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Mandy Patinkin, Road Warrior

June 9, 2005
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Mandy Patinkin just flew in from Israel - and, boy, are his legs tired!

Biker Mandy Patinkin … hell on wheels? Heaven on earth!

"It was the best experience of my life outside the birth of my two children," exclaims Patinkin, nearly panting for breath, baited to talk about his bike-a-thon. "It was exactly what I was searching for, without knowing that I was searching."

This metaphysical lost-and-found fulcrum revealed itself to the Tony and Emmy award-winning actor/ singer in Israel, where Patinkin kicked it into high gear, taking part in a 265-mile, six-day bike excursion of "Cycling for Peace, Partnership and Environmental Protection," sponsored by Hazon of New York and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, based in Kibbutz Ketura in Israel.

Pedaling peace and harmony is an anthem familiar to Patinkin, a longtime Peace Now activist. But never, declares the palpably exuberant Patinkin with exclamation points expanding on each excited revelation, has he experienced anything such as this ride from Jerusalem to Eilat, which raised close to $400,000 for environmental concerns in Israel and the United States.

If the actor - currently seen pitching Crestor, a cholesterol-lowering medication, in TV commercials - is riding the crest of this past trip, he intends to share it with others.

Biking spokes-man? He certainly will get his chance on June 16, marking his Carnegie Hall headline debut - and even now, he is practicing, practicing, practicing - with a performance of "Mamaloshen," the vocal yin-yang of the Yiddish set, as a benefit for the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre of New York.

Who better to sing for the Folksbiene than good folk such as Patinkin, who will be backed by a 100-voice multi-ethnic kids' chorus?

"Mamaloshen" is Mandy's lotion for what ails the soul. But there will be others there to join him. The concert will also offer performances by the musical Mikveh; clarinetist David Krakauer; and the New York Yiddish Chorale, under the baton of Zalmen Mlotek.

Talking of passing the baton: Patinkin gives major kuved and kudos to Mlotek and Moishe Rosenfeld, two leading voices in the Yiddish-music movement and the Folksbiene, for helping him make "Mamaloshen" such a megillah of a mensch.

Freilach for the Folksbiene? Anybody who has ever witnessed a Patinkin performance knows that the New York actor who once played a doctor on "Chicago Hope" is an infectious animated spirit, a perfect panacea of hope and optimism in a world robed in sickly hospital grays.

At least Patinkin's gown buttons in the back. And just let him buttonhole you about this bike trip again … "There were 100 riders - Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Germans - all of us, riding, taking part in Palestinian and Hebrew prayers, doing this all together."

Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, till you find your … dune? "This is the way to make peace - politicians have been trying for decades. But this … this sharing … this concern for the environment shows how we can all work together.

"I had never ridden so many miles before. But I bought a bike, started training, went to Central Park, worked up to 31 miles - I worked so hard I thought I'd have to be hospitalized.

"And then, the first day on the trip, 100 of us did 72 miles. Seventy-two miles!"

It's enough to make a son qvell - which is exactly what Isaac did, biking alongside his dad. But then, it was Isaac's idea to begin with ever since he went on a New York version of this international event.

Patinkin can handle bars of music - but handlebars for hundreds of miles?

"When your son asks you to do something, you do it," says the actor, who's now a bike booster, hoping to get some mileage out of his own brood from all of this.

"I want to get my wife [actress Kathryn Grody] and [son] Gideon to come with me next time," he says of the two who remained back home in Manhattan while he made his way to the Mideast.

"In fact, I want all of the Patinkins - my cousins, uncles, nephews, there are maybe 10 to 20 of us - to join us."

Big wheels keep on turnin,' proud Mandy keeps on burnin' - to help Israel.

"Part of the excitement, the joy, was being there - that first hill, that first turn - at some point, I heard cheering. I never stopped, couldn't stop, pedaling, there, with my son, in this place with echoes of history, where you hear voices of loved ones alive and not."

Making his own voice heard is an important part of the vocal cord tying Israelis and Palestinians together, acknowledges Patinkin. And as proud and delighted as he was "to breathe this all in," well, he is plain pleased just to be breathing at all.

"I am a cancer survivor," says Patinkin of the prostate problem he faced down.

"It was May 14, 2004, when I was in the hospital, and now, one year later, there I was, in Israel, biking, enjoying myself" - and going on the ride of his life.

And what a ride he has had: Broadway ("Evita," "Sundays in the Park With George," "The Secret Garden," "Falsettos"); film ("Ragtime," "The Doctor"), TV ("Chicago Hope," "Dead Like Me"); and the concert stage, where his one-man show of many talents has wowed and sold out theaters worldwide.

