Shpiel appeal

‘Dead Sea Discs: The Saga Continues,’ a Purim benefit, will lighten up the atmosphere and raise funds for a local synagogue.

Purim mask 521 (photo credit: MCT)
Purim mask 521
(photo credit: MCT)
What do you do if you want to raise money for your synagogue, have a dynamic and talented congregation and it’s Purim? If you’re anything like Allan Rabinowitz and his friends at Mizmor LeDavid, you put on a show.
In fact, that approach worked very well two years ago, and they’re hoping it will be even more successful this year.
In 2009 they presented The Dead Sea Discs, a musical parody written by Rabinowitz and performed by him and a coterie of his fellow congregants at their shul in Arnona.
The turnout at Mizmor LeDavid, which seated 130, was so overwhelming that they had to actually turn people away. The show was a great success, and everyone had a ball.
Riding on the wave of that experience, they are upping the ante with a second installment, Dead Sea Discs: The Saga Continues. This time for their performance on Sunday night, they have rented the auditorium of the Masorti School on Rehov Betar, which seats 350, and hope to fill the house.
“The play will be even better this year,” says Rabinowitz. “For one thing, we will have a proper stage. That makes a big difference.”
The premise of the play is that a set of Dead Sea discs have been found which, as Rabinowitz puts it, are “prophetic oracles leading to greater revelation.”
In that vein, he has written about a dozen songs for this Purimshpiel, which takes a good-natured poke at everything from Jerusalem, religions, fanaticism and New Age spirituality to corporate greed and blind development. The songs are parodies of popular folk and R&B tunes, substituted with his own lyrics. For example, the Eagles’ hit song “Hotel California” becomes “Kotel California”; Dion’s “Runaround Sue” is morphed into “Wandering Jew”; and Elvis’s rollicking “Jailhouse Rock” is deftly transformed into “Sanctified Rock.” A narrator threads the story together, while the lyrics are projected onto a screen so the audience can sing along whenever the cast bursts into song.
“The songs are very topical,” says Rabinowitz, “and they make a humorous comment on ourselves.”
More than that, Rabinowitz will not divulge. “I can’t reveal the Dead Sea treasures or they lose their power,” he quips.
He does admit, however, that his inspiration comes from the latent rock star in him that has never really been played out. And the same can be said of his cast mates.
Accompanying him and his acoustic guitar are four musicians playing keyboard, saxophone, violin and electric guitar, as well as seven singers, all members of the shul and all harboring a hidden rock star, says Rabinowitz, who is a tour guide by profession and writes travel pieces and short fiction.
“They are a group of very talented people.
Even the rehearsals are fun,” he says. “The people have been dedicating a lot of time to this. They find the time to come and rehearse, and it’s a blast. It’s a way of binding us together.”
What he finds all the more endearing is that “there are no arguments and no egos involved.”
A strong motivating factor is the group’s dedication to their synagogue. Established five years ago, Mizmor LeDavid is a private shul that started out as a minyan in the basement of Neil and Frances Kummer’s home.
Neil Kummer is now the president of the popular Orthodox synagogue, which is located at the corner of Efrata and Israel Giladi streets in Arnona. The Kummers are also in the play – Neil on stage and Frances behind the scenes.
“There is an emphasis on o p e n - ness to the community,” says Sarah Noach, a cast member and congregant of the Carlebach-style synagogue.
“Many young people come to daven there, and everyone is welcome.”
And there is a lot of singing, she adds. “It’s packed on Friday nights. It’s a very open and tolerant shul. The people enjoy it because of the atmosphere and the singing,” she says.
While the synagogue has a membership of some 40 or 50 families, on Friday nights it hosts up to 200 people.
“Young people like to go there,” says Rabinowitz.
“They find their place.”
Hence the need to raise funds for rent, seating and other necessities.
Rabinowitz is no stranger to raising funds. In 2009, he and his wife, Tzippi Moss, and their 18-year-old son Ezra spent more than two months walking the country from end to end to raise money for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) research in Israel. Between Succot and Hanukka, they walked from Tel Dan to Taba. Equipped with just a backpack each, they trekked 10 hours a day, camping out or being invited to sleep at people’s homes along the way. “It was a great way to learn about the country,” says Rabinowitz. “And to lose weight,” he adds. People pledged money for every kilometer they walked. It was so successful that they raised an impressive $36,000 for the cause. “It was far beyond our expectations,” he marvels.
Rabinowitz and his friends hope that their upcoming Purimspiel will follow suit.
Dead Sea Discs: The Saga Continues takes place on Sunday at 9 p.m. in the auditorium of the Masorti School at Rehov Betar 8, corner of Rehov Caspi. Admission is NIS 30. Tickets will be sold at the door. All proceeds go to support the Mizmor LeDavid Synagogue. For tickets or information, call 673-5338.