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May 23, 2014

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 23, 2014 Hollywood legel !d regales Jewish Orlando Shown here (l-r): Devorah Leah Dubov, Rabbi Sholom Dubov, David Weiss, Rabbi Yanky Majesky and Chanshy Majesky. and Beverly Hills rich and famous? The Kardashians? Ostentatious homes? Utra luxurious automobiles? Van- ity and decadence? For David Weiss, it's a ko- sher kitchen, donning tefillin each morning at a minyan, sending his children to a Jew- ish day school, and for him, a prize greater than any Oscar: to be referred to as "abba" by his children. It wasn't always that way for him though. In fact, it was just the opposite. The now 50-something Weiss grew up in the not-very- JewishVentura, California. He says that his Reform education was "lukewarm, at best"-- though he is quick to note that the Reform movement has evolved considerably over the past 30 years, and is far more spiritual and Jewish now than when "classical German Reform Judaism" seemed like Protestantism. When in high school he encountered Christians "who knew their stuff,,' Weiss would mock their beliefs in the trin- ity and exclaim "there aren't three Gods, there's one God, andwe don't believe in Him." An impressionable smart alec who was obsessed with the mathematical concept of in- finity, his Christian comrades played up to his interest in By Richard A. Ries He's quite a character. And we know a lot of his charac- ters: Shrek, The Smurfs, The Rugrats, and Boy Genius, to name a few. But Wednesday, May 7, at the Longwood Community Center, Jewish Orlando, courtesy of Chabad of Lake Mary, got the chance to meet one of Hollywood's most acclaimed and sought after living screenwriters: Oscar nominee and box office success David N. Weiss, whose films worldwide have grossed more than two billion dollars. What comes to mind when thinking of the Hollywood JNF Women for Israel pain th night away at the Scarlet Eas00l infinity, slowly got him in- terested in reading the New Testament, going to church, and fully converting to Chris- tianity. Weiss joked that "at least Christians all sing in the same key when they're in church," adding "and even finish at the same time." Like many new converts to any faith, Weiss was more biblically knowledgeable and more zealous than many of those who grew up Christian. Because he was smart and entertaining, pastors saw great promise in him, and after a laying on of hands, appointed him a Christian youth minister. Weiss never denied his Jewishness, nor did he call himself a Jew for Jesus, but rather said that Christianity was his primary identity, and being Jewish a distant second one. The Presbyterian pastors eventually sent him as a missionary to Dublin, Ire- land. Here was an American Jewish-Protestant being sent to an Irish Catholic nation to try to steer lapsed Catho- lics toward Presbyterianism. However, while in Ireland, Weiss encountered a kippah- wearing Jewish animator from Chicago, David Stein- berg, withwhom he later in life collaborated on many films. Steinberg slowly challenged Weiss's Christian stance. "You can't convert from what you don't know," Steinberg main- tained. The later famous car- toonistwas the first domino in Weiss's long journey home to balancing fame with leading an observant Jewish life. Weiss became intrigued about the idea of God without a physi- cal intermediary, an infinity of one. The journey was not with- out its challenges. Weiss returned to America to marry his "dream Christian tall blonde" in a church. However, while trying to prove himself as a writer in Hollywood, Weiss met film critic and radio talk-show host Michael Medved, who invited hm over to his house for Shabbos. Weiss, describing himself as "the village idiot," didn't actually know the term, but found Shabbos to be joyful. Another domino. Weiss slowly found himself weaving Jewish themes into "Shrek." For a period of time, Weiss found himself going to syna- gogue on Saturday and church on Sunday. "But who," he asked with mock seriousness, "has the time to go to Costco if you're trying to do both?" Judaism eventually won out. His wife wanted to con- vert by an Orthodox Beit Din and decided that she wanted a kosher home. Weiss told a story of how he came home one day to find an Ortho- dox rabbi blow torching his kitchen. "I don't think I can make this kitchen kosher," the rabbi said wistfully. "Of course you can't," shot back Weiss. "You've melted it into the ground!" Weiss--creator of the Rugrats Hanukah Special, former vice president of the Writer's Guild of America, and an acquaintance of many famous people from the Dalai Shown here (front row, l-r): Debbie Meitin, Valerie Shapiro, Judy Chisdes, Azita Yashar, Sheila Greenspoon, and Brenda Faiber; (back row, l-r): Dolores Indek, Es Cohen, Robin Katzman, Elaine Goldberg, Noreen Levitt, Mollie Savage, Cheryl Weiner, Elise Schilowitz, Linda Weiss, and Sandy Oser. Over 20 Jewish National Fund (JNF) Women for Israel (WFI) supporters gathered for a fun-filled evening of instructed painting at The Scarlet Easel on Thursday, May 8. WFI Chair Debbie Meitin spoke about JNF's important work in Israel and highlighted a few of their partners and projects including Lotem - Making Nature Accessible, a national organization in Israel that offers nature activities to people with special needs, and the Sderot Indoor Recreation Center, a 21,000-square-foot secure indoor playground, bomb shelter and community center built by JNF in 2009. For more information on JNF's Women for Israel or to attend upcoming events in Orlando, please contact Laura Abramson at labramson@jnf. org or 407.804.5568. Temple L'Chayim brings Torah to its new home Temple L'Chayim is mak- ing its permanent home in Clermont and will have a Torah Walk tonight, May 23, at 6:45 p.m. The pro- cession will start on Route 27 about 2 blocks south of Walgreens and end at our new location 4420 Route 27 South. A Torah Walk is a joyous ceremony to place the Holy Scriptures into their new home. All members of the community are invited to mark this momentous occa- sion. Sabbath services will begin at 7:30 p.m. PAGE 3A Chabad David Weiss speaking before the Orlando audi- ence. Llama to Jerry Seinfeld--used to be obsessed with infinity. But these days, wearing his tefillin six days a week-- boxes that he refers to as his "GPS"---he only cares about the number one. "The Shema inside those boxes ends with echod, one" he told the Jew- ish Orlando audience. "That works for me." Though Weiss used to fanatically try to convert others to Christianity, he has no taste for trying to dramatically change people as he did in his youth. "It's inherently sanctimonious to say to someone 'how you are isn't good enough,'" he said. He simply asks all Jews-- whether they be Reform or Re- constructionist, Conservative or Orthodox--to take steps to understand their precious heritage and role on earth just a little bit better. 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