Noting the passing today of the great actor/singer/entertainer and political activist Theodore Bikel, I thought it would be worthwhile to recall the unique opportunity I had to photograph Bikel at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, NJ.
I photographed Bikel at Temple Emanuel not once, but twice, and on the second occasion we reassembled the living participants from the first photo, which was made at the synagogue’s old location on the Cooper River in 1984. Bikel came as part of an arts and culture series programmed during the Temple’s 35th anniversary year by the indefatigable Shirley Chess and Eileen Friedland, who in that era organized virtually every notable event at the synagogue. Shirley went on to become president of the synagogue.
We learned in April 2004 that Bikel would return to Cherry Hill as the keynote speaker at the community Yom Ha’Shoah observance. Because of the large audience expected, the program was being moved to Temple Emanuel’s sanctuary across the street from the Jewish Federation’s community campus. I contacted the synagogue to suggest that we recreate the photo taken with Bikel some 20 years earlier. We were able to get all of the participants together except our beloved Rabbi Edwin N. Soslow, who had died in 1987.
Bikel, on both occasions, was gracious with his time and conversation with the community, and fierce in his support for the future of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
May his memory be for blessing.