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September 30, 2016 / 27 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘mission’

Steven Hill’s Mission imPossible

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Editor’s Note: The actor Steven Hill died last week at age 94. Hill’s decision in the early 1960s to become Orthodox made headlines and affected the course of his acting career. In 1966 he played the original leader of the Impossible Missions Force on the hit series “Mission: Impossible” but left after one year, at the height of the show’s popularity, because his filming schedule conflicted with his Sabbath observance.

After a hiatus that lasted more than a decade, Hill returned to acting in the 1980s and 1990s, appearing in a number of movies including “Yentl,” “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” Heartburn,” “The Firm,” and “Legal Eagles.

Hill resumed his television career in a big way in 1990 when he took the role of district attorney Adam Schiff in the drama series “Law & Order,” a part he would play for 10 seasons.

In early 1969 – just two years after he left “Mission Impossible” and when many were wondering whether he regretted choosing Orthodox Judaism over TV stardom – Irene Klass, the late publisher of The Jewish Press, spoke with Hill. The interview appeared in the paper’s Feb. 7, 1969 issue.


It’s a far cry from Hollywood, California to Square Town, New York. But the person who de­cides to make the change might find it’s the best move he ever made. At least that’s been the experience of actor Steven Hill, original star of Television’s “Mission Impossible.”

Steve, tall and handsome, with dimples that appear whenever he smiles (which is often) looks more like a movie star than a Square chassid. But there’s no mistaking the influence Square Town has had on him. For it’s to the Squarer Rebbe that Ste­ven Hill gives credit for his re­turn to the Torah way of life – a life, as he says, “of meaning and purpose.”

The reader who remembers Mr. Hill as one of the top stars of the stage and television screen might have difficulty re­conciling that image with the Steve Hill who wears a black velvet skullcap, dons phylacter­ies for morning services, and re­frains from work on the Sab­bath.

“But there’s really no mystery about it,” he says. “I simply found myself, that’s all.”

“For a long time I had been searching,” the actor said. “I used to ask myself, ‘Was I born just to memorize lines?’ I knew there had to be more to life than that. I was searching – trying to find the answers – to find myself – and I did.”

How did it actually come about, one wants to know. Steve sits back in his chair as if to refresh his memory, straighten­ing his skullcap in the gesture familiar to religious Jews every­where.

“About ten years ago,” he recalled, “I went home to Seattle to visit my parents. I was feeling depressed because I seemed to be leading an aimless existence. Oh sure, I was a star with all the glamour and everything. But something was missing. My life seemed empty – meaningless.”

At his father’s suggestion Steven attended services at the shul he used to frequent as a boy. Something began to stir in him. “I guess that was the be­ginning,” he said.

Back in Cali­fornia he started making the rounds of the synagogues – first the Reform and then the Con­servative. But nothing much happened.

Then he came East on an as­signment, sporting a beard for the Broadway role of Sigmund Freud. Seeking relaxation from the rigors of the theatre, Steve drove out to Square Town to watch the dancing of the chassidim he had heard so much about. But although he came to laugh, “he remained to pray.” For he found something here in these chassidim that he had not found anywhere else – a dedication and devotion to the Torah which gave them a certain serenity; a certain nobility of character; a certain truth and purpose to their lives. He saw a love of G-d so intense that it must find expression not only in their diligent observance of His commandments, but in the ecstatic chassidic dance.

Steve felt himself drawn by the spirit that moved them. The spark that had been kindled in the shul in Seattle became a fire that would not be quenched – that demanded to be fed. Nothing less than total commit­ment to Torah would do!

Steven Hill in 2010, dancing at his grandson’s bar mitzvah in Lakewood, N.J.

Steven Hill in 2010, dancing at his grandson’s bar mitzvah in Lakewood, N.J.

He began to study the Torah under the guidance of the Squarer Rebbe and was amazed at its “deep insights.” So many things became clear to him. “ ‘It’s like walking in a wilderness at night,’ ” he quoted Rav El­chanan Wasserman, zt”l. “ ‘Sud­denly there’s a flash of light­ning and everything is illumi­nated.’ That’s the way it is with the Torah – it illuminates every­thing,” he said so sincerely that you could see this was not just a passing fancy.

