Tim Boxer's Jewish
By Tim Boxer
Middle Village NY
Jonathan David Publishers
Photos, 275 pages
$13.97 Buy It!
|On The Lookout For Wit
TIM BOXER may be the only person
in the country who loves to listen to
after-dinner speeches. He goes to hundreds
of awards dinners and charity banquets, the
kind, he says, “where they hand out identical
plaques for similar service to one cause or
another, followed with interminable speeches
that have all the black-tie guests squirming in
their expensive seats.”
Everyone else goes to dinner to socialize,
network, eat, drink and dance.
Not Tim. When the speeches begin, and
everyone else may be half-listening or
half-dozing, fighting to regain control of
drooping eyelids, Tim is alert with pen and pad
eagerly jotting down quotable quotes. As he
puts it, "I willingly suffer through endless
verbiage to winnow out the rare gems and witty
sayings embedded in otherwise boring
After two decades of covering speakers of all
stripes and hues for his celebrity column in the
New York Jewish Week, Tim gleaned a book of
stories worth repeating, Jewish Celebrity
Anecdotes, published by Jonathan David. Each
week we present a different anecdote from the
This Week's Selection From
Jewish Celebrity Anecdotes
It Went Right To His Head
ACK LEMMON always loved Israeli military headgear. When he appeared in Long Day’s Journey into Night in Tel Aviv, he went out to plant a tree. He admired the young soldiers with their distinctive berets. He asked his friend, attorney Leon Charney, to get him a couple of berets to take home.
Charney took Lemmon to see his pals at the Ministry of defense. That night an officer arrived backstage and presented the actor with seven berets, representing the various military corps. The gift went right to Lemmon’s head.
Back in Los Angeles, Lemmon wrote Charney: “I enjoyed our time together in Tel Aviv immensely, and I’m going to eat out for a month on our visit to the Ministry of Defense. Would you believe that terrific young man showed up at the theater that night with a brand new beret for every division of the army that there is, plus a couple of others that I think he made up. Have we got hats!” Buy It!
NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS
Herman Wouk So Busy,
No Time for Tombstone
By TIM BOXER
ERMAN WOUK, who accepted a Literary Achievement Award from Moshe Dworkin, president of the Jewish Book Council, said he felt like Michelangelo.
At age 89, the great artist Michelangelo was told he had little more time to live.
“Impossible!” he thundered. “I’m just learning the ABCs of my craft!”
Wouk, a sprightly 85, was conflicted about accepting this lifetime achievement recognition at the 50th annual National Jewish Book Awards at the 92nd St. Y.
“There’s a shadow of tombstone about it,” he said.
Although his latest book, The Will to Live On, was just published by Cliff Street/HarperCollins, he still has works of great importance on his desk in Palm Springs, Calif., which he has yet to attend to.
“Thank you for the award, but hold the gold watch,” he cracked.
Ever since he wrote The Caine Mutiny, for which he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1952, he was typecast as a non-Jewish writer. Perhaps that was because, as he pointed out, most Jewish writers wrote about alienation.
“I had no sense of alienation. I had a heritage. It was in my blood, in my heart. So I wrote in an entirely different vein.”
Calling that “a paradox of my career,” he thanked the Jewish Book Council for recognizing the Jewish flavor of his work.
He once sailed on the Queen Mary with his wife Sarah. On deck he met Sholom Asch.
“You’re the author of The Caine Mutiny!” Asch declared in astonishment. “I thought you’d be a big blond goy!”
At dinner that day, Wouk’s table had the same food as the other guests, but kosher. Each item was marked with a Star of David.
Again Asch was surprised. “The author of The Caine Mutiny keeps kosher and Sholom Asch doesn’t!” he exclaimed. Buy It!
Dr. Norman Lamm, president of Yeshiva University, was cited for The Religious Thought of Hasidism (KTAV), which Publishers Weekly acclaimed as “a monumental and magisterial history.”
Chosen over 30 other books, Lamm’s work provides an historical background of the early Hasidic movement and charts its central ideas within the wider intellectual context of Jewish religious and mystical thought.
Lamm and Wouk are longtime friends. He was a visiting professor of English at Yeshiva University from 1952 to 1957. YU’s Abraham Wouk Family Chair in Classics and Literature is named for Herman’s father.
Upon accepting his award, Lamm offered a book story or, rather, a no-book story. He noted that the Kotzker Rebbe never wrote a book. That was indeed surprising given the fact that many of the great rabbis put their thoughts on paper for succeeding generations of scholars.
“Why should I?” the rebbe asked. “Who would read it? My Hasidim? They are hard working people and have no time to read. On Shabbos afternoon, after the gefilte fish, roast chicken, cholent and challah, they get drowsy and doze off. The book would fall to the ground. For that I should write a book?”
But that didn’t stop Lamm. He writes, he said, for the same reason everybody writes – they strive for immortality.
“Maybe some day someone will read it and I’ll be remembered. I’ll have achieved an ephemeral immortality.” Buy It!
Too Much To Know
Sandy Asher, a winner in the children’s literature category with her book, With All My Heart, With All My Mind (Simon & Schuster), told me her thank-you speech will be quite short.
She was mindful of the time she attended a book festival where an after-dinner speaker droned on for an hour and a half.
Her husband said, “If you ever get that famous, even I don’t want to know that much about you.” Buy It!
| Learning To Relate
Joshua Greene, author of the just published Witness: Voices from the Holocaust, told me he has a friend whose daughter is seeing a therapist – on the Internet.
“Why is she doing that,” Greene asked.
“She wants to improve her interpersonal relations,” the friend said.
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