The 25th of Kislev is coming, and that means it’s time for latkes, sufganiyot, candles and gifts. While Chanukah is not considered a major Jewish holiday, everyone enjoys the food, the presents and the atmosphere.
Congregations and organizations in Orange County are getting ready to celebrate Chanukah with festive foods and lots of lights. At press time, we had the following information, but check www.ocjewishlife.com for more.
Holiday Boutique at Temple Beth Emet Temple Beth Emet will hold a holiday boutique on Sunday, December 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The congregation’s newly refurbished gift shop will have a variety of items for purchase, and refreshments will be served. Temple Beth Emet is located at 1770 West Cerritos Avenue, Anaheim. For more information, call (714) 772-4720.
Community Chanukah Celebration at the Merage JCC Get ready to spin some dreidels and head on over to the Merage Jewish Community Center’s Chanukah Celebration on Sunday, December 9. The festivities are from 1 to 4 p.m. and are free and open to the entire community.
Children and adults can enjoy a variety of activities including dreidel games, face painting, a balloon artist, cookie decorating, making Chanukah arts and crafts, searching for gelt in the “Negev,” taking silly photos in photo booths and much more. There will be live performances featuring local theatre and singing groups. A light fare will be available for purchase, including the traditional potato latkes (pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) and pasta dinner. The Merage JCC is located at 1 Federation Way in Irvine. For more information, please visit the website at www.jccoc.org or phone (949) 435-3400.
Latkes and Entertainment
at Temple Judea Temple Judea has a day of Latkes and Entertainment planned for Sunday, December 9, beginning at 2:30 p.m. Temple President Morty Braver will be featured in his original production of “Eddie Fisher and His Friends.” Afterwards congregants and friends will munch on “Lots of Hot Latkes” (with all the trimmings) plus doughnuts and coffee, of course. Temple Judea will culminate the day of celebration with the lighting of a giant outdoor menorah with the second Chanukah candle and some Chanukah songs. The cost of this fun day is $10 per member and $12 for guests. Advance reservations are required.
Also nightly, from Saturday, December 8, through Saturday, December 15, at 5:30 p.m. there will be a giant outdoor Chanukah menorah lighting in the Temple Judea parking lot. Congregants are invited to bring their family and friends of all ages to kindle inspiring lights of freedom.
Temple Judea is at 24512 Moulton Parkway, Laguna Woods. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (949) 830-0470.
Stand-Up Comedian and Sit-Down Dinner at YIOC Young Israel of Orange County will hold its annual Stand-Up Comedian and Sit-Down Dinner on Sunday, December 9, at 5:30 p.m. The Irvine-based congregation described the evening as a “signature event.” For more information, contact Young Israel at (949) 551-1515 or email@example.com.
Chanukah Party for Newport/Irvine Chapter of Heritage Pointe The Annual Pot Luck Chanukah Party of the Newport/Irvine Chapter of Heritage Pointe will be held on Thursday, December 13, at 6:30 p.m. at Temple Bat Yahm. For more information, contact Leba Kramer at (949) 679-8911 or DFMLEBA@cox.net.
Chanukah Dinner at Chabad of Irvine Chabad of Irvine will hold a Chanukah dinner for family and friends on Friday, December 14, at 7:30 p.m. Check out www.chabadirvine.org for details.
Six 13 Offers the Ultimate Chanukah Celebration
BY JUDY FLORMAN
Promising the ultimate of Chanukah celebrations, a bebop Chanukah Shabbaton, fueled by the thumping beat-box intricate arrangements and soulful harmonies of the internationally acclaimed Six 13 a cappella singing group is set for Tustin’s Congregation B’nai Israel December 14 and 15. The charismatic, award-winning internationally-acclaimed group, who parodies Jewish songs in music ranging from hip-hop dance tracks to rock anthems, has been described as “sounding like a full band, while using nothing but their voices.”
Highlighting a weekend of musical festivities, the holiday promises to take on a new light for the community. Festivities commence Friday evening, December 14, when Six 13 will lead Shabbat services in six-part harmony, followed by a Shabbat dinner. The music will continue with Saturday morning services and a luncheon. The gala culminates on Saturday evening, December 15 at 7:15 p.m., with a grand concert of an eclectic array of songs, followed by a Communal Chanukah party at 8:30, featuring dreidel, games, kids activities and treats. This final event is free and open to the public.
The concert will be preceded by a candle lighting ceremony. Six 13 will also participate in children’s services, PJ Library program Saturday morning and interviews and discussion following Saturday’s luncheon.
