All Steve Rosenberg wanted to do was surprise people.
The one-time WWF and circus promoter, now chief marketing officer for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, had wowed the audience at the Kimmel Center at last year’s Main Event by bringing a live goat on stage as a joke for Bud Newman, the outgoing board chairman and a farmer himself.
Given that the 2018 event’s focus was on the 70th birthday year of Israel, he figured, why not bring a symbol of the region to stand outside and greet guests? Why not bring a camel?
If only it were so simple.
Einstein the camel, all 9 feet of him, was en route from Peaceable Kingdom Petting Zoo in Perkasie on Nov. 15 when snow began to really come down. All over Philadelphia, traffic slowed as cars skidded off the road or failed to gain traction in the sleet. Einstein’s trailer couldn’t escape that fate, and his owner, Caris Matey, figured that she might have better luck moving her trailer up Route 309 toward the Kimmel Center if she took Einstein out of the trailer for just a few minutes. Because he’s been raised in Pennsylvania, snow was not a novel experience for him.
“He’s 10 years old,” she said. “This was not new to him.”
He even likes to roll in the snow sometimes, Matey said.
Regardless, Einstein went viral. Pictures of the dromedary calmly standing on the side of the road in the driving snow ended up trending on Twitter and being shown on Good Morning America, and people speculated that he had escaped or was even pulling the trailer. In fact, Einstein got everywhere but the actual event, which he and Matey were ultimately unable to reach. Jewish Federation, Matey stressed, was understanding of her unique issue.
He wasn’t alone; 900 were pre-registered for the Main Event and, in the end, around 500 were able to make it into Center City. Still, Rosenberg was pleased with the evening, especially with the speech of Avi Issacharof, the Israeli journalist and co-creator of the popular Israeli television series Fauda.
“The event was spectacular,” he said. “Absolutely the best event.”
As for Einstein?
“We’re sorry he wasn’t there,” Rosenberg said, “but maybe next year.”