Thursday, October 6, 2016

An Orthodox Jewish Doctor on Chicago Med

Ato Essandoh (right) as an Orthodox Jewish Doctor on Chicago Med
I watched the season premiere episode of Chicago Med that featured this character. Although still not perfect, I must say that this is probably the most accurate portrayal of an Orthodox Jewish professional I have ever seen on TV. That he is a recurring charcater gives me hope that Hollywood finally recognizes that Orthodox Jews are not just the oddballs that they have always been portrayed as. Its also nice to see him located in Chicago. From the Forward:

Fans of “Chicago Med,” which debuted last year, may have noticed a slight discrepancy in its casting. The major-city trauma center did not have a single Jewish doctor on staff. Jewish moms everywhere were aghast.
But, for season two, problem solved.
“I never thought I’d play an orthodox Jewish man,” said Ato Essandoh, who’s played major recurring roles in “Blue Bloods,” “Vinyl” and Elementary.
Some background: Last year, Dr. Connor Rhodes (Colin Donnell) was taken under the wing of famed heart surgeon Dr. David Downey (Gregg Henry). Downey, a pot-smoking hippie with a bum ticker, died in one of the final episodes. Enter Dr. Latham.
“We knew our young surgeon, Dr. Rhodes, needed a new teacher,” said Andrew Schneider who executive produces the show along with his wife Diane Frolov.
“We didn’t want the same [laid back] dynamic we had with Dr. Downey, so we started thinking about what kind of character and personality would make the relationship different,” explained Frolov.
“I came from a medical family,” said Schneider. “Both my parents were MDs in Los Angeles. It was a very secular Jewish family, but they had friends who were very religious, orthodox and I always found that interesting, the intersection of very devout Jewish observance with medicine.”
There was no single epiphany that transformed the orthodox Jew to an orthodox Jewish black man. “It just evolved,” Schneider said.
Judaism is not something Essandoh was totally unfamiliar with. His parents are from Ghana and met while students in the US. He grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in New Rochelle, NY. “All of my friends on the street we’re Jewish. I went do a lot of bar and bat mitzvahs. I even learned a little Hebrew.”
He went on to get a degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University, his father’s alma mater, and was planning on a career in that area when a woman intervened.
“My girlfriend at the time dared me to do a play at Cornell. She just saw something in me. I should send her residual checks, because as soon as I got on stage I was just stunned that people did this. That got stuck in my mind even after I graduated and started working. I took [acting] classes at night and broke my parents heart because of all the money they spent to put me through Cornell.”
“When you get a roll like this, there’s a certain sensitivity. You don’t want to be a gimmick,” Essandoh said. “You don’t want to be a set piece, where people go, ‘hey that’s weird.’”
Essandoh has been working with Chicago Rabbi Capers Funnye, Jr., a distant cousin of Michelle Obama and spiritual leader of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation of Chicago.
“I wasn’t aware there were black Jews,” Ato said. “Rabbi Funnye had been to Africa and told me there were even black Jews in Ghana. I never heard about tefillin. I was unfamiliar with the deep history and ritual of being an Orthodox Jew. Before you get out of bed you say a prayer and then you get out of bed say another one.”
Although the doctor uttered a brief Hebrew blessing over a patient in the premiere episode, viewers won’t see him perform any overtly religious acts.
But “we’re very respectful of his religious beliefs,” said Schneider. In an upcoming episode, he will have to come to the hospital on a Saturday to save a patient’s life. But “Chicago Med” does not have a Shabbos elevator and he won’t push the elevator button.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Death of a Skverer Chasid

Steven Hill as DA Adam Schiff on the hit series, Law and Order
The New York Times announced the death today of a Skverer Chasid, Reb Shlomo Hill of Monsey New York. He was a Baal Teshuva that used his considerable talents to do some work for Agudath Israel of America. I had the pleasure of meeting him in Shul one Shabbos when he was in Chicago on location doing a film: Here is the rest of his story:

Steven Hill, who originated imposing lead roles on two notable television series, “Mission: Impossible” in the 1960s and “Law & Order” in the 1990s, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 94.

