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Today in History, June 30: 1902: Herzl began a journey to London seeking support for his plans for a Jewish homeland.
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Jewplexed: Are We Listening to Morty?

A TV commercial featuring an elderly Jewish couple that cleans up our perceptions about aging while selling us on a new cleaning product is sweeping across America.

Are We Listening to Morty?

A TV commercial featuring an elderly Jewish couple that cleans up our perceptions about aging while selling us on a new cleaning product is sweeping across America.

“Morty, are you listening?” is the title of the commercial airing nationally that features Morty Kaufman and his wife, Lee Kaufman, as she puts an extendable-handled cleaning tool called a “Swiffer Duster” through its paces in their home in Valley Steam, New York.

Not only is Morty listening—at one point in the spot he seems to be dozing off-- but many in America are watching too, as the video starring Morty who is 91 and Lee 90, in addition to network airplay, has received well over a million hits on YouTube.

How did America come to discover this zekeinim couple of clean?

“A friend of our daughter who is involved with advertising contacted us,” said Lee Kaufman when I reached her and her husband at their home recently. “The response has amazed us,” she said.

When they go out to dinner “We definitely have received local recognition,” said Lee, a retired elementary school teacher, who in the spot is seen perched precariously upon a rickety kitchen stool so she can dust the top of her refrigerator.

“Old Friends from over twenty years ago have called,” added Morty, who is a retired pharmacist. “You’ve got to be ninety years old before this falls into your lap,” he quipped.

According to Morty, the filming of the spot had a casual feeling, and their conversation which apparently mirrors their real relationship—married 44 years —was “not at all scripted.”

“She tries to keep things orderly, and I try to mess things up,” he observed.

Why is this half-minute interruption devoted to dusting catching our attention? The Kaufmans are definitely a cute couple, and the commercial has a smile-inducing last line, but could it be that related to the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents, this senior couple, perhaps standing in for all our parents, is treated with respect?

Filmed in their own home—the photos on the walls and fridge are their own, “You have to be a child or a pet to get on that door,” said Lee —the Kaufmans are presented as independent, engaged, and prepared to adapt to new technology-- an image of seniors that we usually don’t see on TV.

Unfortunately, we are more accustomed to the more helpless, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” stereotype of senior life, and the response to the freshness of this commercial’s approach is represented in many of the online comments.

“I want a marriage like this,” says one.

“He said ‘be careful babe.’ That's so cute!” reads another.

“Touches my heart,” says a third.

“It was amazing to see us dancing and singing in our own kitchen,” remarked Lee, speaking of a short promotional video “The Everyday Effect,” Proctor & Gamble made that provides some background about the Kaufmans.

“It’s mostly younger people in commercials,” observed Morty, who made it clear during our conversation that he is against discrimination towards seniors. Staying involved, he volunteers at a local community school administering a Senior Observers Program, designed to allow seniors free access to a wide range of classes.

Morty and Lee, who both enjoy a “fair” amount of entertaining and spending the holidays with their family—six children, and five grandchildren-- are happy about the opportunity that has “dropped into our lives,” said Lee.

“We are really enjoying this moment,” she said.

Back to Jewplexed Main

Edmon J. Rodman has written about making his own matzah for JTA, Jewish love music for the Jerusalem Post, yiddishehlegerdemain for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal,a Bernie Madoff Halloween mask for the Forward, and what really gets stuck int he La Brea Tar Pits for the Los Angeles Times. He has edited several Jewish population studies, and is one of the founders of the Movable Minyan, an over twenty-year-old chavura-size,independent congregation. He once designed a pop-up seder plate. In 2011RodmanreceivedaFirst Place Simon Rockower Award for "Excellence in Feature Writing"from the American Jewish Press Association."


Soul Food, June 30

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