From the Good Shabos mailing list: Reb Mordechai Hoffman (not his real name) of Spring Valley, New York recently traveled to Lugano, Switzerland on vacation. While there, he met a most interesting Jew. One day, Reb Mordechai was sitting in the café in his hotel in Lugano, enjoying his breakfast, when he noticed a very important-looking orthodox young man who was going in and out of the kitchen. Being a friendly person, Reb Mordechai greeted the young man and engaged him in a conversation.
Reb Mordechai sensed immediately that there was something different about this Jew. His Yiddish seemed to be a little off, for it sounded more like German in the Swiss dialect. During the course of their friendly conversation, Reb Mordechai asked the young man about his background. It turns out that the young man, Aharon Miller, (not his real name) was working as the mashgiach (kashrus supervisor) in the hotel. As Reb Mordechai suspected, Reb Aharon had not always been known as Aharon. In fact, Reb Aharon had not always been a Jew. He had been born to a non-Jewish mother in Switzerland. Reb Mordechai listened intently as Reb Aharon began to tell his fascinating story.
As young boy, Aharon (which was not his name at the time) had been orphaned. Soon after, a farmer and his family adopted young Aharon. Like his brothers and sisters, young Aharon was sent to Sunday school in the local Protestant church. Growing up, Aharon was a very spiritual boy. Consequently, he was very active in the church.
When he came of age, Aharon decided that he wanted to become a priest. With the full support of his family, Aharon began the training and education necessary to receive ordination as a Protestant priest in Switzerland. A large part of his studies consisted of what they called the "Hebrew Bible."
In the course of his studies, Aharon came across several verses in the Bible which were philosophically troublesome; they tended to contradict some of the basic beliefs he had been taught while growing up.
Seeking answers, Aharon put his questions to the priest professor in his seminary. The young priest-in-training was shocked to hear that his professor did not have any answers to his philosophical questions. Aharon protested and told his instructor, "I am beginning to see now that none of this really makes any sense." The professor responded with a wink, "Join the club," as if to say that he too recognized the whole thing as a farce, yet it was a good living so why make an issue of it?
Aharon was however much more serious about his spirituality. He spent many days in deep contemplation about his spiritual future. Soon after, he decided to leave the seminary and to discontinue his studies.
Once out of the seminary, Aharon began to look more seriously into the Torah that had so fascinated him. He went into a Jewish book store and asked the owner for a "Jewish book." The owner thought for a moment and then handed Aharon a copy of Reb Shlomo Ganzfried's masterpiece the "Kitzur Shulchan Aruch," - the abridged Code of Jewish Law, with German translation.
Aharon read with thirst his first "Jewish book." He was amazed that Jewish law addresses everything from how to wash the hands in the morning, to getting dressed and to going to sleep at night. He had never thought that G-d had paid much attention to such details in a man's life. Aharon suddenly felt a special connection to the Jewish people. Soon after, Aharon decided that he wanted to convert.
Aharon knew that he had been adopted, so he held onto the possibility that he had Jewish ancestors. So, Aharon set out to find out if he had any Jews in his family background. Sure enough, he found out that his father had been Jewish! Furthermore, his paternal grandfather had been an observant Jew at one time in his life. What was even more incredible, was that he found out that his father's family stretched back to the Holy Jewish community of Michelstadt, Germany, with roots in the Holiest Jews in European history!
In the process of researching his ancestry, Aharon met his paternal grandfather, who was of course Jewish. Aharon shared with his grandfather the events of the previous several years of his life. Aharon was excited to tell his grandfather that he had decided to convert and to join the faith of his fathers. To his surprise and disappointment, Aharon's grandfather rebuked him strongly and told him that he should not convert. An argument ensued and soon after, Aharon left disappointed and dejected but determined to convert anyway. Later, Aharon's grandfather actively tried to stop Aharon from converting.
Soon after, Aharon contacted the Biyaler Rebbe in Switzerland. The Rebbe encouraged Aharon to travel to Eretz Yisroel to pursue the possibility of conversion. Once in Eretz Yisroel, Aharon sought conversion with the Badatz, one of the most respected Jewish Rabbinical courts in the world.
