‘You came with open arms’

‘You came with open arms’

Mandy Patinkin drew gales of laughter from the 600 people attending a March 7 gala to benefit the 2013 UJA Campaign of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.

Held at the Hilton Parsippany, “Live from Greater MetroWest” was the first such event since the merger last summer of the former Central NJ and MetroWest federations, and drew the largest turnout in years, according to organizers. The attendees pledged $240,000, not counting what was pledged in advance — an increase of $100,000 over last year’s MetroWest UJA gala.

It was chaired by Michelle Cohen and Steve Samansky of Short Hills and Cathy and Steven Tabak of Westfield.

Patinkin — the Tony- and Emmy-winning actor and singer — described the arc of his career, from worrying about Jewish typecasting to finding “the courage to let out my own truth.” Somewhere along the way, Patinkin said, “I realized that every role I ever played was Jewish. I can play anything, but I’m not just an actor; I’m a Jewish actor.”

Patinkin drew the greatest roar of delight from the audience when he delivered his most famous line, from the 1987 movie The Princess Bride, “My name is Inigo Montoya,” said Patinkin. “You killed my father. Prepare to die!” Asked before his performance how often he’s asked to do that, he said, “Every single day!”

He finished on a serious note, paying tribute to what Jewish community has meant in his life. He discovered his love of musical theater as a teen, at the JCC near his home in Chicago. “It saved my life. It gave me everything,” he said.

Other speakers highlighted ways in which UJA funds assist the Jewish and general community.

Timothy Perrella, a resident of Union Beach, expressed his gratitude at how federation volunteers came to help, again and again, after the community was devastated by Superstorm Sandy. “You came with open arms, with smiles and hugs, and, most of all, with hope,” he said. “God’s angels had arrived.”

“We were there for one purpose. We worked hand to hand, shoulder to shoulder, not as individuals but as a community,” said Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, the UJA Annual Campaign chair.

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