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January 30, 2009

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PAGE 14A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 30, 2009 Judaism plus FBI add up for Rob Morrow in 'Numb3rs' Sonja Flemming/CBS Don (Rob Morrow) looks toward his newly-found religious side to track down a criminal on 'Numb3rs.' By Naomi Pfefferman Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles LOS ANGELES On lo- cation in Los Angeles with CBS's "Numb3rs," actor Rob Morrow sat for an interview in his trailer, puffing on a Cu- ban cigar, a gardenia-scented candle wafting from a table as he discussed his interest in the "Bhagavad Gita" and the works of progressive Jewish author Douglas Rushkoff. Still boyish at 46, these days Morrow doesn't look all that different from his 1990s character of Dr. Joel Heis- chman--the adorably whiny (and lox deprived) New Yorker stuck in the Alaskan sticks on "Northern Exposure." In "Numb3rs," Morrow plays an even more unusual Jewish fish-out-of-water: FBI agent Don Eppes, who solves crimes along with his math genius brother (David Krum- hoitz) and retired father (Judd Hirsch). All season, Eppes has been exploring Judaism in an attempt to grapple with the moral dilemmas raised by his job. He has argued with his secular brother about his spiritual journey, attended ser- vices and lectures at Wiishire Boulevard Temple--whose faade provides exterior shots for the show cited concepts such as"natach iach" (focusing on issues within one's control) and, in the Jan. 9 episode, he faced off with an old nemesis inside his synagogue. "I kind of forced the issue," Morrow said of his character's Judaism. Morrow said it had bothered him that in much of the show's five seasons the Eppeses weren't clearly identified as Jewish, given that all three lead actors had previously portrayed iconic Jews on screen. At a function attended by "a number of CBS types," Morrow made his point by playfully asking how many present saw the characters as Jewish. "Everyone applauded," he recalled with a laugh. "But initially there was a lot of ambivalence about expressing that side of the Eppeses--per- haps because of a fear of anti- Semitism, but mostly because these shows are built for the largest possible audience. My bent was, 'Why deny what is obviously there in the name of- versatility?' It's more interest- ing to say, 'We can't get away from this because if you don't think these characters are Jewish. there's something wrong with you so let's Development Corporation for Israel State of Israel Bonds 12600 South Belcher Road Suite lolA Largo, Florida 33773 727-539-6445 8oo-622-8o17 sheryl.weitman @ israelbonds.corn Sheryl Weitman Executive Director Monica DiGiovanni Registered Representative Reva Pearlstein Registered Representative embrace it and use it to dis- tinguish ourselves among all the other procedural crime dramas on TV:" At the beginning of last sea- son, Morrow pitched the idea of Don Eppes "going, quote, 'Jewish,'" to help explore the character's psyche. "Don had killed someone in the line of duty, he's had a moral crisis, he's yearning to find a way to exist in this world that is ethically relevant," Morrow explained. "I thought his jour- ney would be an organicway to take the show in a new direc- tion and allow the expression of some other colors beyond shows like 'CSI' or 'NCIS.' Of course e I figured I'd be shot down7 he added. To his surprise, executive producer Ken Sanzel liked the idea. "I thought it could be a story not so much about a per- son finding Judaism as about a person who feels lost trying to find a new set of guidelines," Sanzel--who is Jewish and an ex-cop said on the set of the Jan. 9 episode, which he wrote and directed. Morrow is successful at depicting Eppes' .journey, he added, "because he doesn't try to overprotect the character. He's willing to express Eppes as flawed and not always likeable." Morrow's best-known char- acters share a distinctive sense of longing. The actor said he identifies with this desire to fill a spiritual and psychologi- cal void. "My parents divorce.dwhen I was 9, which was my fall from grace it was like getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden," he said. "That defined me in so many ways I had to overcome--suffice it to say I spent many years in therapy talking about it." When his father moved Out, the rest of the family relocated from their middle-class New York hometo a series