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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘NBC’

Keeping A Watchful Eye On Her Flock

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010


         “What’s new?”

 

         It was a casual question, posed to me by Irene Klass when we met at a Jewish women’s lecture during the fall of 1994.  

 

         My mother and Irene were neighbors and, although their backgrounds were very different, (my immigrant mother’s education had been interrupted by the Holocaust while Irene had the advantage of an American upbringing) both women were the same age and the same diminutive height, but giants when it came to their profound devotion to their families and to Israel.

 

         I replied that I had just written and produced a Jewish cooking video.

 

         “You’ll have to write an article telling me all about it.”

 


Irene Klass, Rebbetzin Esther Winner and Helen Schwimmer 


at the Anuual Jewish Woman’s Day -  Dec. 3.1995

 

 

         The story, “A Taste of Shabbos With Rebbetzin Esther Winner,” complete with photos and a recipe for parve rugelach, received the royal treatment, debuting in The Jewish Press Magazine section.  The article was my entree to the Woman’s Page and marked the beginning of a very productive and rewarding professional, and personal, relationship with Irene Klass.  

 

         Irene’s question to me, what’s new, was the essence of what made her so interesting, because she was interested in everything.  She had her finger on the pulse of the Jewish community and so I never knew where a phone call from Irene would lead:  the Brooklyn District Attorney; the newly elected presidents of Emunah and Amit; a rabbi who was formerly a Lutheran minister; or an Orthodox Jewish feminist conference.

 

         When Rabbi Klass was hospitalized in Mt. Sinai he was so impressed by the accommodations, Irene dispatched me to interview the hospital’s President and CEO for an article about the special amenities provided to Orthodox patients.

 



Dora Zegerman and Irene Klass enjoying each others company at the 


Project Neshama Dinner - June 7, 2001


 

         When The Jewish Press published the poignant story of my son, the grandson of Holocaust survivors who had just received his medical degree, there was a message waiting for me on my answering machine.  In a voice breaking with emotion Irene said, “some day you will win the Pulitzer.”  This is the kind of heartfelt praise this extraordinarily generous woman was known for.

 

         Her knack for making shidduchim was legendary but it wasn’t limited to couples.  At the height of the Intifada in 2001, Irene introduced me to Molly Resnick, a veteran NBC producer who was writing and speaking about the hate-filled curriculum being taught in Muslim schools.   Most people didn’t comprehend the imminent danger but Irene Klass was not most people and was a strong supporter of the educational organization Molly had founded, MATCKH, Mothers Against Teaching Children to Kill and Hate. 

 

         As we worked closely together on articles and a video to inform the public Molly and I forged a strong bond.  A few short months later, when America was attacked on 9/11 The Jewish Press’ warnings about schooling a generation of suicide bombers was finally understood by the mainstream media.

 

         Our most ambitious collaboration was an article on the Yale Five.  Although she didn’t personally know any of the students involved, these were Yiddishe kinder and Irene was deeply offended by Yale University’s new coed dormitory policy which went against Jewish Orthodox practices.  After interviewing the students, the parents, the rabbis and the deans who made the arbitrary decision not to respect the religious needs of the students, The Jewish Press printed my in-depth investigative report that condemned Yale for its hypocrisy in favor of diversity.

 

         Irene Klass was a shomer, constantly keeping a watchful eye on her flock.  May she continue to be a devoted guardian of the Jewish people.


 

 

          Helen Zegerman Schwimmer is the author of “Like The Stars of The Heavens,” an anthology of articles originally published in The Jewish Press.  To learn more please go to helenschwimmer.com

They Will Be Missed

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

He was the oldest former major league ballplayer when he died last month at the age of 100. Bill Werber was a teammate of Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth with the Yankees in 1930 and again three years later. He also played for the Red Sox, Philadelphia Athletics, Cincinnati Reds and New York Giants before retiring in 1942 with a .271 career batting average. He outhit Hank Greenberg .370 to .357 in the 1940 World Series, leading the Reds over the Tigers in seven games.

 

Werber is the answer to this trivia question: Who was the first batter in the first-ever televised major league baseball game?

 

It happened in 1939 at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field. Werber led off for the Reds. The game was described by play-by-play man Red Barber, who was stationed in the upper deck behind third base next to a camera (the other NBC camera was placed behind home plate). NBC’s experimental station W2XBS was headquartered in the Empire State Building with a limited range of only fifty miles, reaching an estimated one hundred households.