Once Steve had made up his mind that this was the life for him, nothing could change it. His movie contract, thereafter, stated that he would not work on Shabbos and Yom Tov; and that his clothes were to be non­-shatnes. How did Hollywood react to this?

“They thought I was some kind of nut,” he grinned. “In Hollywood, you see, it’s the smart thing to do to go off on a `kick’ – any kind, even a reli­gious `kick’ – but don’t make a pest of yourself by sticking to it or you are a weirdo.”

“Strange when you think about it,’ Steve said. “Some of these people put their very lives into the most meaning­less things” – yet labeled him a fanatic for being equally com­mitted to his religion. He shrug­ged his shoulders – the look on his face seemed to ask, “How ridiculous can you get?”

“The world’s absurd,” we agreed.

“Insane and abominable,” as Voltaire said; not the least example of which is the blatant sex and violence that greets you at every turn both in reel and in real life.

What did he think about this obsession with sex on screen and stage? Steve registered disgust. “What we left in Egypt three thousand years ago, the lunatics are bringing back now,” he said.

Irene Klass

Steven Hill, Star of ‘Law & Order,’ ‘Mission: Impossible,’ Dead at 94

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Steven Hill, who starred in “Mission: Impossible” as the versatile team’s leader Daniel Briggs, and as District Attorney Adam Schiff on “Law & Order,” died Tuesday at age 94. He was born Solomon Krakovsky, to Russian Jewish immigrants in Seattle, Washington.

Hill only lasted one season on “Mission: Impossible,” and was replaced by Peter Graves, for being “difficult to work with,” most notably since he refused to work late on Fridays, because of his Shabbat observance. His fellow Jewish cast member Martin Landau described Hill’s only season saying, “I felt he was digging his own grave.”

Hill was apparently less difficult to work with on the set of the long-running series “Law & Order,” whose producer Dick Wolf released a statement following Hill’s passing, saying, “Steven was not only one of the truly great actors of his generation, he was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. He is also the only actor I’ve known who consistently tried to cut his own lines.”

In a 1996 interview, Dick Wolf called Hill “the Talmudic influence on the entire zeitgeist of the series,” saying “Steven has more moral authority than anyone else on episodic TV.”

Hill’s first Broadway stage appearance was alongside Marlon Brando in Ben Hecht’s “A Flag Is Born,” in 1946. His big break came when he got a small part in the hit Broadway show Mister Roberts. “The director, Joshua Logan, thought I had some ability, and he let me create one of the scenes,” Hill told the NY Times. “So, I improvised dialog and it went in the show. That was my first endorsement. It gave me tremendous encouragement to stay in the business.”

After being dropped from “Mission: Impossible,” Hill spent 10 years of what he described as “tremendous periods of unemployment.” He left acting in 1967 and moved to a Jewish community in Rockland County, NY, where he wrote at night and sold real estate by day. After 10 years, he was ready to act again. He returned to work in the 1980s and 1990s, playing parental and authority-figure roles in Yentl (1983), Garbo Talks (1984), Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs (1983), Heartburn (1986), Raw Deal (1986), Running on Empty (1988), Billy Bathgate (1991), and The Firm (1993).

Hill’s role as New York District Attorney Bower in Legal Eagles (1986), foreshadowed his role of Adam Schiff in Law & Order. He modeled these roles on Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, who served from 1990 to 2000. When Morgenthau found out that Hill was making $25,000 per episode, he told him, “Steven, when you’re ready to retire, let me know. I want your job.”

David Israel

Sustaining Israel’s Friends On Capitol Hill: NORPAC’s Mission – and Missions – in Washington

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

To answer your first question: No, NORPAC is not affiliated with AIPAC, but you can certainly be forgiven for the confusion. Both organizations are passionate about their advocacy for the State of Israel and both feature the letters P-A-C in their organization’s name. However, despite the similarities, only NORPAC is a political action committee which means that only NORPAC is allowed to fundraise and donate money to U.S. senators and members of congress that share the organization’s belief in a strong and enduring relationship between the USA and Israel (AIPAC is a registered lobbying group, which cannot donate money, and the P-A-C stands for public affairs committee). This distinction is important, explains Dr. Ben Chouake, the president of NORPAC. “The advocacy we do and that AIPAC does is extremely important, but it is also important to help people get elected who are strong on your issues and fundraising is one way to help make that happen.”

