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Linden turned an 'interest into a passion' with JNF
September 17th, 2004
Actor Hal Linden says that he believes his first trip to Milwaukee was some 50 years ago. At that time he was playing the saxophone, on tour with big band musician Sammy Kaye. Linden remembers they played at the Eagles Ballroom.
Last week, however, Linden was back in town for a much different purpose. He was guest speaker at the Jewish National Fund-Wisconsin Region annual dinner on Wednesday, Sept. 8, at Beth El Ner Tamid Synagogue.
Linden, JNF national spokesperson since 1997, said that JNF approached him with the idea of becoming spokesperson because “I had a history of involvement in Israeli affairs,” he said during an interview before the event.
But his relationship with the organization is longstanding. “[As a child, I remember] putting my nickel in the blue box,” he said.
Though Linden is extremely busy — he is currently working on a new television project, and still performs in concerts and plays — he tries to speak at as many JNF functions as his schedule allows.
“I will limit remarks to my personal involvement” with the JNF, Linden said about his speech in Milwaukee, noting that most people attending the dinner know what JNF is about. “[My goal is to] pick up on that commitment and passion.
“[I will talk about] how I turned an interest into a passion and how I can turn that into a passion for others.”
Israel’s water crisis, he said, is “a big problem of today and the future,” but noted that JNF has been successful in “taking it away from crisis proportions.”
The water crisis plays a crucial role in relation to the Israel-Palestine conflict, he said. “If we can get a handle on it, the odds for a settlement are greatly increased.”
Well known for his role as Barney Miller in the television series by the same name in the 70’s, for which he has won three Emmy awards, Linden first got his start in music while in high school.
After being drafted into the army, Linden developed an interest in acting, and later enrolled at New York’s American Theatre Wing, and was trained in voice and drama.
After winning a Tony award in 1970 for his performance in Broadway’s ‘The Rothschilds,” which led to his role as Barney Miller, Linden made many more appearances on stage and screen, including the television series “Blacke’s Magic” and the Broadway play, “I’m Not Rappaport.”
Linden travels frequently for his career; he said that when his wife is asked where the couple lives, she replies, “Some hotel room.”
But they found time to travel to Israel with JNF. “I cannot possibly describe here all of the ways in which our visit to Israel touched Frances and me,” he said, according to the JNF Web site.
He is now planning an Israel trip with his entire family to dedicate a reservoir to his parents, which was originally planned for December 2000.
But plans are getting “harder and harder” to make, said Linden of organizing around his four children and six grandchildren’s schedules. But, he said, “We are going to do it.”
“It is our duty” to maintain the land of Israel, Linden said. Although there are “many wonderful Jewish organizations,” designated for that purpose, “JNF is totally devoted to this one area — making that land function.”
Locally, JNF has had a successful year, according to Avrum Chudnow, who is JNF honorary vice president, board member, and has served as national chairman on Timna Valley national park project for the past 18 years.
He noted that the Wisconsin region exceeded its fundraising goals for the year, saying it was the “biggest total ever in history in Milwaukee since 1925.”
The increased funds will allow the JNF Timna Valley restoration project to enter its final stage this March. The oldest center of copper production in the world, the site is a tourist attraction that will eventually include a visitor’s center, multimedia exhibits and a museum..