of shabby apartments on the fringes of luxurious neighborhoods in and around Scarsdale. N.Y., where his mother insisted they live to "keep up appearances." The young Morrow acted out by committing petty thefts. stealing cars and joyrid- ing. But feeling poor among wealthy classmates also gave him what he calls "a taste for ambition." After his Reform bar mitz- vah an unsatisfying affair he prepared for by memoriz- ing Hebrew prayers pho- ano ~(~ ~tctivld~ p :: ~:a~ralleled Call us today, stop ~ a o~t, jotn user lunch, or all of the above. Your are always welcome/ ' ;&ILION Various Jewish services are offered at Savannah Court thanks to our Friends at The Jewish Pavilion. ~gthere Hospitality is Truly a Way of Life! 1301 W. Maitland Blvd. Maitland, FL 32751 4O7-645-3990 ALF License No. 8447. SNF 1635096 www.slm, net/SC maitland netically--Morrow saw John Travolta in "Grease" and was mesmerized by the rebel from the wrong side of the tracks. "From then on I wanted nothing except to become an actor,', he said. "That became my raison d'etre." He cut high school for six weeks to performas an extra on "Cad@shack," and later a con- tact from that movie advised him to turn up for an audition at "Saturday Night Live" with a joint in tow; "John Belushi had already died, but his spirit hovered over the place," Mor- row said of SNL. At the age of 18; Morrow moved to New York to work as an extra on SNL and also immersed himself in the world of the theater--includ- ing turns in "The Chosen" at the Second Avenue Theatre and Stuart Miller's "Escape From Riverdale" at the Jewish Repertory Theatre. His big break came in 1990 with "Northern Exposure," a show that appealed to him not so much for its Jewish content but for its quirky hyper-realism--it reminded him of the films of Francois Truffaut--and the chance to portray a character who, for all his kvetching, represented an alternative kind of hero, In the era of "Seinfeld" and self- denying Jewish characters, Morrow became television's most obvious--albeit com- plex-member of the tribe. His portrayal was even more nuanced in ~e 1994 Robert Redford film, "Quiz Show," an expos~ of the 1950s "Twenty One" scandal in which he played the Harvard-educated prosecutor, Richard Goodwin. "I spent alot of time with Rich- ard and his wife in New Eng- land, and I have great respect for him," Morrow Said. "But he is a complicated individual as a Jew. I did. note perhaps a streak of self-hatred, as well as the desire for the trappings of [WASP] success, materialism, cars and houses." This desire to escape one's humble origins was some- thing the actor related to. The fame and money show business brought him had proved "intoxicating," he said: "I've never done heroin but I can only equate my feelings to what I've heard about the drug--it's so good, you just want more and more. It's a great diversion, because you can get anythingyouwant, and women and fame go hand [in hand]--when I was younger it was really a blast; I definitely took advantage of it. "I still wrestle with [fame] issues," he said, "like if I don't get the table I want in a restaurant, I'm disappointed. But like any drug, it become less potent over time, and you need something less ephem- eral in life." Morrow eventually found meaning through pursuits such as Transcendental Medi- tation, reading about Judaism and by placing a mezuzah on the front door of the Los Angeles home he shares with hiswife, DebbonAyer, and their 6-year-old daughter. He's also been influenced by Rushkoff's "Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism," which "dis- cusses how the modern Jew is someone who can take from all traditions." Rushkoff himself sees Mor- row as an actorwhopersonifies one kind of contemporary Jew on screen: "His roles expose the balancing act all Jews face when attempting to practice ethical behavior in secular culture," the author wrote in an e-mail. ',He is living in two worlds at once--a 'Fiddler on the Roof,' as it were--re- maining true to his ethical template while addressing the problems and people of a culture that isn't as bound by his covenant." As the interview with Mor- row winds down, the actor takes a final puff on his cigar, then crosses the street to the set at the Korean Philadelphia Presbyterian Church, which decades ago housed Sinai Temple and now nicely doubles as the interior of Eppes' shul because it retains its ornate stained-glass windows deco- rated with Hebrew lettering and Stars of David, Actors wearing SWAT gear lounge in the aisles and on pews as Morrow takes his place on the "bimah" for a final scene of the Jan. 9 episode. "For my satisfaction we don't go into Don's 'Jewish' scenes enough," he said, "but the problem becomes, you've got 42 minutes, and the genre requisites are paramount. Of course, at this point Don is still exploring and seeing if Judaism is right for him. I don't think he's said, 'I'm super -Jew, and everyone's going to daven now at the FBI.' I think he's trying to get a grasp on it, and the dividends are more philosophi- cal and spiritual." 