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Nimoy draws 600 to Shir Shalom to hear about his controversial new book.
Copy Editor/Education Writer
he National Foundation for Jewish Culture
(NFJC) will host 40-50 events this year in major
centers such as New York and Los Angeles.
But probably none will attract as large an audi-
ence as the Nov. 14 appearance of actor-photographer Leonard
Nimoy at West Bloomfield's Temple Shir Shalom, according to
NFJC's national president, James August of Bloomfield Hills.
About 600 people streamed into the synagogue's main sanc-
tuary to hear Nimoy speak about his newly published book of
photographs, Shekhina, which combines photographs of
female models with tefillin, tallit and other Jewish artifacts.
Nimoy had been booked as a guest speaker during the
51st Annual Jewish Book Fair, but community leaders and
rabbis objected to the juxtaposition of nude or nearly nude
female models with holy religious imagery. At an Oct. 23
community meeting to discuss Nimoy's appearance
("Community Consensus," Nov. 1, age 24), Rabbi Dannel
Schwartz of Temple Shir Shalom volunteered to hold the
talk at his synagogue instead of at its original venue, the
Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield. The Book
Fair and the NFJC remained as co-sponsors.
"We need to find an opportunity in community venues
for artists to exhibit their creations so that we can find out
if they are meaningful to us," said August in a conversation
before the event.
"We're very appreciative of Shir Shalom for opening their
doors to this program, but it doesn't solve the underlying
issue," he said. The community members' "being offended
is legitimate, and we can't destroy Book Fair over this, but
we need a way for new ideas and expressions to be dissemi-
nated in the venue of the community.
"I'm not saying this work is heroic," August added, "but
if you can't see it, how are you going to know?"
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Nimoy said that his critics had "assigned themselves the
role of gatekeeper.
"I'm OK with that, but others might object. I think they
underestimate the public."
A Jewish Journey
Nimoy, whose role as Mr. Spock in the television series Star
Trek made him famous, called his creation of Shekhina his
A first-generation American whose parents came from
Ukraine, he was raised in a home steeped in Jewish tradition,
with Yiddish as his first language. He made his stage debut as
the teen-aged son in Clifford Odets' 1935 play, Awake and
Sing. Nimoy said the story captures precisely what was going
on in his Boston apartment.
As an adult, he told the audience, "Judaism went flat for
me for a while. I went to services because I felt duty-bound
NIMOY on page 18
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Many of the 600 audience members stayed after the talk for
Nimoy to autograph copies of his book, "Shekhina."
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