Traditionally a pre-High Holiday event, Atlanta Scholars Kollel “gave over” yet another inspiring high-profile speaker for its annual dinner at City Springs on Sept. 12.
This year’s headliner was Hollywood screenwriter and producer Michael Borkow, who traveled from Los Angeles for the event in order to share his emotional, yet methodical, journey in connecting more strongly to observant Judaism. Borkow is best known for his work on comedy television shows like “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Friends,” and “Roseanne.”
After a Mexican-style buffet sponsored by A Kosher Touch Caterers, Rabbi David Silverman, Head of Kollel, began with his appreciation for Adrian Grant, the original event organizer by saying, “Adrian has been everywhere inviting people to this event, in carpool lines…everywhere!”
Silverman segued into the annual lighthearted skit that the cadre of Kollel rabbis notoriously “perform.” This year’s scene revolved around a tan sofa on the stage reminiscent of the “Friends” set, as rabbis tugged at it, pivoted, and pitched why each Kollel division was best suited to house the couch in their particular location…from Emory to Brookhaven to Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Israelis, and so on.
Craig Lefkoff took to the podium to introduce Borkow. He began by expressing his own affection for Kollel rabbis and their families; then onto describing Borkow’s Ivy League education –from Harvard undergrad to Columbia Law School, and ultimately, his on-and-off time spent in Israel.
Borkow began and ended with meeting a model on the Tel Aviv beach posing, “What are you doing here?” In not a short answer, but a full impacted response, Borkow shared how he felt about his Jewish identity and concluded that, at times, he had fears and skepticism; but despite this, he found on his journey that even though sometimes doubts are stronger than proof, he is still all in…our thoughts and feeling follow actions.”
Borkow shared a situation where he wanted to shoot a TV show on Friday night past the start of the Sabbath and proceeded to ask three varied rabbis to weigh in on the idea. One said he could do it, “sort of,” and be “Shabbat-ish.”; the second rabbi weighed whether Torah law vs. Rabbinic law was more conclusive; and the final Yeshiva Rosh took time to investigate and get back to him, finally delivering a, “No, can’t do. I tried.”
Thus, more clarity for his struggle, and ultimately, putting family first and only doing parts of his career that are most appealing is what works, concluding, “Family and Kollel are answers. And that’s what happened to me.” As a side note, Borkow shared that he pitched the studio for his own new story line and script about a young Orthodox rabbi on a college campus, which was accepted, but never made it into production.
During the pre-event dinner hour, the varied Jewish community socialized, networked, and commented to the AJT.
Founding this event 23 years ago, Adrian Grant said, “Looking forward to the High Holidays next week, I see the room filled with Jewish unity and purpose. It’s also proof of the diversity of the Jewish community.”
Ed Goldberg related, “I look forward to coming to this each year to see friends and hear a great speaker.”
Kollel Rabbi Menashe Goldberg, who has been on board since 1989, stated, “I’ve seen how this community has grown together and gotten closer…especially the younger rabbis interacting with the younger generation. That’s what I like the most.”
Former Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach, Josh Pastner, chatted with fans, and relayed how he was using this down time, “I’m working out and spending time with my young family, which was never the case before.”
Pastner previously told this reporter that he was not present at the birth of some of his children since he was on the road scouting players and fulfilling his duties as head coach. He concluded, “I always make time and look forward to being at Jewish events.”