Monday, August 31, 2009

Ennismore, Ontario

My good buddy James Williams brought me up to Camp Moshava outside Toronto for my first ever Bnei Akiva experience (Bnei Akiva is a worldwide religious zionist youth movement) and I couldn't be more grateful. The welcome could not have been warmer, though the weather gave me the cold shoulder. And not only did I get to teach and learn with an amazing group of new friends, and experience prayer with a special vigorous enthusiasm, and spend a nice Shabbos in the woods, I also got to hear some dynamite stories. Did you know that there is a contractual obligation in the Orthodox Jewish community in Toronto that if you are a pulpit Rabbi, you must have a beard? I did not know that and it is my favorite new fact. Also, I heard a great story about a family that moved to America and decided to give themselves absurd names...all ending with Berkowitz. My favorite: Just Berkowitz. Brilliant.

"Your name sir?"
"Just Berkowitz."
"Yes, and your first name?"
"I'm sorry sir, just what?"

I've already written several pages of dialogue (quite thrilling and pedestrian when read from an existential point of view). I think it will be all part of a new play about a babyfaced guy named Berkowitz who comes to Toronto to accept a position as a pulpit Rabbi. Obviously the catch would be that he can't grow facial hair, or that when he does his face resembles the butt of a bald monkey - something like that. But the congregation will have hired him sight unseen! So, like Buddy Holly at the Apollo, it'll be quite a show. Who's got two thumbs and thinks this is a great idea for a play? That's right Michael Feldman: This guy.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lake Como, PA

Someone once asked me what the cast party is like for a one-man show. The answer? Oreo cookies and Sportscenter. This past week I had the pleasure of returning to HaGalil USY Encampment at B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp in Pennyslvania. The last time I visited the HaGalil region was in 2005 to perform Walking in Memphis... and this time, I was there to perform God of Our Fathers and teach some workshops. A staff member, Joe, picked me up from the airport and remembered nearly verbatim one of the warmup exercises I did four years ago when he was in USY. The people in the HaGalil region are just so warm and friendly, it was as if I'd been coming back year after year. And I want to give a shout out to Michelle Rich who is a fantastic leader and educator. It is a real treat to be in her presence (and to meet her cute grandkids!). As for the cast party after my performance...Jen spent the summer as a group leader for the American Jewish World Service in Ghana and one of her participants was Jonathan Steinberg, a really nice guy who happens to be president of...HaGalil USY! I could use this space to tell a funny story about Steinberg's dad at JFK airport the morning of the group's return to the U.S., but I will spare the family from reliving his dance/chant. What I will say is that after the show the other night, Jonathan's brother Brian walked over to me and dropped a package of oreo cookies in my pocket. Jen must have told him about my favorite food. Ah love. Ah Oreos.