The Thing About the Other Jonathan Pollard, Producer


By Masha Leon

Published September 12, 2003, issue of September 12, 2003.
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“Guilty as charged,” replied theater producer Jonathan Pollard when I joked about his being the other Jonathan Pollard during our interview about his latest production, “The Thing About Men,” which opened last week at the Promenade Theatre. Pollard made his producing debut with the off-Broadway, still-running hit “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” In 1998 he helped develop Jeff Baron’s “Visiting Mr. Green” starring Hal Linden (ne Lipschitz) as an irascible Forverts-reading Jew who has to face his issues of Jewish identity, assimilation and the need for compassion.

As for the Pollard doppelgänger, producer Pollard amplified: “I don’t have a middle name, but the other Pollard [in the news last week for trying to appeal the life sentence he is serving for spying for Israel] has a middle name: Jay…. When I was an undergraduate at Tufts, he was at [its] Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. When I went to the Tufts bookstore, they told me my checks were bouncing! He was bouncing checks!”

“When [Jonathan J.] Pollard was arrested, I was a producer at ABC News ‘Nightline’…. Ted Koppel does the story…. My mother, who was the English department chairwoman at La Guardia High School for the Performing Arts, is getting phone calls.… It gets worse. The New York Times decides to do a profile piece, but instead of sending a reporter, an assistant did phone interviews with his professors, two of whom found it strange that the Pollard they knew who was interested in dance and theater was [now] Pollard the spy!”

As for “The Thing About Men” — written by Joe Dipietro with music by Jimmy Roberts and inspired cast members Marc Kudisch, Ron Bohmer, Leah Hocking, Daniel Reichard and Jennifer Simard, and directed by Mark Clements — it’s a delicious musical comedy. Its spin about a disintegrating marriage and an advertising executive’s attempt to win back his wife’s affection will keep you laughing through the surprise oddball resolution.

* * *

Jack Eisner, who died August 24 of colon cancer at age 77, was a concentration camp survivor, teenage smuggler of food into the Warsaw Ghetto, author, entrepreneur, bon vivant, doting father and grandfather, but, above all, an aggressive — though often controversial — advocate of Jewish causes. I met Eisner at the June 1980 American Booksellers Association Convention in Chicago at the booth for William Morrow & Co., which published his autobiography, “The Survivor.”

After I told him that one of his Warsaw-smuggling locales mentioned in the book — 34 Swieto-Jierska — had been my home at the time of the German occupation, Eisner invited me to a luncheon he was hosting at Chicago’s Ritz-Carlton. It was there that he pitched “The Survivor” to editors and newspaper reporters who were downing champagne and feasting on salmon served by white-gloved waiters.

Back in New York that summer, at another Eisner “production” — the glitzy launch for “The Survivor” at the Four Seasons — actresses Susan Strasberg and Joan Fontaine added cachet to a crowd that included movie producers and other Holocaust survivors. The book became the basis of a short-lived Broadway play of the same name written by Susan Nanus, then a $14 million made-in-Poland film “War and Love” with a screenplay by Abby Mann and film score performed by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

A few weeks later, Eisner’s Polish-speaking chauffeur drove me to his Fifth Avenue apartment for an interview. In 1949, he said, he began as “a peddler along the plantations outside of Atlanta” and then formed Stafford International Corp., a trading company that he profitably liquidated in 1978 in order, he said, to devote his energies to memorializing those who perished in the Holocaust. A co-founder of the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization, Eisner also established the Holocaust Survivors Memorial Foundation and the first Institute of Holocaust Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. In April 1993, he invited me to attend the unveiling of the monument he built honoring “The Unknown Ghetto Child” at the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw.

In the summer of 1988, at his home in Westport, Conn., my husband, Joe, and I joined others in witnessing Eisner’s poolside marriage proposal to his Polish-born second wife, Sara. She ran his homes in Warsaw, Caesarea, Nice and New York, and shared his entrepreneurial globetrotting lifestyle. Eisner had also been Disney’s representative for Eastern Europe.

* * *

Rabbis Arthur Schneier and Marc Schneier — father and son — were among the 200 guests at Uri and Judy Kaufthal’s Westhampton Beach home for the August 17 National Jewish Outreach Program barbecue and buffet. Judy Kaufthal is the chairwoman of the annual Salute to Israel Parade.

Keynote speaker Malcolm Hoenlein told the crowd, “It’s easy to look at the statistics and say: ‘Look at all the unaffiliated… at all the intermarriage…. NJOP doesn’t just decry the statistics and bemoan the problems. It attacks them. We Jews need every one of us now. Every one of us counts…. Jews have to reach in just as we reach out. We have to make sure… that every Jew who wants to identify will be able to come to the smorgasbord and find some way, something, that… brings them back to the community and our people.”

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