evidence. Contact a curator at 202.488.2649 or, or fill out our online form. Photo: Esther and Robert Born on their wedding day, March 14, 1954. Courtesy of Richard Born and Rita Born Distenfeld

Event Sponsors


Gifts of $100,000 or more Madelyn Bucksbaum Adamson and Allen Adamson Debbie and Richard Born Rita and Fred Distenfeld Laura Gurwin Flug Leslie and Roslyn Goldstein Foundation Marsha and Henry Laufer Howard M. Lorber Jane and Daniel Och Madaleine and Arnold* Penner Shari Redstone The Howard Unger Family


Gifts of $50,000–$99,999 Max Born/Caroline and Zachary Gleser/Jennifer and Benjamin Gerut Gale and Ira Drukier Katherine Farley and Jerry Speyer The Feil Family Victoria and Lloyd Goldman Cathy and Gary Jacob Rick Kleeman Paula and David Menche Stacey and Marc Saiontz The Sidley Austin Foundation


Gifts of $30,000–$49,999 Gerald Barad/Shimmie Horn Stefany and Simon Bergson Andi and Tom Bernstein Debrah Lee Charatan Eva Cooper The Ronald and Susan Domb Foundation The Family of Jakob and Anna Erlich Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation The Halpern Family Rena and Scott Hoffman Ruth and Steven Katz/Ann and Bernard Sklar/Deborah and Wayne Zuckerman  Ivan Kaufman Harry Krakowski/Lili Stawski LPZ Management (Levenstein, Pantirer, Zuckerman) The David and Nathan Mandelbaum Families National Basketball Association Reva and Martin Oliner Claire and Michael Olshan The Olshan Family Elisa and Alan Pines and Family Pfizer Inc. Robin and Steven Rotter Betty Pantirer Schwartz and Howard Schwartz Laurie and Sy Sternberg Diane and Howard Wohl


Gifts of $18,000–$29,999 Anonymous Louise and Sid Banon The Barry Family Ruth M. Bernstein Aviva and Charles Blaichman/Bella Sekons Blavatnik Family Foundation Erica and Michael Distenfeld Jay Domb Israel Englander Extell Development Company Susan and Kenneth Greif Jay Hanflig and Donna Sinden Shelley Erlich Holm and Senia Erlich Feiner and Family Jean-Pierre and Rachel Lehmann The Susan and Aron Lieberman Family, Montreal, Quebec The Lee and Murray Kushner Family The Seryl and Charles Kushner Family Foundation The Landis and Birnbaum Families Jay and Sharon Podolsky/Stuart and Shirley Podolsky, In Honor of Zenek and Fanny Podolsky Longfellow Properties, Inc. Ira and Diana Riklis Joseph S. and Diane H. Steinberg 1992 Charitable Trust Susan and Jeffrey Stern Joyce and Daniel Straus Vector Group Ltd./Howard M Lorber The Wilf Family


Gifts of $12,000–$17,999 Anonymous The Frances and Benjamin Benenson Foundation Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner Lauren Cassell Blinbaum and Jacques Blinbaum Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck Edward A. Chernoff Continental Ventures/Jane Gol and Amir Chaluts Sam Domb Lisa and Ed Friedland Bernard Friedman/Robert Friedman Ronalee and Russel Galbut Dale and Saul Goldberg Griffon Corporation Lorelei Hammerman/Judy and Larry Weiss/Caren and Hillel Hammerman Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Patti Askwith Kenner The Pomeranc Family Diane and Richard Ross Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation Gabriela and Jack Shnay Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Wells Fargo Bank Harry Wittlin/Lisa and Tommy Nadler/Abby and Gabriel Tolchinsky Barbara and Michael Zimmerman


Gifts of $5,000–$11,999 Anonymous Renee and Leon Adams Ellen and Irwin Adelsberg Daniel Adler Andrew Albstein, in loving memory of Pauline and Joseph Charatan Iris and Peter Arest Marion and Bennett Borko Mallory Brenner Sandra and Stewart Cahn Susan and Michael Castle Debbie and Mark Cooper Mary Ann Ehrlich Nancy and Henry Elghanayan Faith Fina and Family Ari Fleischer Mary Ann Fribourg Sarah and Martin Goldman and Family Laureine and David Greenbaum Micheal Gross Suzanne and Barry Gurvitch Rochelle and David A. Hirsch Ruth Kestenbaum Sarah and Sean Lambert Richard and Susan Lampen Susan and Alan Leavitt Denise and Enrique Lerner Wendy and Jon Mechanic Cheryl and Philip Milstein Susan and Michael Mukasey Lilly and Avner Naveh Odeon Capital Group Gail Propp/Wilma and Stephen Kule Anna and Barry Rosenbaum Anita and Mark Sarna Sheira and Steve Schacter Janie and Robert Schwalbe Ruth and Fred Schwalbe Debbie and Daniel Schwartz Joan Serchuck Naomi and Robert Spira Beth and Marty Statfeld Susan B. Stearns Arlene and Daniel Stein Sima and Rubin Wagner, z’’l/Myra and Harry Wagner/Leon Wagner Ellen and Peter Weintraub Weitz & Luxenberg P.C. Dr. Marc Zimbler


Gifts of $2,500–$4,999 Jessica and Joseph Ainsberg Deborah and Barry Berg Sherry and Neil Cohen Suzanne and Jacob Doft Sheera and Kenny Eckstein Carol and Ira Fishman Sima and Morad Ghadamian Carol Goldberg Paula and Jeffrey Gural Yonina and Eric Gomberg Helene and Harvey Kaminski Alice and Jacob Klein The Litwin Foundation Esther and Bill Schulder Jill and Sandy Sirulnick Bonnie and Tom Strauss Richard S. Weber


Northeast Regional Office

The Northeast regional office serves Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, metropolitan New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Find out more about past programs and how to contact us.

Thank You to Our National and Regional Partners and Donors