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November 20, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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November 20, 2009

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PAGE 22A Silverman From page 1A stint as the CEO of the Foun- dation for Jewish Camp, where he raised the philanthropic profile of Jewish camps, help- mg to bring in tens of millions of dollars per year. And his influence already was being felt at the GAat least the excitement about his hiring. To be sure. local and na- tional federation leaders acknowledge it's been a rough year, with pledges to local campaigns off by more than $80 million. And many federa- tion insiders now embrace the idea that even before the re- cession hit. theirs is a system that needs to~do a better job of embracing change. Yet the mood among GA participants seemed upbeat, especially compared to the economy-related gloom-and- doom mood that gripped last year's gathering. According to the hallway chatter, much of that positive feeling is tied up with Silverman's arrival. Silverman's message to the federations and their partners is clear: The system has its problems, but he and they are all in this together. "We have many problems to solve, and we won't agree on .any point," he said during his address at the opening plenary. "But we have shown in the last year of challenge the ability to make real and unprecedented progress." Silverman went on to say, "If we work together effec- tively, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. After all. anything is possible." Judging from dozens of conversations with local fed- eration heads, people seem to be listening. A key to the goodwill, some said.was Silverman's decision HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 20, 20C"2_ to spend his first weeks on the job listening. He started off by traveling thoughout the United States on a listening tour of the federations, let- ting them tell him what they needed from their national office. • O It was viewed in many cor- ners as an important step for a central office that has had to wrestle with unclear and conflicting notions of what it was supposed tobe and whom it was supposed to be serving. While such questions have still not been fully resolved, several hief executives at local federations say they have someone in Silverman who they feel is listening to them. All of his predecessors have been former big-city federation executives, some with clear ideas about how to make the organization better. The tradeoff of coming in with fully formed idea/s is that some were left feeling they had no say. The difference in leadership style, several system insiders said. was palpable and on full display at the GA.4 Silverman was a constant presence in the hallways, but probably more important, he was a presence at the bar late at night, when the sessions of the GA were over and the hundreds of folks from local federations let loose a little. And he wasn't surrounded by his PR advisers. He was just hanging out. kibitzing. tt will be important to watch whether Silverman and his colleagues at Jew- ish Federations are able to t nslate the positive feelings into improved results and concrete accomplishments• But by most accounts, this GA was a very good first step for a new leader with a tough road ahead• Jewtopia From page 1A there is an overabundance of Jews in that area. "He was from Branson. Mississippi," says Wolfson. "and he'd never met a Jew before, so when he met each of us separately, he was so excited he decided to introduce us." The two hit it off. cobbled together routines based on vignettes from their own family histories, threw $80.000 of initial expenses onto their credit cards, bor- rowed from their parents, and hoped for the best. A year and a half after its 2003 debut, "Jewtopia" had become the longest-running original come@ in the history of Los Angeles theater, and it's now been seen by 500.000 people in pretty much every venue in North America where Jews are found. A good thing, too. Neither Wolfson nor Fogel has any ideawhat they would have done professionally if they'd written a flop. "Maybe become a ski bum." says Fogel. In addition to inter-re- ligious pick-up skills, the show tells us how to properly disinfect a hotel room to avoid the plague while on vacation, and offers Major Moments in Jewish History (Rabin and Arafat sign the 1993 peace treaty, and Bill Clinton says, "Hey, let's go celebrate. I've got a nice Jewish girl in my office I think you'll love"). And then there's the Jewish Kama Sutra, featuring such popular positions as the Mani- cure. the Heimlich. the Challah (now that's twisted), and the one that excited the most buzz among Heritage staffers: the Minyan. But is their version Reform or Orthodox? "You can interpret it how you want," says Fogel. "I prefer the Reform Minyan," but if some in the audience opt for the Orthodox. hels notsaying there's anything wrong with that. Though the basic structure of the show stays constant, interaction