The ultimate review in The Canadian Jewish News described the group thusly: “Six nice Jewish Boys take the stage, each equipped with only a microphone, a black blazer and the resolve to entertain. Images of choral singing, barbershop, doo-wop enter your brain. Suddenly, you’re hearing full-fledged contemporary pop and soulful rock anthems with hard-hitting ‘drums,’ deep bass and powerful lead vocals. This group is unlike anything you’ve ever seen or heard and you can’t quite figure out how that sound is being generated by nothing more than six guys and their voices.”
Further comments say: “The Jewish favorites you grew up with intermingle with clever parodies of today’s hits and catchy Six 13 originals. Along the way, there are laughs, sing-alongs (both planned and unplanned), demonstrations, words of Torah and more. The laughter of the people in the audience rippled through the room when they were not applauding or humming along.”
B’nai Israel’s Rabbi Elie Spitz said, “With this vocal band bringing an unprecedented style of Jewish music to stage, I want to elevate Chanukah celebrations. What excites me is that this world-class musical concert makes Chanukah more significant as a family and communal extravaganza.”
“Our partner, the Community Scholar Program, headed by director Arie Katz, and B’nai Israel are excited to have Six 13 join us for this truly unique Chanukah celebration that will inspire and entertain all age groups — kids, parents, grandparents, teens and young adults,” stated the event organizer, Beth Elster. “Their beatbox harmonies, spirit and charisma promise to make fans out of the entire community.”
Six 13, who has recorded four award-winning albums, has toured worldwide, from Israel and Germany to Costa Rica and Canada (and Argentina next year), to rave reviews and standing ovations. Chosen to appear in nine different “best of” compilation albums, the group’s songs have been highlighted throughout Jewish radio. Six 13 has more than 20,000 CDs in circulation and is among the top Jewish music artists on iTunes. Six13 has appeared on the Chabad Telethon and was chosen from hundreds of groups, both Jewish and secular, as finalists in the casting process for NBC’s prime-time hit television series The Sing-Off. The group has also become a viral internet sensation with more than one million views on YouTube.
One of the most moving testimonials comes from a service person: “I recently returned from Afghanistan where I was stationed with the U.S. Navy. I listened to your CDs during my seven-month deployment. Your music is awesome and inspiring.”
The group’s leader, Mike Boxer, brings an extensive background in a cappella. He was referred to as “one of the most brilliant, hard-working musicians of our generation” by Mouth Off host Dave Brown. He is an arranger who has penned more than 190 a cappella arrangements for dozens of groups, including the Maccabeats from Yeshiva University and other colleges. In addition to directing Six 13, he has composed most of the originals and arranged the complete repertoire. His music career began ten years ago at Binghamton University, where he formed his first group. Current members of the group include, in addition to Boxer, Eric Dinowitz, Rob Operman, Carai Resmovits, Dan Singer and Mordy Weinstein.
Boxer, founder and director of Halfway Coherent Productions, has produced or contributed to dozens of Jewish music albums, runs the annual Jewish Performing Arts Festival and Bi-annual Best of Jewish A Cappella CD series and hosts KolCast, the monthly podcast dedicated to Jewish a cappella.
“I like to remind communities just how much fun, cool and beautiful it is to be Jewish,” Boxer stated. “Our repertoire includes Shabbas Zemirot, Israeli favorites, Yiddish songs and Yeshiva pop. We’ve performed at such diverse venues as the Jewish Choral festival, the Chabad Telethon and Jewish Heritage Days for major league sport teams.”
Tickets purchased by December 7 are discounted. Cost for the Shabbaton (Friday night dinner and Saturday luncheon: adults $36, children 2 to 12 years $10. After December 7, it’s adults $40, children $15. Tickets for the concert, co-sponsored by CSP, before December 7: children under 18 free with parent; $25 general seating, $54 reserved, $180 patron. After December 7: $10/child, $36 General Seating. College Students $15. No charge for CBI Enrichment Patrons. The Communal Hanukkah Party Saturday, Dec. 15 at 8:30 p.m. is free to all.
For reservations and information, contact the CBI office: (714) 730-9683; firstname.lastname@example.org. or www.cbil8.org.
Congregation B’nai Israel is located at 2111Bryan Ave.,Tustin.
