(lubavitch.com) For the last few years of his life, actor Tony Curtis enjoyed a close relationship with Rabbi Mendy Harlig at Chabad Green Valley, in Henderson, NV, where he lived. The famous film star passed away on September 29 at the age of 85.
Rabbi Mendy first met Tony Curtis after receiving a call from his daughter Allegra Curtis. She felt that it would be good for her father to have some spirituality in his life. Both New York Jews, the actor and the rabbi quickly developed a great rapport.
“Tony shared a lot about his childhood with me,” Rabbi Mendy recalled. “He told me much about growing up in poverty, the many challenges that he faced, and how he set out to overcome them.” Mr. Curtis also shared his paintings with Rabbi Mendy and gave him an autograhped copy of his book, American Prince, with his own drawing of a mezuzah alongside the inscription.
Rabbi Mendy’s five children sometimes accompanied him on his visits. “Tony always welcomed my children. They made him laugh and he made them laugh,” said the rabbi.
“My 10 year old daughter, Chana Sara, had school assignment to write a report about a famous Jewish personality. She chose to write about Tony Curtis and later showed him her work. He was very touched.”
Over the years Rabbi Mendy visited Mr. Curtis at his home many times, delivering honeycake, shaloch manos, matzah. And sometimes, just to chat.
“Tony (whose Hebrew name was Boruch Hershel ben Emmanuel) was a very proud Jew,” said Rabbi Mendy. “Whenever I asked him to participate in a mitzvah he was always eager to do so. I hung a mezuzah at his home, we put on tefillin and I once took a picture of him wearing a white yarmulke. When he saw it he asked me to take a different picture saying, 'People might think I’m the Pope'!”
Two years ago, Chabad of Green Valley honored Mr. Curtis with the lighting of the menorah at its public Chanukah ceremony at The District at Green Valley Ranch Hotel. Over five hundred people were delighted at the opportunity to get up close and personal with the beloved star, and he was equally happy to express his Jewish pride at the event. Although it was difficult for him to get around, when the time came to get up on the stage and light menorah, he refused any help that was offered to him.
On October 4, 2010 Rabbi Mendy attended Tony’s funeral, staying behind after the burial to help in filling the grave with earth.
“We will sorely miss Tony. He was a proud Jew, a wonderful person and a great friend.