His daughter Sarah Gobioff confirmed his death. He lived in Monsey, N.Y., a hamlet in Rockland County.

Mr. Hill was 44 and a veteran stage and television actor in 1966 when he was cast as Daniel Briggs, the leader of an elite covert-operations unit, in the new series “Mission: Impossible.” But he left after the first season, paving the way for Peter Graves’s six-season run as the show’s lead.

Even decades later, Mr. Hill declined to discuss his reasons for leaving the series, other than to say that the first season had been a bad experience. Other sources, including Patrick J. White, author of a book on the series, “The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier,” said Mr. Hill was dismissed and learned the news only when he read a Daily Variety announcement that Mr. Graves was being hired.

According to Mr. White, Mr. Hill had developed a reputation for being difficult. His refusal to work late on Fridays, because of his observance of the Jewish sabbath, was also reported to be a problem. In Mr. White’s book, Mr. Hill’s co-star Martin Landau is quoted as saying, “I felt he was digging his own grave.”

Almost a quarter-century after that experience, Mr. Hill took on the role of the district attorney Adam Schiff on a new cops-and-lawyers series based in New York, “Law & Order.” He played the role, said to be modeled on the long-serving Manhattan district attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, from 1990 to 2000.

In a 1996 interview with The Washington Post, Dick Wolf, the creator of “Law & Order,” called Mr. Hill “the Talmudic influence on the entire zeitgeist of the series.”

“Steven has more moral authority than anyone else on episodic TV,” Mr. Wolf said.
Steven Hill was born Solomon Krakowsky on Feb. 24, 1922, in Seattle, the son of a furniture-store owner. He graduated from the University of Washington and at first moved to Chicago to work in radio.

He soon moved to New York and did frequent stage work in his early years there, making his Broadway debut in a small role in “A Flag Is Born” (1946), a pageantlike production written by Ben Hecht, with music by Kurt Weill, that starred Paul Muni and advocated the creation of the state of Israel.

In 1948, Mr. Hill played a sailor in the Tony Award-winning wartime comedy “Mr. Roberts,” which starred Henry Fonda. “It was a thrilling time in my life,” Mr. Hill told The New York Times in 2005. 
“You could almost smell it from the very first reading that took place — this is going to be an overwhelming hit.”

Two years later Mr. Hill played Bernie Dodd, the stage director who tries to help a washed-up alcoholic actor, in Clifford Odets’s drama “The Country Girl,” with Uta Hagen and Paul Kelly.
Mr. Hill worked in the very early years of television, beginning in 1949 with four episodes of the series “Actors Studio.” (He was a charter member of the prestigious organization that gave its name to the show.) He made his film debut in 1950 in “A Lady Without Passport,” a crime noir, starring Hedy Lamarr, about a smuggling ring in Cuba.

Mr. Hill gave up acting from 1967 to 1977 and, in the interim, took a variety of jobs, including real estate sales. When he returned to show business, he was welcomed back and appeared in a string of 16 feature films in the ’80s. They included the romantic comedy “It’s My Turn” (1980); the women’s-film remake of “Rich and Famous” (1981); Barbra Streisand’s “Yentl” (1983); Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” (1986); and “Running on Empty” (1988), in which he played the estranged father of a former student radical (Christine Lahti) living underground.

He continued his film career for a while, appearing in “White Palace” (1990), “Billy Bathgate” (1991) and “The Firm” (1993). But his final screen appearances were as Schiff on “Law & Order.”

Mr. Hill married Selma Stern in 1951, and they had four children. The couple divorced in 1964. He and his second wife, the former Rachel Schenker, were married in 1967 and had five children. She survives him.

