For many, the High Holidays have already been officially ushered in -- not with the blowing of the Shofar, but with the sound of Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin's voice hosting the annual Chabad telethon.
This year's broadcast was especially symbolic. After all, it was the 18th Chabad telethon -- 18 being the numerical value of the letters in the word chai, which means life. In fact, the evening's official motto was "L'Chaim To Life!"
Most are acquainted with Cunin -- Chabad's charismatic West Coast director -- and his mission: to raise money for Chabad's social and educational outreach programs. Sharing hosting duties with Cunin this year were actor Fyvush Finkel and movie producer Jerry Weintraub, the telethon's longtime chairman.
The live UPN broadcast rewarded viewers and pledgers with a cavalcade of Jewish entertainers, including guitarist Yoffi Piamenta (dubbed "the Jewish Jimi Hendrix"), who closed out the program with a roof-raising rendition of "Mosiach." Celebrities appearing in studio to sing Chabad's praises included Sid Caesar, James Caan, Robert Guillaume, Elliott Gould and Bernie Kopell. Comedian Steve Allen played some piano, then worked the phones with his wife, actress Jayne Meadows.