with the audience keeps adding new spice to the mix. After a line describing San Francisco as the only town where you can find a gay Orthodox shul, an audi- ence member shouted out the name "Sherith Tuchas!" That one has never failed to bring down the house in subsequent productions. Fogel and Wolfson's work- ing methods sound pretty. organic. "Anything we talk about can become material," says Wolfson. "We scream and yell until one of us lat ghs," says Fogel. The character of Chris is "very loosely" based on Fogel's ex-brother-in-law, whose ultra-non-Jewish fam- ily sported'chemed Christmas sweaters and pink flamingo lawn ornaments, and trav- eled around in an RV every summer. Actual familyphotos in the show include one of Wolfson's uncle wearing a surgical mask on an airplane to ward offdisease, and one of the inside of Fogel's mother's freezer--labels and all. "She likes to store things up to 20 or 30 years. You never know when there's gonna be a hur- ricane, a flood or a tsunami." What role did their mothers play in all this touring any- way? Did they put their sons up to it in order to get them out of the house and meeting eligible Jewish women? "That would be a larger conspiracy theory," says Fogel. "If that's the case, I'm not aware of it." Both mothers are of course thrilled by their sons' success, and love the show though contrary to all tradition. their permission was never solicited. Wolfson. now 37, met his wife of five months in the lobby after a show she'd brought her mother as abirthday treat. (Andyes, Kate is Jewish.) Thirty-six-year-old FogeI is still single, and while he's not inviting Jewish moth- ers to bring their daughters to the show for anything other than sheer entertainment. "'you never know. They can send me an e-mail with a picture and a resume." Amid all the rave reviews, the odd carping critic has wondered whether the show rehashes familiar self-loathing stereotypes. Wolfson and Fogel are having none of it, and say they've received next to no flak in that regard."Everythingwe do is in fun," says Fogel, "and comes from a love ofwhowe are and our upbringings." "Mel Brooks and Jackie Mason and Larry David and Neff Simon--aren't they all doing the same thing?" says Wolfson. "Can we all be wrong?" Interfaith couples and oth- ers who see the show as a vehicle for cross-cultural understanding have heaped effusive praise on it, though that wasn't its creators' origi- nal intent. It all just goes to prove, says Wolfson, that "every family and religion are crazy, but Jews are just a little crazier than everyone else." "There's not such a big difference be- tween gefilte fish and Indian chicken marsala." says Fogel. With production on a "Jewtopia" movie possibly beginning in March 2010, Fogel and Wolfson are busier than ever, but they're excited about their first-ever show in Orlando. Wolfsonwants you to know that "if you die without having seen it, it will be a life that's completely incomplete." Fogel and Wo|fson spoke to the Heritage from their engagement in Delray Beach a week ahead of their Orlando run. Fogel, laboring under jet lag after a late flight--he was the last one off the plane after the crecy woke him up over- slept his original phone date for an interview. Wolfson missed his scheduled interview time because he'd received a last- minute summons to pick up his mother from the airport, then on the second try had to put the reporter on hold while he pleaded with the hotel staff to switch his room after he woke up covered in bedbugs. (Both apologized graciously and profusely, a credit to their mothers.) Assuming the pair makes it out of South Florida relatively unscathed, they'll see you tonight. "World of Jewtopia" plays Friday, Nov. 20 through Sunday, Nov. 22 at the Plaza Theatre, 425N. Bumby Ave. in Orlando. For tickets and show times, go to www.theplazathe- or ca11407-228-1220. Orchestra seats cost $40.50, but mention the Heritage and get them for $32.50. Diet From page 1A the literal meaning of the Hebrew word kosher. Among Yoffie's specifics: Eat 20 percent less red meat; it's good for the environment and for your health, he said. Plant synagogue gardens. Join community-supported agriculture programs. Pay attention to how meat ani- offish at best. In its founding Pittsburgh Platform of 1885. Reform Judaism declared Jew- ish rituals of dress and diet outmoded, including kashrut. But over the past generation or so, hostility toward these observances has lessened, particularly among younger Reform Jews. A 2007 movement survey of 14.000 Reform activists mals are raised and-how food "- and clergy revealed tha.t 58 workers are treated. Develop a consciously Jewish dietary policy for your synagogue. Eat slower and together, sug- gesting that synagogues hold regular communal Shabbat meals. "Above all." Yoffie said. "let's avoid the temptation to do nothing." For much of its history, the Reform approach to Jewish dietary practice was stand- percent of those older than 40 brought shellfish into their homes, compared to 39 percent of the younger