“We are totally blown away by the turnout,” said Scott Smith, corporate chair of the UJA-Federation of New York’s twenty-first annual Summerfest, at Westbury’s NYCB Theatre on August 10. “Tonight we have [a record] 1,400 people in the house!” The crowd was treated to an astonishing pre-concert diet-defying buffet before being entertained by rock ’n roll artist Meat Loaf. Chaired by Rachel and Frank Zuckerbrot, who head UJA’s New Leadership Campaign, the event raised $1.6 million for UJA-Federation.
Honoree Scott Jaffee, recipient of the Robert S. Boas Award, explained: “My 20-year-long involvement with UJA is the catalyst for all my philanthropy.” A managing member of the Metropolitan Realty Group and certified U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development property manager, Jaffee, who is currently president of the board of Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds, a UJA-Federation network agency, thanked wife Amy and sons Matthew and Aaron “for their love and support.” He added, “I want my sons to follow in my footsteps by both donating money and actively working on behalf of the UJA.”
The Robert S. Boas Award was established in memory of the late Long Island philanthropist Robert S. Boas, for his dedicated work on behalf of Jewish and secular communities. It is awarded to an outstanding individual who has demonstrated both leadership and commitment to the welfare and well-being of the Jewish people, the Jewish community and the larger community in which we live.
Todd Richman, who, with his wife, Vera, was an event chair, said, “When you connect to UJA-Federation, you help provide career services for our neighbors who have lost jobs over the past couple of years, through a program called Connect to Care, which provides counseling to help some people deal with the life changes that come when you’re out of work for a while.”
Reflecting on the gyrations of the stock market, Scott Smith noted, “The market is up; the market is down. We’re feeling it, [but not as much as] the mother who doesn’t know if she can give her kid dinner or the senior who is trying to figure out how to pay for that prescription he needs.” Smith urged audience members to consider a monthly donation to UJA equivalent to “the cost of one family dinner out.”
By 9:20 p.m., the Southwestern-style tuna mini tacos, yellowtail ceviche, sesame-crusted tuna tartar, portabello mushroom ravioli, Israeli salad and marinated steak with tomatoes had made the crowd mellow, and Meat Loaf (ne Marvin Lee Aday) and his 7-piece band took the audience on a time-travel journey back to 1975, with his classic song “Hot Patootie Bless My Soul.”
Meat Loaf told the audience that his first record was rejected by many, “including [producer] Clive Davis.” His second album, and biggest success, “Bat Out of Hell,” resulted from his collaboration with songwriter Jim Steinman. According to various sources, the album sold between 35 and 45 million copies worldwide and continues to sell over 200,000 copies per year. Meat Loaf performed his hit “Hot Summer Night — You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth,” as well as “Peace on Earth” and “Living on the Outside” from his most recent album, “Hang Cool Teddy Bear.” Responding to the audience’s cool reaction to his recent work, Meat Loaf joked, “No one buys my records unless the word ‘hell’ is in the title.”
Among the event’s attendees were UJA-Federation President Jerry Levin, chair of the UJA-Federation Long Island Steering Committee Lawrence Gottlieb and event chairs Joanne and Scott Silverman and Amy and Andrew Sirotkin.
Even before I entered the theater on West 46 Street, the title — “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & I’m Still In Therapy!” — had me laughing. The play is Steve Solomon’s sequel to his long-running, award-winning “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish and I Am In Therapy.” In it, Solomon portrays all of the dysfunctional family roles and even performs the sound effects — don’t ask! This is the perfect antidote to economic angst and personal life meshugas. There’s the sidesplitting, empathetic skit about an attempted AT&T call with its apoplexy-inducing prompts, and Solomon’s take on his Italian family’s foibles: a family cat with emphysema, a sister who won’t give up smoking and a monologue about medication that’s to die for. A description and demonstration of a yoga session had the two ladies on either side of me — and yoga practitioners of all ages in the audience — in stitches. As for being timely, there is Solomon’s [French film star Gerard] Depardieu syndrome moment — a brilliant soliloquy about using a bathroom on an airplane. Nothing is off limits.
Solomon channels [real life characters] Uncle William, stuttering Cousin Bob and demented Cousin Kenny. (I can only assume they gave permission to be so panned, pending a sizable cut of the play’s profits.) His take on his new therapist garnered such an intense reaction that I can only assume some people in the audience were veterans of this unnamed Freudian therapist’s couch. A former teacher, Solomon manages to assume accents as though born to immigrant life. Actually, he comes from Brooklyn. What makes his bravura one-man performance so appealing is that — outrageous as the skits may seem — all the notes he hits are on key. The Catskills and its legendary comics are now history. But Steve Solomon is here! Don’t miss him! He’s keeping audiences laughing until August 31.