One of the underlying considerations in an application for Jewish conversion is the sincerity of the applicant in his willingness to accept upon himself Ole Torah - the yoke of Torah and mitzvahs. In the case of an adult, the Beis Din (Rabbinical court) will only confer the title of "Jew" on person who sincerely believes in G-d, Torah and mitzvahs and is not converting for ulterior motives such as financial gain or merely the desire to marry a Jew. (See Yoreh Deah 268:12)
Aharon's case was not different. He was put through a very rigorous application process. Finally, after the Beis Din (Rabbinical Court) was sufficiently convinced of Aharon's sincerity, they accepted his petition. Soon after, he went through the mandatory bris milah (circumcision) and immersion in a mikvah.
At the time of his decision to become a convert, Aharon was considering marriage to a non-Jew. Aharon told the non-Jewish woman that he could not marry her because he wanted to be a Jew. So, the two split up. The woman was touched by Aharon's sincerity; so eventually she too was inspired to convert. Soon after their conversions, the two were married K'das Moshe V'Yisroel (according to Jewish Law.)
Today, Reb Aharon Miller and his family live happily in Switzerland. Reb Aharon makes his living as a sofer (writer of Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzas) and a mashgiach (kosher supervisor). Reb Aharon credits the Biyaler Rebbe of Switzerland for his success in Judaism. Without the Biyaler Rebbe's unconditional love and support for Reb Aharon and his family, Reb Aharon freely admits that he never could have made it as far as he has. Sadly however, even after his conversion, Aharon's Jewish grandfather has shunned him. Perhaps this opposition is rooted in the shame that his grandfather feels in that Aharon has adopted a religion he himself has abandoned.
We can be inspired by this story to always seek to help converts. As the verse tells us in this week's double parsha Behar-Bechukosai, "and you shall strengthen the convert and the resident, and he shall survive [through] you." (Vayikra 25:35) This verse is one of the several verses in the Torah which teaches us the tremendous obligation we have to treat converts properly. By remembering this story, we will always be encouraged to treat all righteous converts we meet with the utmost respect and with the strongest love. Good Shabbos Everyone.
Ms. Petrie began her career as an actress, and later worked as a casting director and agent. She began her producing career 1979 with Orphan Train for CBS, while simultaneously publishing a novel of the same title.
Dorothea: "I've worked throughout the industry with the exception of business. In my next life, I'm going to have a business degree and a law degree. When our girls were in high school and our boys were in college, I realized that I would soon have some time and I felt that producing was the thing that I could do best. I know material. I've worked with good writers like Carl Sandberg. Dan had a fine reputation but I didn't want to go on that reputation. I didn't want people to hire me because of Dan and expect Dan to direct the picture.
"I found this historical story about trains in the 1850s that took 100,000 orphan kids around different cities to find homes for them. I researched it and sold it first to United Artists as a feature film with Steve McQueen (as the gambler on the trains) and Ali McGraw (as the woman shepherding the orphans). Steve and Ali broke up and the project died. I bought it back and sold it to CBS as a TV movie. This was 1979 and the Sam Peckinpah period and the tough tough pictures he did.
"I felt more comfortable in the world of television. I took the project to EMI, to Roger Gimbel and Marian Rees. It was the kind of picture that had something to say aside from being an important story. I want the audience to say, 'Oh, that's interesting,' without knowing they're getting a message.
"I'm occasionally asked to do a picture that not like that and I say another producer can do that better. I don't do rape or the latest headlines.
"It's harder to sell my type of movies right now because the networks aren't buying as many films. They now need the marketing and the star names as much or more than the story. That's why we have a lot of films being done that perhaps shouldn't be.
"I've been in the fortunate position over the years to have people ask me to bring them projects. I'm known for my niche. I can do any subject, but I like to have something positive about that subject."
Luke: "Would you judge any of your projects as failure or are all of them successes?"
Dorothea: "In degrees, I think they're all good to terrific. The last one I did, for Masterpiece Theater, called Song of the Lark, is a lovely picture. But we were using Willa Cather's 400-plus page novel. I hesitated to do it because each of her characters could've been a film in itself. We used the most autobiographical part of her novel - about a girl who felt like a fish out of water in her home town. She's a talented writer and nobody understands her goal to be someone. Willa Cather was most interested in the struggle to become an artist. I think our movie was good but it was not good enough. And I don't think we could've made it good enough unless we had done it as a mini-series.
