October 13, 2005
Celebs Stick to Their Tzedakah Box Job
Frankie Muniz, star of the TV show, "Malcolm in the Middle," had little idea what he was making as he glued colored cotton balls and beads onto a metallic container with a slot on top.
Muniz, who isn't Jewish, knew it had something to do with "Living Generously," the theme of a Hurricane Katrina (and Rita) benefit in late September at the refurbished Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The event, at the newly hip hotel, drew more than 400 people, many of them well-known or up-and-coming industry people: actors, writers, musicians, and comedians.
When it was explained to Muniz (by this reporter) that the metallic container was a tzedakah box, a traditional way for Jews to collect charity, everything clicked.
"My fiancee and I were in New Orleans when the hurricane hit, so we'll do anything we can to get the city back on its feet," he said, as his fiancee, Jamie, sat next to him, gluing away industriously. Each wore the "Live Generously" blue bracelet handed out to guests.
You could say that no major A-listers were present, but some bigger names donated tzedakah boxes that were on display. They were later auctioned off on eBay.
These donated boxes came from the likes of Regis Philbin, Kelly Ripa, Gabe Kaplan, Isaac Mizrahi and recent Emmy Award-winner William Shatner. Even Donald Trump donated a box.
The boxes were on display near a giant metallic tzedakah box, where guests could drop donations.
Live and in person, Jonathan Silverman and Lisa Loeb sat together at the arts and crafts table, recalling their Jewish day school days. Kellie Martin of "Life Goes On" fame sat nearby, also painting and gluing. Scott Weinger, also known as the voice of Disney's Aladdin, showed up later with his girlfriend.
"I don't think I've actually decorated a tzedakah box since I was a kid. It's a little nostalgic -- makes giving fun," said Loeb, facetiously adding: "I think this is a secret excuse for single people to get together."
With hundreds of stylish, good-looking singles -- Jewish and non-Jewish -- socializing by the open bar, she had a point. The fundraiser had the atmosphere of a young Hollywood society meat market and networking affair.
"We're definitely here for the cause and not for the free drinks," stand-up comedian Christina Walkinshaw told The Journal.
The Tuesday night fete was organized by United Jewish Communities (UJC), in cooperation with The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. UJC, the national umbrella for 155 North American Jewish federations, enlisted the support of Evan Lowenstein of the Orthodox pop duo, Evan and Jaron, to help pull things together.
For the past several months, Lowenstein has gotten Hollywood celebs together for monthly lunches dedicated to a specific charity. At last look, the UJC Disaster Relief Fund had raised about $17 million for hurricane victims.
Loeb performed two songs, including her debut hit, "Stay," and Evan and Jaron played their hit, "Crazy for This Girl," joined by saxophonist Dave Koz.
Other performers included comedian and "Stacked" actor Elon Gold, who was also emcee for the night; Dan Levy of MTV's "The Reality Show"; and Bob Saget. Some off-color jokes would not have passed muster with a Jewish modesty committee.
"Because of the audience, it was okay. I thought I wasn't going to go too 'blue,' and then I hit the stage and that's what it was," Saget told The Journal.
Known for his portrayal of TV dad Danny Tanner on "Full-House," Saget entertained the audience with his satiric diddy "Danny Tanner Was Not Gay."
OK, that was something they never covered in Jewish day school.
Orit Arfa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.