The Theater District institution the Actors’ Temple is celebrating its centennial with an entertainment-packed dinner and show at the Friars Club, 57 East 55th Street, on Monday March 13 at 6pm. The Temple, which has served as a spiritual home, meeting place and performance venue serving generations of show business professionals, luminaries and their friends, honors the beloved actresses Tovah Feldshuh and Jackie Hoffman (both of whom will perform), and Barbara Bova. Featured entertainers are Andrew Beall (composer of “Song of Solomon”), the singers Anna Bergman and Adrienne Haan, comedian Bob Greenberg, and concert violinist Marina Kifferstein.
The event, produced by Carol Ostrow, supports the Actors’ Temple mission to provide a dynamic spiritual home for Jews, and a creative home for Jewish and non-Jewish artists who can use its affordable jewel-box theatre — a unique resource for New York’s wide-ranging theatre community, right in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. A 100th Year Capital Campaign to preserve the Temple’s historic building at 339 West 47th Street is also being launched. Constructed in 1923 the Actors’ Temple building is a federally designated national landmark.
Congregation Ezrath Israel is led by Rabbi Jill Hausman. Progressive, egalitarian, eclectic, and post-denominational, Actors’ Temple offers Shabbat services on Friday and Saturday; Hebrew School instruction; adult education classes, and is affiliated with the Professional Performing Arts School (PPAS) one of the City’s distinguished select-admission public schools focusing on the arts. Hausman champions fresh approaches to enliven worship, and actively encourages the congregation to see the Temple as a vehicle of self-expression, and deeds of kindness. The shul’s motto is “Cool Shul, Warm People.”
The remarkable roster of members and congregants includes legends from vaudeville, cabaret, nightclubs, radio and television, Broadway and even professional sports: Sophie Tucker, Red Buttons, Al Jolson, Edward G. Robinson, Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Henny Youngman, Alan King, Joe Franklin, Eddie Cantor and numerous composers, musicians, stagehands, and talent agents, rubbed shoulders with sports figures like Sandy Koufax, Barney Ross, and Jake Pitler. Led for many years by Rabbi Bernard Birstein, who actively recruited (with Cantor Louis Malamud), show business professionals, the Actors’ Temple received foundational early support from mega-star Sophie Tucker, who headlined an annual benefit on Broadway, and Joe E. Lewis a stalwart supporter. Non Jews like Ed Sullivan (whose wife was Jewish), and Frank Sinatra were also friends… all were happy to kibbitz with Academy Award-winner Shelly Winters, the 3 Stooges, and a talkative Harpo Marx, before or after services.
Stained-glass memorials, bronze plaques and an Actors Photo Gallery lining the stairwell walls are just some of the many tributes festooning the Actors’ Temple in honor of its illustrious roll call of members and friends.
The Actors’ Temple celebrates its unique role in American, Jewish and show business history (as well as its tradition of being a place of acceptance, spirituality, creativity) at The Actors’ Temple 100th Anniversary Gala Celebration on Monday, March 13 at 6pm, at the Friars Club, 57 East 55th Street, New York City. Tickets are $350 and are on sale now, by calling (917) 796-3121 or visiting http://www.theactorstemple.org