 

After baseball, Werber entered the insurance field. He credited his long life to a great 70-year marriage (his wife died in 2000) and his having refraining from smoking and drinking.

 

As we approach spring training, it’s a good time to remember some other former players who died in recent months.

 

● Mickey Vernon’s playing career spanned four decades (1939-1960) and he won two batting championships as a member of the Washington Senators (1946 and 1953). Cleveland third baseman Al Rosen was heading for the triple crown in 1953 as he led the American League in three categories going into the last game of the season. However, Vernon’s two hits in the last game gave him the batting title, one point ahead of Rosen’s .336. Rosen had to settle for leading the league in home runs (43) and RBI (145).

 

Vernon, who lived to age 90, had many thrills as a player and manager of the Senators. The biggest, he claimed, was in 1954. “It was opening day in Washington,” he related years later at an Old Timer’s Game. “I hit a home run in the bottom of the 10th to beat the Yankees. President Eisenhower was sitting near our dugout and stayed for the whole game. He sent some Secret Service men on the field after I crossed home plate. They escorted me to his box and the president told me I was his favorite player and he wanted to congratulate me. That was my most memorable day in baseball.”

 

● Preacher Roe had one of the most memorable faces on baseball cards to us yeshiva kids. His wide cheeks and small chin reminded us of the popular comic strip hero Popeye. Roe was a pitching hero to Brooklyn Dodgers fans in 1951 when he won 22 games and lost only three. From 1951 through 1953 he won 44 games while dropping eight. Roe, who died at 92, was very popular with the press, his teammates and the fans.

 

Most thought that since he was from a tiny town in far off Arkansas, Roe was just a country hick. Roe played the hillbilly role well but he actually graduated from Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas, and once taught high school mathematics. He started his big league career as a 29-year-old rookie with Pittsburgh in 1944 and was traded to Brooklyn in 1947 – the year Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Roe hung up his spikes in 1954 at the age of 39, after compiling a career record of 127-84 with a 3.43 ERA.

 

● Herb Score, the fireballing Cleveland Indians pitcher who was rookie of the year in 1955, died at 75. I was with my young yeshiva classmates when Score held our hometown Tigers scoreless. We thought Score was going to be the greatest lefthander of all time. Sandy Koufax broke in with the Dodgers that year (1955) but wasn’t a great pitcher until the early 1960s. Score, though, was great in his rookie season.

 

Score had won 38 games in the big leagues when he took the mound against the Yankees on May 7, 1957. His career would be shattered that night as a line drive off the bat of Gil McDougald caught him in the eye, breaking his nose and several facial bones.

 

Score spent the rest of the year recovering and though he stayed on in the majors from 1958 to 1962, he wasn’t nearly as effective. He won only 17 games over that four-year span while losing 26. Popular with Cleveland fans and an accomplished speaker, he went on to spend 30 years as a broadcaster for the Indians.

 

I saw Score often on the baseball beat and recall many of our conversations. He was born in New York and grew up rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers and adopted outfielder Pete Reiser as his favorite player. Score credited teammate Al Rosen with helping him get over a severe case of the jitters the first time he faced Mickey Mantle and the Yankees in Yankee Stadium.

 

● Former pitcher Dock Ellis was an outgoing, outspoken fellow and probably remained so until the end when liver disease claimed him at 63. He was a writer’s dream, funny and quotable. He was the Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock of the baseball world.

 

Ellis broke in with the Pirates in 1969, pitched a no-hitter the following year and had a 19-9 record in 1971. Traded to the Yankees after the 1975 season, he was the toast of New York in 1976 as he posted a 17-8 record.

 

I did a lengthy interview with Ellis around the batting cage in Yankee Stadium during that summer of ’76 when He admired my straw cap and placed it on his head while putting his Yankees cap on my head. It must have looked strange to early arriving fans, but it wasn’t strange to his teammates. He didn’t move the caps back until after the interview.

 

The Yankees moved Ellis to Oakland the following season, then it was on to Texas, the Mets and back in 1979 to Pittsburgh where he wrapped up his career, finishing with a 138-119 mark and an ERA of 3.46. His numbers would have been good enough to earn him an annual salary exceeding some $15 million today.

