For four American comedians, the decision to fly to Israel to perform their stand-up routines was no joke. Gary Gulman of Dane Cook's Tourgasm, Craig Robinson of NBC's The Office, and professional comics Dwight Slade and Avi Liberman, have now joined comedic forces to benefit Jerusalem's Crossroads Center, an intervention program and community center targeting at-risk English-speaking teens.
Liberman, who was born in Israel, conceived the tour (now called Crossroads Comedy) during a visit to Jerusalem six years ago when childhood friend and Crossroads director Caryn Green jokingly suggested that he perform for the teens served by the center. Violence from the second intifada was at its peak at the time, and it occurred to Liberman that a group of American comedians would be able to provide a safe night out for Israel's harried English-speaking families.
With the help of a Los Angeles promoter, Liberman rallied his colleagues and returned to Israel a year later with three of his peers, a small stipend, and his big idea. After their first show in Ra'anana, when a young girl approached Liberman to thank him for giving her a reason to laugh for the first time in more than a year, he knew he had to continue his mission. Now in its fifth year, the Crossroads Comedy tour will add a second round of shows beginning in December.
Liberman makes an effort to bring a range of comics here, not only to appeal to a wide audience, but also to create prominent emissaries of Israel, both Jewish and non-Jewish.
The Jerusalem Post spoke to Robinson, who recently appeared in the hit film Knocked Up, while he was exploring the flea market in Old Jaffa. So far, the trip has been an eye-opening experience for the comic. Though he had not seriously considered coming to Israel before receiving Liberman's invitation to perform, his short stay has already transformed him into a devoted shwarma fan and a Zionist with plans for a return trip. "After being here," said Robinson, "I will be a Zionist now. I am for Israel, and for the life of Israel."
The Crossroads Center, which serves 30 to 60 young people daily, was started by Green, a social worker and American immigrant, who observed the dangers faced by at-risk English-speaking teens in Jerusalem who are often homeless and drug-addicted. Although there is an existing network of social services that cater to young people, Anglos are often prevented from receiving the help they need because of language barriers. Crossroads gives these teens a viable alternative to life on the streets, providing outreach to troubled young people, a drop-in center that provides both recreation and support, a crisis center with counseling and rehabilitation, educational services, and various support groups.
Thanks to an anonymous donation to cover expenses, the entirety of every NIS 100 ticket will go to Crossroads this year.
The remainder of the Crossroads tour can be seen at the following locations: Ra'anana's Yad L'banim on June 26 (tickets: 09-761-0549), Jerusalem's Yellow Submarine on June 27 (tickets: 02-624-6265) , and Efrat's Cultural Center on June 28 (tickets: 02-624-6265).
Doors open at 8 p.m.
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