"It sounds pollyanish, but I try not to do anything that I know I'm not going to be pleased with ahead of time. Directors often think they can do anything..."
Luke: "It sounds like you put an enormous effort in pre-production..."
Dorothea: "When you're asked to do something in a real hurry, that's when you're found out. I had problems with a lot of the shows but the biggest problems I had with a picture called Crash Landing: The Rescue Of Flight 232. I told the sponsor AT&T that I don't crash pictures but they told me that this was different. And it was. It was about a young guy, Gary Brown, in the Sioux City, sheriff's department. He said we should have a rescue unit in case we have a tornado or something. The hospitals aren't ready. And he bugged everybody so much they gave him some space and let him do his thing. He ran practice rescue operations and people would smile.
"So when that plane lost its transmission, they asked, 'Where can we land? Keep us away from the city.' And Sioux City said, come to us, we're ready. And they were. And they saved almost everybody on board.
"AT&T had to downsize, so we lost them as a sponsor. When I went to the Sioux City community and said that I had to shoot the movie in Canada because of the exchange rate, they said no. We can help you. And they did. We had someone donate a plastic silo. As a producer, you have to find ways to get things done.
"All the rescue operations around the country that had their budgets slashed, the monies were restored because of our picture.
"The second film I did was License to Kill, about drunk driving. My father was killed by a drunk driver when I was a youngster. I didn't want to do that story but MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) came to me to do their story. I wanted people to sit in the audience of License to Kill and say, 'That could've been me. I had an extra martini at lunch.' The story is about an upright citizen, with a wife and kids, who had a couple of drinks at lunch and was driving with his drink. And it is a high school girl, the Valedictorian, who's driving along and is killed."
Luke: "Isn't there a level of ruthlessness required in getting films made? Have you ever felt that you had to sell your soul to do a project?"
Dorothea: "No. And I wouldn't. I've never had to be ruthless. I have had to fire people. I'm not afraid to be tough. Actress Jean Stapleton said about me, 'She's so nice but she has a spine of steel.'"
Luke: "Your background as a casting director has helped you working with actors?"
Dorothea: "Oh yes. I used to think I knew every actor in New York. Many people that are well known today, we gave their first job to..."
Luke: "Many producers fear actors."
Dorothea: "Oh that would be terrible. I've only had a couple of prima donnas who thought they knew everything. That's unfortunate because it shows up on the face of the actor. They're not the best they can be. Those kind of people I don't understand. I think they're hurting themselves. I wish that we could do pictures now that didn't depend on a name. Many times you have to cast someone who is not as good as can be for a role, and as a result, the movie is not as good as it could be.
"When I was doing Orphan Train at CBS, the casting head was Jeanne Guess. She said to me, 'Dorothea, I love this project but they're going to drop it because there isn't a prominent enough star.' Remember we had 24 children and a man and a woman. A big star wouldn't do it because of the 24 kids. Jeanne said to me, 'Tell me who you want for the picture and that's who we'll get.'
"I had the cover on New York magazine. There were four actresses - including Jill Eikenberry. Jill had only done theater and wore her hair in a Victorian style. I wanted her to play Emma Symms. Kevin Dobson played Frank Carlin the gambler. We couldn't cast such unknowns today.
"You've got an Aussie actor Tom Wilkinson right now in a wonderful picture called In The Bedroom. He's a wonderful but unknown actor. He's paired with Sissy Spacek and the movie's directed by Todd Field. But it's rare to get an independent picture off the ground with only one star. You Can Count On Me is a wonderful independent picture with no big stars. That's the way I'd prefer to cast unless the star is right. To have Chuck Heston, to have Noah, piloting that plane in Crash Landing was perfect."
Luke: "Can movies only do good or can they also do harm?"
Dorothea: "Movies can do terrible things. You only have to see children going around shooting with their fingers. I think the people that do features with violence for violence sake are just awful. I truly think that kids on the border [of sanity and morality] see themselves being heroes. I think commercials can be a great danger. Every time we sit down and see a car commercial which shows someone going from 0 to 60 mph in three seconds... If I was a kid looking at that, I'd say, 'I have to get into a car and go like that.' I think that's very destructive.
