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Hamaspik “Day Habber” Sruly, 25, “Stars” in Small-screen Modern Telling of Classic Talmudic Tale

January 31, 2017        

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

High-end Home Video a Triumphant Labor of Love for Gentleman, Support Staffer


This is not another home video—anything but.


It’s not meant for public consumption.  But as far as the personally-produced videos flooding modern society by the billions go, this one practically leaps off the screen.


Armed with little more than a store-bought consumer camera and endless imagination, a Hamaspik Direct Support Professional (DSP) proved himself a most promising disciple of the modern art form that is the motion picture.


That’s because, in the course of two months of time, he scripted, directed, shot, edited and produced a competitive home-made film—self-manufacturing props, scouting and shooting a handful of outdoor scenes, presiding over the requisite endless takes and so much more.


The end result was a production evidencing the endless hours of work, and all volunteered, put into making the difference between spontaneous video-recording and serious planning.


The original fish story

Starring Sruly in its lead role, the home movie recounts the true story, recorded in the Talmud, of Yosef, a man who would literally spend his last penny to honor Shabbos.


Yosef, the story goes, was known down at the docks as the man who’d pay any price to buy the freshest, largest catch to grace his Shabbos table each week.


At the same time the fish weren’t biting, leaving local fishermen with nothing selling, Yosef’s neurotic billionaire neighbor consults an astrologer, who tells him that poor Yosef will end up with all his wealth.  The man sells everything he owns, buys an impossibly expensive precious stone, sews it into his hat and flees. 


But the hat, perhaps predictably, is gone with the wind.


Falling into the sea, it’s swallowed, baseball-sized diamond and all, by a huge fish—and you can guess the rest: The fishermen land a seriously big one, no one wants to buy it, and someone says, “Try Yosef!”  Yosef spends himself silly and brings the fish back home, where a distraught wife frets over Shabbos spending habits that currently have the family literally living in the poorhouse—until the fish is filleted.


The story ends with Yosef buying his wife a mansion’s worth of appreciation.  Needless to say, he never had to worry about bills again.


Supporting (an) actor

Sruly, who has autism, has a “moiredig” memory, says Day Habilitation Director Pinchos Knopfler, using the Yiddish word for “awesome” or “frightful.”


“He can tell you exactly where we went on a trip three years ago,” he adds, “and exactly which week and which day.”


Maximizing that memory for maximum personal growth, Sruly found himself in fall of 2016 reviewing lines for the movie’s first scenes—lines that his DSP had painstakingly and precisely scripted, and which they repeatedly reviewed until the budding actor had them down pat.


With his first lines committed to memory, shooting began.


The movie’s first scene depicts a village marketplace of old—with vendors noisily hawking their wares from booths, calling loudly for customers to approach tables laden with goods like fresh fruits and vegetables, wine and, of course, fish.  Sruly’s Yosef, in colorful robe and oversized hat, goes from booth to booth making his weekly rounds, haggling over prices and paying with cash.


Over the dozen or so following scenes, all showing signs of exacting, professional-grade editing, Yosef comes to life—enjoying his family dinner with the calm of total faith on Shabbos, trying during the week to figure out how to pay for the next Shabbos, praying, and even going to the airport to pick up a Shabbos guest from Manchester, England (who manages to miss his flight).


The film closes with Yosef triumphantly returning to the same “CASH FOR GOLD” pawn shop where, mere days earlier, he traded in the household’s treasured silver candlesticks for a few bucks with which to buy Shabbos.”  Viewers are shown an incredulous proprietor (played by the DSP’s young son) forking over piles of cash for a gem more expensive than anything he’s ever bought or sold in his life.


At the end of the movie, Sruly’s Yosef shows his family their palatial new residence—“played” by one of Monsey’s finest real-life (and really big) homes.  The credits then roll.


Reaping the rewards

The film debuted in late January at the Hamaspik of Rockland County Men’s Day Hab facility in Spring Valley.


Gathered in the multi-purpose room were several dozen gentlemen and their support staff.  Seated in the front row was Sruly. 


The lights were dimmed.  The drop-down projector screen against one wall lit up.  The audience was rapt.


And 45 minutes later, Sruly was a star.


Both DSPs and the gentlemen they support suddenly saw a different man before them.  With a crowd suddenly surrounding him, Sruly found himself being congratulated from all sides for his role and for his accomplishment.


Throughout the entire prolonged process, Sruly’s DSP never accepted “good enough” as good enough.  With people who have autism often having difficulty expressing emotion or even knowing what emotions are, the patient DSP slowly and carefully coached Sruly on how to put feeling and emotion into his delivery.


The difference before and after, says Mr. Knopfler, was subtle—but noticeable to his experienced eye.  There was a change there—and a positive one.


And when his moment in the limelight finally came, something came to the surface, the long-time Day Hab Director reports.


“When he watched himself,” he says, “you saw that he felt a little proud.”


And if “habilitation” means anything, it surely means that.