NORPAC’s strategy to maintain the historically vital connection between Israel and America is therefore two-pronged. The organization’s flagship program is their annual mission to Washington, a one-day whirlwind of on-the-hill advocacy, but NORPAC also proudly hosts an increasing number of fundraising events for politicians from around the country throughout the course of the year.

Chouake assumed the position of national president in 2000, and over the course of his tenure, the organization has grown from a small New Jersey-centric program that sent 20-30 people to Washington D.C. on its annual mission and hosted one or two fundraisers a year, to a prominent voice for Israel which sends over 1,000 people from all over the tri-state area on the annual mission and hosts 40 or more fundraisers every year. Of course, Chouake doesn’t do it all on his own, and he’s the first to let you know.

“I’m a good cheerleader,” Chouake says, “but the key is to have a great team to cheerlead for.” With only one full-time employee, the indefatigable Avi Schranz, working for the organization, NORPAC relies on the tireless efforts of a small army of volunteers to meet their increasingly ambitious annual goals.

As NORPAC has grown, new thriving chapters have sprung up further and further away from the original chapter in Englewood, NJ. David Steinberg, a highly respected member of the Kew Gardens Hills community, is the president of the Brooklyn-Queens chapter of NORPAC. Steinberg also serves as a mission chair along with Richie Schlussel and Dr. Laurie Baumel. Together the mission chairs organize every aspect of the mission to Washington. The logistics are incredibly complex but important to get right, as consistency in message is vital to a successful mission to Washington.

“You don’t get a thousand Jews walking into Capitol Hill at one time who are all accidentally saying the same thing,” says Steinberg, “everything that happens on the mission requires an incredible degree of planning and discipline.”

Over the course of their one-day mission this year on May 18, the NORPAC volunteers met with 98 senators and over 340 members of the House of Representatives. In some cases, the meetings were hosted by senior members of the congressmember’s staff, but often the congressman or congresswoman themselves sat down with the NORPAC volunteers.

Jeff Schreiber, the logistics chair of the NORPAC mission to Washington, explains how NORPAC’s size provides exactly the type of flexibility that allows for such a successful and unique day of advocacy. “When AIPAC sends 15,000 people to Washington,” says Schreiber, “there is only so much they can do with a group that large. With our 1,000 to 1,300 volunteers we are able to send small groups all around the Hill and we are able to hold all of these incredible face-to-face meetings in the span of one day.”

Yehuda Raskin

Balak – What Is Israel’s National Mission?

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

For the first time in a while, the main characters of this parsha are not the people of Israel. While the story of Bilaam and Balak are interesting, we wonder: the Torah isn’t an all-inclusive history book; why does the Torah tell us this story?


This video is from Rabbi David Block and Immanuel Shalev.

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Immanuel Shalev

Yad Vashem Leadership Mission Arrives in Israel

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

More than 50 influential friends and advocates of Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, participating in a Leadership Mission arrived in Israel today. The Mission brings together Yad Vashem’s steadfast supporters from around the world to explore prewar Jewish life in Europe, to reflect on the past, present and future, and to connect to Yad Vashem as well as to one another. Among some of the notable members of the Mission are Chairman of the American Society for Yad Vashem Lenny Wilf, world-renowned hotelier Mark Moskowitz, entrepreneur and philanthropist Yossie Hollander, Holocaust survivor Roberto Kucinski, and Barry Levine. In Poland, the Mission visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Wroclaw and Wolfsberg forced labor camps before spending a meaningful Shabbat in Krakow, where they were joined by Yad Vashem Council Chairman Rabbi Israel Meir Lau. 