 

But enough about yesterday. I’m off to follow the sun and spring training. Tell you about it next month.

 

Irwin Cohen, the author of seven books, headed a national baseball publication for five years before earning a World Series ring working as a department head in a major league front office. His Baseball Insider column appears the second week of each month in The Jewish Press. Cohen, who is president of the Detroit area’s Agudah shul, is available for speaking engagements and may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

Personal Favorite

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

The Monitor’s been in a nostalgic frame of mind lately, celebrating (some would say wallowing) in its 10th anniversary. Several readers, responding to last week’s front-page essay, “A Decade of Media Monitoring,” asked whether there was one particular column the Monitor counted as a personal favorite.

There were other questions as well, which will be addressed next week (the finale in our retrospective, we promise). As for one column remembered with particular fondness, the Monitor could do worse than the following, from 1999 and thus not available in our online archives:

NBC Peacock’s True Colors? [Dec. 31. 1999]

Incidents like this can make even the reasonably sane among us wish for a Jewish Al Sharpton: Despite complaints from offended viewers and the Anti-Defamation League, NBC has reneged on an earlier written promise and now says that a blatantly anti-Semitic “Saturday Night Live” Chanukah skit will not be removed from future telecasts of the original program.

The skit, which aired on Dec. 4, included a scene in which SNL regular Ana Gesteyer and the actress Christina Ricci, portraying a pair of popular female singers, discoursed on such subjects as Jewish control of the country’s banks and the forgiveness Christians have granted Jews “for having killed” Jesus.

According to news reports, the skit’s negative fallout prompted Roz Weinman, an NBC executive, to write an apologetic letter to the ADL which contained a pledge that the skit would “be excised from all future broadcasts.”

Immediately, strenuous objection to Weinman’s words was raised by SNL executive producer and guiding light Lorne Michaels – born Lorne Lipowitz – who huffed through a spokesman, “As far as I’m concerned, it’s still under discussion.”

Lipowitz’s attitude set the network’s tone for the next few days as NBC officials increasingly distanced themselves from Weinman’s letter. A network source went so far as to disparage Weinman’s motives, suggesting that “in her rush to go on vacation and appease these folks, she said, ‘Fine, here’s what I’m going to do.’”

And then came the announcement that NBC executives had “reviewed the viewer response to the SNL sketch and have decided that it will air again unedited.”

It was a curious statement, to say the least, and the reference to viewer response seemed at odds with the assessment offered by ADL National Director Abe Foxman, who said his organization’s switchboards were “lit up” by outraged callers. (Foxman castigated SNL’s Chanukah skit for promulgating “two canards [that] are the basis for anti-Semitism for which we’ve paid a very, very high price.”)

This is hardly the first time that “Saturday Night Live” has come under scrutiny for pushing the envelope in its references to Jews and depiction of Jewish characters. In fact, in the 25 years that Lipowitz and SNL have been on the air, the show has routinely turned to Jewish themes, with results that have ranged from the silly to the reprehensible.

A short list would include an early parody-commercial of a mohel attempting a back-seat circumcision as his car careened wildly through an obstacle course; the late Gilda Radner portraying a gum-popping, vacuous Jewish American Princesses; a dating video sketch starring former series regular Gary Kroeger as a perverted dentist named “Ira Needleman”; a faux home-shopping program featuring a cheesy, underhanded Israeli electronics salesman (played by guest host Tom Hanks, who even signed off with a hearty “lehitrayot”); the “Minkman brothers,” Al and Herb, a pair of less than scrupulous merchandisers played by cast members Christopher Guest and Billy Crystal in 1984; the endlessly recurring segments involving the Linda Richman “Coffee Talk” yenta; and an infamous skit combining guest host Jerry Seinfeld, a Passover seder and an unbelievably boorish Jewish family.

Speaking of Seinfeld, his NBC sitcom may have been one of the most successful in TV history, but it had a definite Jewish problem all its own.

Maybe it was because the late NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff initially dismissed the show as “too Jewish,” but the writers on “Seinfeld” went to near-ridiculous lengths to blur the ethnicity of three of the four main characters.

