The nerd who made it big

TV's 'House' creator here to help brother launch new Aish Hatorah center.

David Shore 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
David Shore 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When 48-year-old David Shore was growing up in Ontario, he was a math and science nerd. The last thing his younger twin brothers Ephraim and Raphael imagined was that he would end up in the entertainment business - no less the creator, writer and executive producer of the award winning TV series House. Or that they would end up as Orthodox rabbis and working for Aish Hatorah in Jerusalem. "Are you crazy? We never expected it from David, he was always a genius at math and science, with no interest in the arts," Ephraim said on Monday, as he was preparing - with the help of David, in from LA - to launch a Tel Aviv center for Aish; his contribution is a conference on Wednesday night entitled "Hollywood and Judaism." "My focus was on writing and I was thinking about going into journalism. And Raphael studied film. So the journalist and film directors end up becoming rabbis and the science and math guy gets into entertainment." The divergent sides of the Shore family are converging on the conference, which is being held at Tel Aviv University's Mexico Building at 8 p.m. Wednesday and will focus on the effect Jews have had in Hollywood. "We're going to look at issues of why there are so many Jews in Hollywood, why are they so successful, what has been the Jewish impact on media," said Ephraim, who along with David agreed to give The Jerusalem Post readers a sneak preview of the answers. "I'll tell you what my brother says: because there's a Jewish drive to impact the world, to do tikkun olam - that's me talking now. So, if you're looking for a vehicle to make an impact, then Hollywood is definitely a place from which you can get your message out," Ephraim said. David, who worked as a corporate lawyer before switching careers for writing and TV, added that Hollywood has as much potential to create positive elements in the world as it does to introduce less-than-inspirational elements. "I do think that that the notion that gets drilled into so many Jews is that you can make a difference, that an individual matters, and that you can change the world," he said. "There's a negative attitude by many toward the entertainment world and its mass culture, which is maybe a contradiction in terms. But we are reaching out and telling our stories to millions of people, and when we do it right, it can touch millions of lives." DAVID SHORE certainly has reached people - first as director and producer of episodes for shows including Law and Order and The Practice. But it was only with House, one of the highest-rated drama series in the US and Emmy winner for best drama series in 2005 and 2007, that he completely controlled the vision and message. Debuting in 2004, the show stars English actor Hugh Laurie as the American title character, Dr. Gregory House, an acerbic maverick medical genius burdened with solving the undiagnosed cases from other hospitals. There are evident Jewish themes in the series, and David suggested that perhaps Dr. House might have a Jewish soul beneath his prickly surface (or perhaps he's just Israeli). "I think his search for truth and that constant questioning is a Jewish trait. It's all about the puzzle, the intellectual pursuit," he said. While stressing that House is completely fictional, David admitted that there's a little bit of himself in the character. "Let's put it this way: The writing for his character comes relatively easy for me. But I certainly like to think I'm not quite as big an ass as he is. Certainly his attitude is similar to mine. I think he's like any of us if we were freed up from social bounds like tact, and we were a lot smarter," he said. Younger brother Ephraim confirmed that David and House shared at least one similarity. "David happens, just like Dr. House, to have a critical streak," he said, adding that it probably contributed to his not joining his brothers in the observant world. "David was a year ahead of us and he was already into his career track when we began being introduced to Judaism; he's definitely a hard character to crack. But he respects us for our beliefs and we certainly respect him for what he has done," said Ephraim. "Anyway, in terms of relationships, those things are superficial. There's no reason why observance has to get in the way of people getting along. So you have to eat in a kosher restaurant, big deal." THAT'S THE kind of message that Aish Hatorah transmits. Founded in 1974 by Rabbi Noah Weinberg, Aish Hatorah (Fire of the Torah) is based in Jerusalem with branches in over 30 cities around the world. "In general, the goal of Aish is to show people the beauty and wisdom of Judaism, enabling them to learn more about their heritage at their own pace, without pressure," said Ephraim, who ran the Aish branch in Toronto for eight years and in Miami for three years before moving to Israel 10 years ago. "Our new center in Tel Aviv will offer a variety of programs for Israelis - mostly in Hebrew - providing them with an opportunity to learn more about their Jewish heritage, with an emphasis on philosophy. The unique thing about it is there's zero agenda. There no pushing for 'hozer tshuva' [becoming religious]." That attitude has made the Los Angeles branch of Aish a magnet for Hollywood celebrities and insiders looking for a little spirituality - a development Ephraim saw as a logical reaction to the Hollywood lifestyle. "In general, Hollywood is such an empty place in so many ways, people often come to the recognition that it's certainly not what it's all about," he said. "They're looking for something more significant in life. And because our approach is very easy, non-judgmental and intellectual, people feel comfortable with us." That may be true, and while David Shore is gladly lending his hand to Tel Aviv Aish's opening gala, don't expect to find Dr. House attending any touchy feely sessions any time soon.