 The Israel portion of the Mission begins with an private audience with Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin. Participants will also meet with Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev, Director General Dorit Novak, and many of Yad Vashem’s Senior Staff. They will tour the campus on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, and be briefed about Yad Vashem’s far-reaching activities in the fields of Holocaust remembrance, documentation, research and education.   

David Israel

ZOA Florida At Capitol Mission Day

Monday, June 6th, 2016

ZOA Florida attended the recent Capitol Hill Mission Day in Washington. The organization brought one of its largest groups to the event.

The attendees heard from dozens of lawmakers and met with key senators and representatives or their aides.

ZOA Florida urged lawmakers to co-sign the Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016 (S. 2725 and H.R. 4815) and increased sanctions legislation with S.2726 and H.R. 4992. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a co-signer of both. They also advocated for withholding funding to the Palestinian Authority so long as incitement and terrorism continue and urged them to block any U N Security Council resolutions that would be dangerous for Israel, especially any actions that grants Palestinian Arabs a state unilaterally.

For more information and updates contact florida@zoa.org.

ZOA Florida constituents meeting with Florida congressman Ron DeSantis (fourth from left).

ZOA Florida constituents meeting with Florida congressman Ron DeSantis (fourth from left).

Shelley Benveniste

The Blue Card: A Time-Limited Mission

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Two weeks ago we observed Yom HaShoah, a day on which we commemorate the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and honor the heroic survivors. Tragically, many of them are still struggling to survive. In the U.S. alone, 25,000 Holocaust survivors live below the poverty line. These survivors lack the most basic needs – food and medicine – and often have to choose between the two. It is horrifying to contemplate that after all they have been forced to endure, these survivors are continuing to suffer. For many, it is organizations like The Blue Card that help them make ends meet.

The Blue Card is the only organization with the sole mission to provide financial assistance to needy survivors. It assists 2,400 survivors annually with the cost of food, medicine, rent, utilities, and other necessities. By doing so, it provides more than just financial support, it restores the dignity that has been snatched away from them.Baitch-052016-Blue-Card

The Blue Card provides for additional urgent needs such as telephone emergency response systems, dental services, and a program for survivors battling cancer. It also arranges for supplementary programs for survivors that add some joy and comfort to their lives. Survivors enjoy summer retreats and cards with $100 checks on their birthdays. One program they particularly appreciate is the Bring a Smile program. It is similar to the Make-a-Wish foundation in that it grants recipients their final wish. For example, one survivor had never learned to swim, so the organization sponsored the cost of swimming lessons for her

The Blue Card was originally created in 1934 to help Jews that were being affected by Nazi persecution through the loss of jobs, forcibly closed businesses, etc. The name of the organization derives from the blue card donors would receive and which would get stamped with each benefit. After the Holocaust, the foundation was reorganized to help survivors from all over Europe reestablish their lives in this country. Today, 82 years later, its mission has stayed the same: to allow survivors to age safely in their homes, enable them to be independent, and help them maintain their dignity.

Unlike most charities, this organization has a limited time frame. It is imperative to remember that these survivors won’t be with us forever. Executive Director Masha Pearl states: “It is a very time-limited mission and we have to support survivors because we don’t want to say that we could have done more when we had the chance.” The organization foresees that the needs will remain high until 2025, because Holocaust survivors face more physical, emotional, and financial challenges than the general elderly population.

Baitch-052016-BedSurvivors receive help by connecting with their local communities and service agencies. Case managers at social service agencies review the application and help the survivors get what they need with minimal amount of red tape. The amount of help a survivor receives is dependent on his or her need. Some may need one-time assistance like for hearing aids, dentures, or accumulated hospital bills. There are others who have been supported for over twenty years.

Sounds like a great organization? It is and could use our help. The Blue Card sends volunteers to visit survivors in hospitals and also to distribute food packages on the holidays. The organization also recruits professionals who donate their services, such as dentists, attorneys, and doctors. People who are athletically inclined can give to the organization by participating in endurance events, such as the New York City Marathon.

Survivors living in poverty is not something people like to talk about, though it should be. Let’s start a conversation today.

Tzippy Baitch

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/the-blue-card-a-time-limited-mission/2016/05/20/

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