Even worse was what happened whenever the show attempted to deal with Jewish subjects. As Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum observed, “The episodes with the blabby, buffoonish rabbi are uncomfortable and notably unfunny. And the story about a bris is as painful as the procedure.” Schwarzbaum also pointed out that in an episode where “Jerry dates a girlfriend who eats only kosher, [Jerry’s friend] George meanly tricks her into eating trayf.”

Hmmm … you don’t suppose Lorne Lipowitz Michaels could have been sitting in on some of those “Seinfeld” production meetings, do you?

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Harmless Humor — Or Insidious Influence?

Wednesday, January 4th, 2006

NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” has once again inspired dismay among at least some Jewish viewers who feel the line between simple bad taste and outright anti-Semitism was crossed on the Dec. 17 edition of the long-running show.

The segment that raised hackles was a musical claymation production by veteran SNL writer Robert Smigel, titled “Christmastime for the Jews,” which strained to find humor in the annual phenomenon of non-Jews becoming scarce on city streets on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, leaving Jews sole stewardship of the public square.

Whatever one thinks of Smigel’s take on how Christmas serves to accentuate the differences between Jews and their Christian neighbors, this is hardly the first time “Saturday Night Live” has been accused of at least pushing the envelope in its references to Jews and depiction of Jewish characters.

For example, a skit that aired on Dec. 4, 1999, included a scene in which then-SNL regular Ana Gesteyer and actress Christina Ricci discoursed on such subjects as Jewish control of the country’s banks and the forgiveness Christians have granted Jews “for having killed” Jesus.

In its three decades on the air, SNL — which has always been heavily dependent on Jewish writers and, except for a few years in the early 1980’s, has been run from its inception by Jewish executive producer Lorne Michaels (born Lipowitz) — has routinely turned to Jewish themes, with results that have ranged from the silly to the reprehensible.

A short list would include a parody-automobile commercial of a mohel performing a circumcision in the back seat of a car as it careened wildly through an obstacle course; the late Gilda Radner portraying a gum-popping, vacuous Jewish American Princess; a “dating video” sketch starring former series regular Gary Kroeger as a geeky, perverted dentist named Ira Needleman; a home-shopping program featuring Tom Hanks as an underhanded Israeli electronics salesman; the endlessly recurring segments involving the Linda Richman “Coffee Talk” yenta; and an infamous skit involving a Passover seder, a boorish Jewish family, and guest host Jerry Seinfeld as Elijah the Prophet.

Speaking of Seinfeld, his NBC sitcom may have been one of the most successful in TV history, but it had a definite Jewish problem of its own as the “Seinfeld” writers went to near-ridiculous lengths to blur the ethnicity of their main characters — all of whom possessed the sensibilities of typical young New York Jews but who, with the exception of Jerry Seinfeld himself, had by the end of the series been identified in one way or another as non-Jewish.

Even worse was what happened whenever the show attempted to deal with Jewish subjects. As Entertainment Weekly’s Lisa Schwarzbaum observed, “The episodes with the blabby, buffoonish rabbi are uncomfortable and notably unfunny. And the story about a bris is as painful as the procedure.” Schwarzbaum also noted that in an episode where “Jerry was dating a girl who kept kosher, [Jerry’s friend] George meanly tricks her into eating trayf.”

Little wonder that TV critic Tom Shales wrote, as the show neared the end of its run in 1998, that “Seinfeld is Jewish but the Seinfeld he played on the show, a comic patterned after himself, of course, showed no respect for Jewish traditions or heritage, ever.”

The debate over how much, if any, of an effect Jewish comedians and comedy writers have on influencing public perceptions of Jews and Judaism is an old one, and is certain to continue for many years. It’s a real concern, though — one touched on by Sig Altman in the introduction to his 1971 study The Comic Image of the Jew. Describing an incident on a television talk show in the late sixties, Altman wrote that

An interviewee, in the course of a totally serious discussion, made the quite serious remark, “I looked it up in the Jewish Encyclopedia.” There immediately followed a burst of laughter from the studio audience, which obviously sensed a joke about to materialize, or perhaps saw one already born. The laughter rather suddenly subsided, however, as the collective realization apparently dawned that no joke was in fact intended. Nevertheless, the comic quality of the word “Jewish” in the public consciousness had been perfectly demonstrated.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/harmless-humor-or-insidious-influence/2006/01/04/

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