Arts and Culture 3 min read

Bringing Mandy to Milwaukee

By JCC Milwaukee August 3, 2020
mandy patinkin and donors at riverside theater

Tapestry: Arts & Ideas brings Mandy Patinkin to Milwaukee for a truly besheret event

Libby Temkin has a deep love for the performing arts. Along with her children, Kim Temkin-Taylor and Todd Temkin, Libby wished to do something lasting to enhance the performing arts scene in Milwaukee. Our community benefited when Libby, Kim and Todd opened the Libby Temkin Endowment for the Arts fund to provide support for an annual performance or event.

Libby and her children sat down with JCC President & CEO Mark Shapiro and Major Gifts Manager Harriet Rothman to dream big about an inaugural performance to kick off their endowment fund. When Mandy Patinkin’s name was mentioned, Libby’s face lit up!

Mandy Patinkin is a Tony Award-winning actor and singer whose stage, film and television work has reached audiences across generations. From Broadway productions of Evita and Sunday in the Park with George, to films like Yentl and The Princess Bride, to starring roles in TV’s Criminal Minds and Homeland, Patinkin is a big name in the entertainment world—but he is also a big name in the field of social activism. His most recent efforts have been with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), highlighting the plight of refugees worldwide.

Libby knew that Mandy Patinkin was a consummate stage performer with Jewish roots that he often shares with the audience in concert—a real plus for the JCC community. What “sealed the deal” was his deep connections to international refugee concerns, adding a social justice theme to the event her family wished to fund.

When the exciting news of a potential Mandy Patinkin concert was shared with the JCC’s Tapestry committee, committee member Tracy Askotzky took note. Patinkin’s philanthropic fund and his commitment to refugee resettlement was especially important to Tracy. She knew that MJDS educator Rona Wolfe had helped bring Syrian refugees to the Albert & Ann Deshur JCC Rainbow Day Camp, and that connection would make a Milwaukee Mandy Patinkin concert even more meaningful. After some discussion, Tracy and Michael Askotzky decided to become generous co-sponsors through their Tracy and Michael Askotzky Philanthropic fund.

On November 5, 2019, Mandy took the stage at the Riverside Theater—and took the audience on a journey through some of his favorite songs. Lit by a single spotlight, Patinkin shared with the audience the story of how his mother convinced him to get involved with the theatre program at his local Chicago JCC—something he initially had no interest in at all. Ultimately, his involvement at the JCC led to his career in theatre. It was very touching to see Patinkin’s emotional connection to our JCC movement.

Near the concert’s end, there was a moving film montage of refugees, including those from Serbia today and Jewish refugees in the early 1900s coming to New York. It was the perfect convergence for the JCC and our generous sponsors, who had hoped to raise awareness of Milwaukee’s refugees at this concert.

After the concert, Mandy graciously participated in a meet and greet with our sponsors and their guests, and Mandy shared more memories of the JCC of his youth. He praised our JCC and told Mark Shapiro, “Just keep doing what you’re doing!”