Crown Heights, Brooklyn –- Last night, the Jewish Children’s Museum hosted an innovative and exciting dinner in appreciation of the Friendship Circle at the Jewish Children’s Museum volunteers. Two New York TV reporters hosted the “Tomorrow Show“ celebrating the Friendship Circle’s mission of providing children with special needs with a brighter tomorrow. A take-off of the popular Today Show, the Tomorrow Show was full of moving ”news“ features, a hilarious ”weather report,” mock commercials and live musical accompaniment by Gershon Veroba and the Neshoma Orchestra.
More pictures in the Extended Article!
The 500 “audience-members,” including major supporters and 170 volunteers and families of the Friendship Circle at the Jewish Children’s Museum were treated to a night of laughter, song and moving tributes to this vital organization. The Tomorrow Show weather report best described the work of the Friendship Circle. While pointing to highlights on the animated weather map behind him, weatherman Nissen Brenenson said: “In parts of Central and West Brooklyn, it looks like we’ve avoided all expected frustration and sadness showers after this whole area HERE was surrounded in a Friendship Circle.”
Several mothers of Friendship Circle children joined the hosts – Shazia Kahn and Stephanie Simon of NY1 – on stage to be interviewed. They spoke about the blessing the Friendship Circle has been for their families. “I don’t have to tell you guys about balancing a job with personal and family commitments. Of course, raising a child with special needs makes those things SO much more challenging!“ said one mom. ”Having a volunteer come visit our children…spend time with them, connect with them, take them out on the avenue, to the library, for a pizza… hang out with them on the weekend or take them to the wonderful programs here at the JCM has made their lives entirely easier to cope with.“
Tzirl Goldman started the Friendship Circle at the Jewish Children’s Museum in 2001, after her son was diagnosed with OMS, a neurological disability. “Chaim had all the medication, therapists and doctors he could want,” she said, “but he didn’t have a social life, no sense of a community…he didn’t have a friend.” The Friendship Circle pairs children with special needs with volunteers from high school. The boys and girls who commit to their special need friends devote several hours every week to playing with them, working with them on homework and taking them out for trips. They also help organize the monthly basketball games, the holiday parties and other special events.
But the high school boys and girls, celebrities of the Tomorrow Show, are not the only volunteers. Tzirl Goldman accepts no salary for the some 60 hours a week that she puts into running and coordinating the Friendship Circle. All members of the dinner committee also volunteered their time and equipment to make the Tomorrow Show the success that it was.
Judah Maccabee had a dramatic introduction to the Friendship Circle after reworking the Jewish Children’s Museum’s Maccabees show to create a Chanukah experience designed for children with special needs. Last night, Mr. Judah Maccabee (Levi Welton) swaggered onto the stage in full costume for a chat with the hosts. His interview elicited peals of laughter from the audience, bringing his punch lines to full applause. “In the year 3596 I used to ward off the Greeks. After the Maccabees show, I mostly ward off shadchanim.” That and other quips brought a roaring round of applause from the dinner guests. Judah left the stage with this final line: “To the volunteers,” he said, “I want to say: You are the true Maccabees.”
Judah’s hit performance was followed by a commercial of the Crown Heights Softball League, publicizing the Friendship Circle event that will take place in Lefferts Park on June 10, where children with special needs and their families will enjoy pizza and a game at an exclusive Softball game. Just before dinner was served, Gershon Veroba sang several moving songs bringing the first half of the program to a close.
Tzirl Goldman opened the show following dinner by thanking all those who help the Friendship Circle throughout the year. She honored program coordinators Chayale and Levi Eckhaus as well as those who volunteer their time and talent, Mrs. Sary Pinson and Yossi and Mica Soffer.
With the end of her presentation, hosts Stephanie and Shazia introduced their next guest. ”He’s a world renowned entertainer but he’s singing a different tune tonight. Is Avraham Fried disappointed in the Friendship Circle?“ Wild applause greeted Avraham Fried as sat down on the Tomorrow Show couch for his interview. Avraham explained in mock-anger how he would love to play basketball with these special-needs kids and hang out with them but he was never asked to do that! The hosts did a fine job trying to work out a time but it seems Avraham had a full schedule. “You know, it really is quite something to volunteer your off hours for the Friendship Circle,” he finally admitted. He thanked the volunteers and ended the evening on a high note with a spectacular rendition of “My Fellow Jew,” dedicating to own daughter who is a Friendship Circle volunteer.
Hosts: Stephanie Simon and Shazia Khan of NY1
Special Guests: Gershon Veroba with the Neshoma Orchestra, Judah Maccabee and Avraham Fried
Executive Director: Tzirl Goldman
Producer and Director: Zev Steinhauser
Creative Advisor and Script-writer: Avi Webb
Technical support and Director of Photography: Yankee Teitelbaum of JewishFilms.com
Technical support and Associate Director of Photography: Yehuda Shaffer
Poster and journal Designer: Yossi and Mica Soffer
Set Designer and Technical Operator: Chana Shaffer
The recently-opened Jewish Children’s Museum is located at 792 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY and is accessible via the B43 bus to Eastern Parkway or the 3 train to Kingston Avenue.
The Jewish Children’s Museum is successfully working to bridge the cultural gap in our community through innovative hands-on exhibits and interactive displays. Presenting key Jewish concepts in fun and informative ways, the Museum continues to receive rave reviews from educators, parents and most importantly from children themselves. Visit www.jcm.museum to find out more.