Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, Short Hills is proud to present the 2010 Cooperman Family Distinguished Speaker Series on Thursday evening, April 29th at 7:30 pm. This year's program features Marlee Matlin and Henry Winkler. Both Matlin and Winkler have had successful careers as actors, despite the disabilities with which they have admirably dealt. Members of the community are invited to this lecture, for which there is no charge.

When 12-year-old Marlee Matlin met Henry Winkler, one of the most recognized actors in the world, they instantly struck a special bond. Matlin was attending the Center on Deafness, a community theater where she began acting at seven years old. Winkler and his wife visited the Center after he received fan mail from the students. There they saw Matlin perform on stage and were blown away by her talent. Backstage, Winkler enthusiastically told Matlin to follow her dream of becoming a professional actress.

Although her parents never discouraged Matlin from acting, they were convinced Hollywood would never accept a profoundly deaf actress. Concerned for her future, they asked Winkler not to encourage her. Winkler refused. His passion for supporting others was the result of a lifetime struggle with undiagnosed dyslexia; told he was both "lazy and stupid" as a child, he was in fact neither. A champion for children of all abilities, he mentored Matlin's subsequent breakout career from theater to film.

At age 21, Matlin became the youngest recipient of the Best Actress Oscar — one of only four actresses to receive that honor for a film debut. Oscar in tow, Matlin found her way to Winkler's front door and asked if she could stay for a week until she found a place to settle. Two years later she was still living with the Winklers, who consider her their adopted daughter to this day.

Together for the first time on stage, Winkler and Matlin delight audiences with an intimate dialogue revealing their profound connection and individual journeys. Through humorous anecdotes, inspirational life lessons and moving stories, Winkler and Matlin explore themes of overcoming adversity and believing in oneself. And like most family members, they interrupt each other — but often to finish each other's sentences. Their magical bond and engaging chemistry is enhanced by their shared belief that anything is possible if you follow your dreams.

Distinguished past speakers have included Mitch Albom, Eli Wiesel, Thomas Friedman and the late Tim Russert. For further information about the Cooperman Family Distinguished Speaker Series or Congregation B'nai Jeshurun contact Executive Director Alice Lutwak at 973 379 1555 or info@tbj.org