But the singer who weakened Barbra Streisand's androgynous knees in "Yentl" has been providing backbone for much of the Yiddish movement the past decade, too. His "Mamaloshen," in which Patinkin gives Yiddish naysayers a mother tongue-lashing of lyrical wit and wisdom, has proved to be one of his most popular playlists.

It bespeaks pride and passion: "This is my language," says Patinkin.

And it would be criminal not to mention that with all Patinkin's doing - singing the praises of the Folksbiene and others - there are many who think Patinkin sings to the soul of a very special nation: TV viewers.

Which explains why Patinkin is also part of the CBS eyeful of new series premiering this fall, playing a major part in the much-heralded "Criminal Minds."

"It's all about how a nice Jewish boy becomes a member of the FBI," he kibbitzes of his part as a profiler.

What a profile Patinkin cuts; who else in Hollywood would have abandoned an award-winning acting career right after grabbing an Emmy for "Chicago Hope" to stay home and help his wife raise their children, as he did in the '90s?

But then, family is never far from his mind - no matter how many thousands of miles away. During his Israeli bike trip, Patinkin visited the remodeled Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. "The last time I was there, some 20 years ago, was when Kathryn was pregnant with Isaac," and here he was now, with Isaac all grown up.

Ironically, Patinkin has grown, too - and all because of a tumor that grew inside him. "Nothing makes you wake up in a simpler way than having cancer," says the survivor, active as an advocate of prostate-cancer prevention.

To that end, Patinkin will take part in a "Celebration of Hope" conference of the Wellness Community of Philadelphia, Friday, June 10, at the Hyatt at Penn's Landing. He will present the keynote speech, "A Personal Story on Cancer Survival," at 12:45 p.m., and participate in an award presentation at the center's gala, beginning at 6:30 p.m., on the organization's grounds in West Fairmount Park.

Patinkin himself has become more grounded since being diagnosed with cancer. "You realize that this - life - is not all some joke; you have to relax and enjoy every single second."

The training wheels of life are off, and Patinkin - Hell's Angel? No, Heaven's Helper - is pedaling as fast as he can. A new CBS series, the Folksbiene benefit, serving as ardent advocate of Hazon, biking for peace … Mandy Patinkin just flew in from Israel - and, boy, are his legs tired!

Biker Mandy Patinkin … hell on wheels? Heaven on earth!

"It was the best experience of my life outside the birth of my two children," exclaims Patinkin, nearly panting for breath, baited to talk about his bike-a-thon. "It was exactly what I was searching for, without knowing that I was searching."

This metaphysical lost-and-found fulcrum revealed itself to the Tony and Emmy award-winning actor/ singer in Israel, where Patinkin kicked it into high gear, taking part in a 265-mile, six-day bike excursion of "Cycling for Peace, Partnership and Environmental Protection," sponsored by Hazon of New York and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, based in Kibbutz Ketura in Israel.

Pedaling peace and harmony is an anthem familiar to Patinkin, a longtime Peace Now activist. But never, declares the palpably exuberant Patinkin with exclamation points expanding on each excited revelation, has he experienced anything such as this ride from Jerusalem to Eilat, which raised close to $400,000 for environmental concerns in Israel and the United States.

If the actor - currently seen pitching Crestor, a cholesterol-lowering medication, in TV commercials - is riding the crest of this past trip, he intends to share it with others.

Biking spokes-man? He certainly will get his chance on June 16, marking his Carnegie Hall headline debut - and even now, he is practicing, practicing, practicing - with a performance of "Mamaloshen," the vocal yin-yang of the Yiddish set, as a benefit for the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre of New York.

Who better to sing for the Folksbiene than good folk such as Patinkin, who will be backed by a 100-voice multi-ethnic kids' chorus?

"Mamaloshen" is Mandy's lotion for what ails the soul. But there will be others there to join him. The concert will also offer performances by the musical Mikveh; clarinetist David Krakauer; and the New York Yiddish Chorale, under the baton of Zalmen Mlotek.

Talking of passing the baton: Patinkin gives major kuved and kudos to Mlotek and Moishe Rosenfeld, two leading voices in the Yiddish-music movement and the Folksbiene, for helping him make "Mamaloshen" such a megillah of a mensch.

Freilach for the Folksbiene? Anybody who has ever witnessed a Patinkin performance knows that the New York actor who once played a doctor on "Chicago Hope" is an infectious animated spirit, a perfect panacea of hope and optimism in a world robed in sickly hospital grays.

At least Patinkin's gown buttons in the back. And just let him buttonhole you about this bike trip again … "There were 100 riders - Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Germans - all of us, riding, taking part in Palestinian and Hebrew prayers, doing this all together."

Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, till you find your … dune? "This is the way to make peace - politicians have been trying for decades. But this … this sharing … this concern for the environment shows how we can all work together.