'Numb3rs' can be seen at 10 p.m, Fridays on CBS. Naomi Pfefferman writes for The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, from which this article was reprinted by per- mission. British Jews find in Gaza war a compulsion to speak out By Daphna Vardi ing to Jonathan Hoffman. counterdemonstration across LONDON (JTA)--While Is- rael,s critics took to the streets of Europe during the course of Israel's 22-day operation in the Gaza Strip, the Jews of Britain did not stay siJent. From the community's establishment umbrella group to grass-roots organizations to left-wing activists, British Jews from across the political spec- trum said they felt compelled to respond to the events in the Middle East. Matt Freelander, a London Jew, organized a grass-roots demonstration in support of Israel using Facebook, the online social networking site. "I decided to do something after watching too much tele- vision and seeing the huge coverage of the anti-Israel demonstrations," Freelander told JTA. Reflecting the diverse politi- cal nature of British Jewry, the response to Israel's Gaza opera- tion was hardly one-sided. Jason Ca#in and Yael Fein- man raised money for casual- ties on both sides. Using mobile phones and text messages, they raised more than $15.000 in aweek to divide between Red Cross assistance for Gaza and Laniado Hospital in Netanya, Israel. For the most part, the three- week war did not change the overall balance of opinion among British Jews, accord- co-vice chairman of the Zionist Federation of Britain. He said aboutthree-quarters of British Jews supported Israel and its military operation in Gaza, about a fifth backed Israel but believed the operation should have ended sooner than it did, and about 5 percent were against any Israeli operation in Gaza. While activists on the left long have been publicly ac- tive, demonstrating against Israel's occupation of Pales- tinian-populated territories and writing anti-occupation letters to British newspapers, Israel's latest Gaza operation" br6ught out some typically silent elements in the com- munity. Fervently Orthodox Britons who do not recognize the State of Israel spoke out in support of Israel's operation in Gaza. while afringe minority among them, the anti-ZionistNeturei Karta, joined some anti:Is- rael demonstrations, including ones held on Shabbat. While thousands turned out in Trafalgar Square for a pro-Is- rael rally with a message care- fully crafted to be as inclusive as possible calling for an end to Hamas terrorism and peace for the people of Israel and Gaza--groups on the left end of the Jewish spectrum such as Jews for Justice for Palestin- ians and Descending Jewish Voices found themselves in a the street. The Board of Deputies of British Jews. the umbrella body of the Jewish commu- nity, organized the Trafalgar Square rally. "We are keenly aware of the pain and suffering that the Palestinian and Israeli peoples have endured and are now suf- fering once more," said Harry Grunwa|d, the board's presi- dent. "This is whywe have been raising money for hospitals in Gaza and Israel." The Britisla media, however, seemed to focus more on Jews protesting Israel's military operation in Gaza than those who supported it. The media played up a petition by Reform rabbis calling for an end to Israel's operation in Gaza, and heavy coverage was given to a petition by well-known Israel critics calling on Britain to recall its ambassador to Israel and impose an arms embargo on the Jewish state. Paul Usiskin, chairman of Rabbis for Human Rights and co-chairman of Peace Now UK, was among those who signed the rabbis' letter. He told JTA he was surprised to hear that at the Trafalgar Square rally, most speakers referred not just to Israeli victims but also to the "innocent victims in Gaza.'" Usiskin said he supported Israel's operation initially but that it should have stopped earlier.