Besides his wife and his daughter Ms. Gobioff, he is survived by three more daughters, Betsy Hill, Pamela Hill and Hanna Hendler; five sons, John, Matthew, Jacob, Joshua and Samuel; a sister, Joan Weiss; a brother, Charles Hill; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Mr. Hill summed up his long career, not necessarily with regrets but with a clear eye, in a 1996 interview with The Times. “What we have here is a story of profound instability and impermanence,” he said. “This is what you learn at the beginning in show business; then it gets planted in you forever.”

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Charedim Got Talent

Who said Charedim aren't  cool?!

Monday, May 9, 2016

10th Most Admired Man in the World

Isreali Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (Jerusalem Post)
From the Jerusalem Post:

Among Americans Netanyahu was voted the tenth most admired man in the world, but he failed to rank in the top 20 in any of the other 30 countries polled.
Israel's Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu has been ranked as the tenth most admired man in the world by Americans polled in a worldwide survey conducted by YouGov.
Netanyahu polled in with 3.7% of responders listing the prime minister either as their "most admired man" or among the people who they "truly admire." 
In the US rankings, Netanyahu trailed the Dalai Lama in 9th place, Donald Trump in 8th, Bernie Sanders in 6th, Pope Francis at 2nd and Barack Obama in 1st place. Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton and Ellen DeGeneres made up the top three among the most popular women.
Despite requiring nominations in at least two countries of the 30 polled, Netanyahu failed to make it onto any other country’s top 20 list of admired men. Other countries surveyed included the UK, Germany, Canada, China and the UAE. Israel was not among those surveyed.
Globally, the most admired woman was found to be Angelina Jolie, followed by the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II, and Hillary Clinton in third. Bill Gates, followed by Barack Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping made up the top three ranked men in the world.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Monday, April 11, 2016

Chasidic Heroes

Binyomin Zev Unger, and Yitzchok Greenberg (YWN)
Always happy to report a Kiddush HaShem. From YWN:

Two Jewish construction workers who worked in New Square are being hailed as heroes, after helping rescue occupants from a home that exploded in Hillcrest, and making a tremendous Kiddush Hashem.

Sources tell YWN that the two men – Binyomin Zev Unger, and Yitzchok Greenberg, were working in New Square when they heard an explosion and saw a plume of smoke. The pair ran through the woods to a home that had turned into a fireball.

When they arrived at the home, there was one family member sitting on the front steps with bloody and and burned face. They helped move them away from the burning home, but then realized that another family member was still inside the home. They were unable to gain access due to the home being fully engulfed in flames, but began screaming to the occupant to run out as quickly as possible.

The explosion and fire sent a mother and her adult son to the hospital.

According to News12, fire officials say the fire broke out around 9 a.m. on 4 Stark Court in Hillcrest, not far from the Palisades Parkway. Firefighters think the explosion happened in the son’s second-floor bedroom, and the fire spread to the rest of the house.

Much of the multimillion-dollar home has been destroyed. It is unknown at this time what caused the explosion. A spokesman from Orange and Rockland Utilities say there is no indication that the explosion was gas related.

Both people were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital. The son suffered burns, and the woman has a medical condition that first responders wanted to have checked.

Ramapo Police gave YWN the following statement:

At approximately 8:43 am today, Ramapo Police were advised of a structure fire on Stark Ct., in the New City section of the Town of Ramapo. An adult male resident sustained minor injuries. He was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital by Spring Hill Ambulance Corp. Rockland Paramedics assisted with the injured person. Hillcrest FD, Spring Valley FD, Suffern FD, Haverstraw FD, West Haverstraw FD, New City FD, and Orangetown FD assisted with fighting this fire. The fire has been deemed suspicious. It is being investigated by the Ramapo Police Detective Bureau. Rockland County Sheriff’s Office BCI was assisting RPD.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Reserve Cut, Zagat, and Chaim

The distinguished rabbi featured in this video is my nephew, Chaim Maryles. I watched him grow up right here in Chicago. He has traveled many trails, and had many trials and tribulations. But he has triumphed. God bless him. (Love that guy!)