"I had never ridden so many miles before. But I bought a bike, started training, went to Central Park, worked up to 31 miles - I worked so hard I thought I'd have to be hospitalized.

"And then, the first day on the trip, 100 of us did 72 miles. Seventy-two miles!"

It's enough to make a son qvell - which is exactly what Isaac did, biking alongside his dad. But then, it was Isaac's idea to begin with ever since he went on a New York version of this international event.

Patinkin can handle bars of music - but handlebars for hundreds of miles?

"When your son asks you to do something, you do it," says the actor, who's now a bike booster, hoping to get some mileage out of his own brood from all of this.

"I want to get my wife [actress Kathryn Grody] and [son] Gideon to come with me next time," he says of the two who remained back home in Manhattan while he made his way to the Mideast.

"In fact, I want all of the Patinkins - my cousins, uncles, nephews, there are maybe 10 to 20 of us - to join us."

Big wheels keep on turnin,' proud Mandy keeps on burnin' - to help Israel.

"Part of the excitement, the joy, was being there - that first hill, that first turn - at some point, I heard cheering. I never stopped, couldn't stop, pedaling, there, with my son, in this place with echoes of history, where you hear voices of loved ones alive and not."

Making his own voice heard is an important part of the vocal cord tying Israelis and Palestinians together, acknowledges Patinkin. And as proud and delighted as he was "to breathe this all in," well, he is plain pleased just to be breathing at all.

"I am a cancer survivor," says Patinkin of the prostate problem he faced down.

"It was May 14, 2004, when I was in the hospital, and now, one year later, there I was, in Israel, biking, enjoying myself" - and going on the ride of his life.

And what a ride he has had: Broadway ("Evita," "Sundays in the Park With George," "The Secret Garden," "Falsettos"); film ("Ragtime," "The Doctor"), TV ("Chicago Hope," "Dead Like Me"); and the concert stage, where his one-man show of many talents has wowed and sold out theaters worldwide.

But the singer who weakened Barbra Streisand's androgynous knees in "Yentl" has been providing backbone for much of the Yiddish movement the past decade, too. His "Mamaloshen," in which Patinkin gives Yiddish naysayers a mother tongue-lashing of lyrical wit and wisdom, has proved to be one of his most popular playlists.

It bespeaks pride and passion: "This is my language," says Patinkin.

And it would be criminal not to mention that with all Patinkin's doing - singing the praises of the Folksbiene and others - there are many who think Patinkin sings to the soul of a very special nation: TV viewers.

Which explains why Patinkin is also part of the CBS eyeful of new series premiering this fall, playing a major part in the much-heralded "Criminal Minds."

"It's all about how a nice Jewish boy becomes a member of the FBI," he kibbitzes of his part as a profiler.

What a profile Patinkin cuts; who else in Hollywood would have abandoned an award-winning acting career right after grabbing an Emmy for "Chicago Hope" to stay home and help his wife raise their children, as he did in the '90s?

But then, family is never far from his mind - no matter how many thousands of miles away. During his Israeli bike trip, Patinkin visited the remodeled Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. "The last time I was there, some 20 years ago, was when Kathryn was pregnant with Isaac," and here he was now, with Isaac all grown up.

Ironically, Patinkin has grown, too - and all because of a tumor that grew inside him. "Nothing makes you wake up in a simpler way than having cancer," says the survivor, active as an advocate of prostate-cancer prevention.

To that end, Patinkin will take part in a "Celebration of Hope" conference of the Wellness Community of Philadelphia, Friday, June 10, at the Hyatt at Penn's Landing. He will present the keynote speech, "A Personal Story on Cancer Survival," at 12:45 p.m., and participate in an award presentation at the center's gala, beginning at 6:30 p.m., on the organization's grounds in West Fairmount Park.

Patinkin himself has become more grounded since being diagnosed with cancer. "You realize that this - life - is not all some joke; you have to relax and enjoy every single second."

The training wheels of life are off, and Patinkin - Hell's Angel? No, Heaven's Helper - is pedaling as fast as he can. A new CBS series, the Folksbiene benefit, serving as ardent advocate of Hazon, biking for peace … "I'm just a Yiddishe boy who survived cancer, which made me learn: You never say no to anything."

Or, as he might say and sing next week, " Never say nisht." u

Info to Go

"Mamaloshen," starring Mandy Patinkin in his Carnegie Hall debut, benefiting the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre, is scheduled for June 16, at 8 p.m.

For ticket info, call 212-247-7800, or visit: www.folksbiene.org.

For info on the Wellness Community of Philadelphia conference and gala event, call 215-879-7733.

For upcoming bike trips, visit: hazon.org or israelride.org.

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