crowd. Forty-three percent of the older group ate pork at home. compared to 29 percent of those 39 and younger; and 16 percent of younger Reform Jews ate only kosher-certified meat. compared to 9 percent of their elders. "The younger generation is more ritually comfort- shellfish in the building, and able across a wide range of nearly half do not serve milk practices, from kashrut to and meat on the same dishes. prayer," said Rabbi Daniel Deborah Cohn, a member Freelander, seniorvice presi- - of Anshe Emeth Memorial dent of the Union for Reform Judaism. Cautioning that the new focus was not about kashrut. Yoffie referred to last year's scandals at the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant. "We do not accept the au- thority of the kashrut estab- lishment, and its problems are for others to resolve," he said. Some Reform Jews who do not keep kosher think their institutions should. An unpublished survey in 2000 of R~f0rm synagogues in North America revealed that 10 percent have a kosher kitchen. Kosher-style policies are much more prevalent: 80 percent do not permit pork or i There's a difference in0our service.You'll see it in your yard ........................................................................... ! ......................................... ........................ ....... II \V/ ~, " / ~.~.~M Temple ,in Highland Park, N.J.. says her congregation "is doing more and more to ac- commodate peoplewho keep presents kashrut as one of kosher." Non-dairy creamer is served with meat meals, and catered events have a vegetar- ian option or are completely vegetarian. "There are always people object and.say, 'We're t eform.' "she said. "Those are usually the older members." Some Reform Jews believe the growing embrace of Jew- ish ritual represents a betrayal of core Reform principles. "Kashrut is a visceral issue for many Reform Jews--in the negativesense."Yoffie said. "It has been seen by many Reform Jews historically as something Largely for this reason. Yoffie said. he was careful not to promote kashrut in his talk. While a guide to Reform Jewish dietary practice that has appeared on the Union for Reform Judaism Web site for the past two years the options Reform Jews might consider in developing a conscious dietary practicel it is noticeably absent from the Green Table/Just Table initiative. "My central objective was putting food issues on our religious agenda, and m our movement, kashrut is not the vehicle to open that discussion," Yoffie told JTA. "I intentionally put the focus on the ethical and communal dimension, which is central to who we are. If I'd talked about kashrut it would have had the opposite impact." Maurice Lawn Care Maintenance • Landscaping • Irrigation i 407.462.3027 i I I we rejectedritual without ethical content." Harold Eichenbaum 70. of Temple BeitTorah in Colorado Springs. Colo.. is one of many older Reform Jews who feel under siege. He complains that not only are pork and shellfish not permitted in his synagogue, there is now a move to make the kitchen kosher. Eichenbaum says he comes from a long line of activist Reform Jews. none of whom kept kosher. "It's part of being a Re- form Jew," he said. People "think you have to be kosher to be true Jewish people. I disagree." Reaction to the initiative was generally positive. "I think the recommenda- tions are well founded." said Michael Holberg, president of Congregation Sha'arai Shomayim in Mobile, Ala. Holberg groaned when Yoffie first mentioned cut- ting back on red meat. but Holberg seemed more per- suaded once Yoffie explained his position. "I'm not in favor of advo- cating not'eating meat, but a reduction not only has health benefits, it's a wise Jewish decision." Holberg said. Sha'arai Shomayim planted a synagogue garden last year, one of.a growing number of Reform congregations to do so. Irene Rothschild. presi- dent of Congregation Ema- nu-El Israel in Greensburg, Pa., says she's been encour- aging her synagogue to adopt ecological practices, such as long-life light bulbs and recyclable dishware. but hadn't made the same Jewish connection between environmentalism and food consumption. "Food has not been a focus in our congregation, but after listening to him. I think I can push for it now." she said. In a conference workshop on Jewish dietary practice. Rabbi Mary Zamore of Temple B'nai Or in Morristown, N.J.. said the Reform movement needs to reclaim and redefine kashrut rather thanshy away from the term. Kashrut. she said. is more than the laws outlined in halachah, or Jewish law, but can be understood "'as a wholeness, a 'shlemut.' " she said, using the Hebrew word. "When we talk about kashrut, we are asking: What is our Jewish rela- tionship to our food? The person who fasts on Yore Kippur or who eats matzah on Passover is functioning within the world of kashrut. Dayenu," she said, using the Hebrew word for enough. "'It's a wonderful thing to celebrate. We can use our Reform approach to Juda- ism and mix the best of our tradition with trends in the modern food world." i