"I wouldn't make anything that I wouldn't want my children or grandchildren to see.
"If I found the right story, I'd deal with suicide or mental illness. But it can't be about those subjects, it has to be a wonderful story."
Luke: "How did you balance your career with being a wife and mother?"
Dorothea: "Fortunately, I never had a problem balancing work and being a wife and mother to four children. As casting director for the U.S. Steel Hour at the Theatre Guild, and later an associate with Lucy Kroll, a prominent New York agent, my work schedule ended at 3PM - deliberately timed to match the children's coming home from school. Because my schedule was timed to my husband and children, there never seemed to be any resentment."
Luke: "Is Hollywood a nice place to raise a family?"
Dorothea: "Yes and no. Our permanent move to Los Angeles came when our oldest son was entering college, our second son entering high school, and our twin daughters in elementary school. One of the first questions our daughters asked after attending school was, 'Who do we know who's famous?' In the East they had been around celebrities, and they were just the same as all our friends. Los Angeles is a "star-struck" community and the need for status in Hollywood does affect children and families more than in other communities."
Luke: "How do you measure success?"
Dorothea: "Any person who is fortunate enough to work at something they truly love is successful. It is hard for me to imagine spending hours at a job I disliked. I am pleased to be respected by my peers. Good reviews are always gratifying. Earnings are important in Hollywood. I was told, 'Do you know that you are the most expensive television movie producer in Hollywood?' That fact is important and impressive to some folks in our business. What they don't know is that if I truly love a project, I'd do it no matter what it paid."
Luke: "What do you still want from producing movies?"
Dorothea: "I want wonderful stories and scripts that are exciting and meaningful. And I want gifted people to work with me."
HERE SHE COMES - Why is a nice Jewish girl, named Rachel Klein, writing a sex advice column? Isn't there enough in Torah for her to talk about? The advice within this link should only be used within the context of marriage.
THE BACHELOR WAS RIGGED: Jon writes The Bachelor: "Do you like fat girls or something? Amanda is nasty-- she is packing extra lbs all over the place. Trista is smoking hot AND she is a Heat dancer. Anyway, I lost a lot of faith in both you and the ABC network."
I surfed over to the ABC site and found out that this supposed fattie Amanda stood 5'10 and weighed 130 pounds. That's not fat! She was nicely endowed.
AT THE MOVIES: I watched On The Waterfront (1954), Taxi Driver (1976) and Thin Red Line (1998) Tuesday.
A New York sage let me know about this New York Post article: "April 30, 2002 -- Men and women's biological clocks start ticking away much earlier than once thought - at the ripe old age of 27 for females and 35 for males, a startling new study suggests. Practically speaking, that means women in their mid-20s are nearly twice as likely to get pregnant after a night of sex than those just 10 years older, researchers said."
Sage says: This story is ammo for you. It is your DUTY, as a JEW, to spare as many biologically viable women from the horrors of being barren as possible. Jewish women have an obligation that they shirk whenever they go to Law school. And by the way, why the hell do so many jewesses become lawyers? Can't they get into med school anymore?
So you just saw "Taxi Driver" for the first time? It is a masterpiece, a true and authentic evocation of America at a certain time and place. This is what New York really was like ten years ago. In the original script, Sport (the pimp) was supposed to be black, but they feared riots if they made it that obvious. But you can tell that a strain of race-hatred runs through the entire movie. There is a scene where he locks eyes with a negro in pimp garb.
The dialogue of the film is based in part on the actual diaries of Arthur Bremmer, who tried to kill George Wallace in 72. And of course the film inspired John Hinkley to shoot Reagan. Life imitating art imitating life.
On the Waterfront is a masterpiece. The jews who control movie production today look very juvenile in their outlook compared to the folks who ran Hollywood fifty years ago. I especially loved the scene where the Priest tells the longshoremen that Christ is with them, even on the loading dock, inspiring them to fight corruption. It is not conceivable to me that any New York Rabbi would give such a speech. Read the current issue of "New York Magazine" for the growing angst among NewYork Jews who are coming around to the AMALEK view of how it will all end in the mideast - very very badly for the jews.