A Shanda in Shpittsburgh!

Video

By Jeffrey Griggs

Published November 26, 2004, issue of November 26, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

What makes a hero? Is it his cape or his capabilities? Or is it simply enough to “do good,” to help those around you in times of need? As adults, we might not remember the significance of these questions, but for a child, they are paramount. In answer to the call, Agent Emes has returned to confront these questions and more as he tackles “The Case of the Missing Pushka.”

“The Case of the Missing Pushka” is the third release in the “Adventures of Agent Emes” video series from Pittsburgh filmmaker Leibel Cohen and his Jewish Media Development Center. Their project utilizes a religiously observant superhero to offer an entertaining and educational alternative for Jewish children aged 6 to 12. As such, the series certainly assumes some prior knowledge of Orthodox custom and vocabulary, but thematically it proves accessible to a broader Jewish audience.

In this installment, under instructions from Mr. Bronstein, the pushka (charity box) he donated to the Shpittsburgh synagogue has been kept unopened for 18 years; now that time has passed, the money inside can finally be used. But before anyone at the synagogue has a chance, someone steals the pushka under the cover of night, with all the evidence pointing to the evil Dr. Lo-Tov. Agent Emes takes the case and, as he gets closer to the heart of the mystery, each clue overturned seems to reveal yet another possible suspect.

The episode is laden with campy humor and wacky characters reminiscent of the 1960s “Batman” television series or “Get Smart.” From the 4-foot yeshiva-student-cum-secret-agent himself to Dr. Lo-Tov’s bumbling sidekick, Clarence, it takes a certain childlike appetite to appreciate. But beyond pure entertainment value, the episode delivers lessons on what it means to be a hero, modesty in charity and honoring one’s parents. One definitive characteristic of Agent Emes is his ever-expanding knowledge of Jewish custom and tradition, which helps him find out his adversaries. Furthermore, the culprit’s identity in the third episode indicates that Agent E is interested in downplaying Jewish stereotypes and negative imagery.

“I’m not a rabbi,” said Cohen, the series producer, in an interview with the Forward. “But I take what little I’ve been able to learn and package it in a way kids will enjoy. They’ll want to learn about who they are, and feel like they’re a part of something larger.”

And what about future episodes? Cohen indicated that the next episode has been halted midproduction because of financial constraints, but that he hopes to find a way to finish soon. The fourth episode’s script wraps itself around Passover. The fifth episode has been written about Hanukkah. There seems to be no shortage of material for future episodes, and despite its modest Orthodox origins, Agent Emes has captured the hearts of children of varying backgrounds.

“Thousands have seen it and enjoyed,” Cohen said. “One of the most exciting things for me was to find out that other [non-Orthodox] Jews were showing it to their kids.” Agent Emes holds promise, but the low-budget nature of its productions hints that Cohen’s Media Development Center continues to scrape for funds, leaving little left with which to advertise. On one hand, as the Agent Emes Web site guestbook indicates, the series has been wildly popular within the certain circles in which it has been shown. On the other hand, it seems confined to those same groups. Could this be the end of Agent E? Stay tuned…






Find us on Facebook!
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.