The “Laugh in Peace” Tour Plays at
BY FLORENCE DANN
A Jew and a Muslim walk onto a stage – really – no joke. They start relating stories, sharing experiences and telling jokes. Pretty soon everybody is laughing; the audience has forgotten that one is a rabbi and the other an Egyptian actor. The performers are Rabbi Bob Alper and Ahmed Ahmed, comedy’s latest “odd couple,” who for almost 10 years have entertained audiences of Jews, Muslims, and Christians – all who find themselves enjoying over 100 minutes of sustained laughter.
When Rabbi Alper first contacted Ahmed Ahmed, Ahmed thought it was a practical joke. He was an L.A. comedian and actor, sharing a house with movie star Vince Vaughn. But Rabbi Alper continued talking — telling him that he was a rabbi who did stand-up comedy all around the country and was wondering if Ahmed would be interested in joining him for a show they could call “One Arab. One Jew. One Stage.” When Ahmed learned that synagogues were to be the venues, he was sure it was a prank.
But two months later, in April 2002, Ahmed found himself standing nervously on the pulpit of Congregation Ohev Shalom, outside Philadelphia, before 300 Jews wiping tears of laughter from their eyes following Alper’s opening set. Now the room fell silent.
“My name is Ahmed Ahmed. And I can’t fly anywhere.” And the audience erupted into relieved guffaws.
Since then, Alper and Ahmed have developed a 90-minute show including their two solo sets followed by a breezy, delightfully funny back-and-forth in which they explain the origin of their pairing and share stories from the road.
A native of Providence, Rhode Island, Rabbi Bob Alper graduated from Lehigh University and was ordained as a rabbi at Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972. He served congregations in Buffalo and Philadelphia and earned the Doctor of Ministry degree from the Princeton Theological Seminary. Alper then decided to embark on a second career as a comedian – naturally. “I’m a retired rabbi,” Alper said. “That means I have over 30 years of experience in front of a hostile audience.” Excellent credentials for a comedian!
He now performs internationally, billed as “the world’s only practicing clergyman doing stand-up comedy . . . intentionally.” He has appeared on “Showtime,” “Comedy Central,” “Extra” and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” plus hundreds of radio programs. His fresh, contemporary and totally “unorthodox” style of comedy has been delighting audiences around the country. And his unique brand of humor appeals to everyone – from a synagogue crowd to a corporate event to a typical Saturday night comedy club.
Ahmed Ahmed is a born Egyptian and a devout Muslim, who once earned a living in Hollywood playing terrorist roles – spraying bullets and shouting “Allah!” – before quitting in disgust. He is also featured in the TBS comedy “Sullivan and Son.” Ahmed founded the groundbreaking “Axis of Evil Comedy Tour,” which is performed from LA to Dubai, and created the enlightening and funny film Just Like Us that won raves at The Tribeca Film Festival. He’s appeared in numerous movies, including Don’t Mess with the Zohan, is a regular performer at The Comedy Store in Hollywood and tours all across the US and Europe. He was the winner of the first annual Richard Pryor Award for ethnic comedy at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland.
Ahmed and Alper began touring the United States in 2002 with their ground-breaking show “One Arab, One Jew, One Stage” about interfaith harmony and essential human dignity. The comics say the idea they want to convey is that two people from very culturally different backgrounds can be friends and work together without focusing on the political issues. Both believe the show has worked because they try to “bridge the gap” between the two cultures.
Together, Alper and Ahmed have performed nearly 200 times throughout North America and London at colleges, churches, mosques, synagogues and theatres in a show that Detroit Free Press religion writer David Crumm calls “one of the most unusual and uplifting cross-cultural experiences you’ll have.” The New York Times declared that the show “had the audience convulsing.”
Alper and Ahmed have also received warm, positive recognition internationally, including CNN’s “American Morning with Paula Zahn,” NPR, BBC, “The Today Show,” newspapers from major cities across the nation and in an Associated Press article appearing in hundreds of papers. “They have charmed audiences with good, clean humor and managing to keep the audience laughing throughout the evening. Funny, bright, fast paced and certainly family friendly – a terrific evening of humor and insight.”
University Synagogue invites the entire community to enjoy the first night of Chanukah with Ahmed and Alper’s “The Laugh In Peace Tour,” an evening of hilarious, non-political comedy. The show begins at 7:30 p.m., on Saturday, December 8. Adults and children 11 and over are welcome. All tickets are $18 in advance and $22 at the door. Patron tickets are available at $100 and include preferred parking and seating and a post-show champagne and chocolate reception. University Synagogue is at 3400 Michelson Drive in Irvine. For more information, contact the synagogue at (949)553-3535 or www.universitysynagogue.org.