Kyle Berger, left, and David Granirer headline the Jewish Seniors Alliance’s A Night in the Catskills on March 17. (photos from JSA)
The Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an event that’s all about laughter.
A Night in the Catskills: Jewish Humour Then and Now takes place at Congregation Schara Tzedeck March 17, 6 p.m.
“Jewish humour has enabled the Jewish world to gain strength through a history that shows that we should not be in existence today, but here we are bigger, stronger and better than ever!” said Marilyn Berger, a past president of JSA, who will make her debut as a stand-up comedian at the event. “Ask Kyle,” she said, referring to one of her sons. “I have given my family plenty to laugh about.”
It is perhaps not a coincidence then that Kyle Berger preceded his mother on the standup stage, and also produces comedy shows. He and David Granirer, founder of Stand Up for Mental Health, are headliners of the 20th anniversary event, which will include a performance by magician Stephen R. Kaplan, aka the Maestro. The whole megillah will be emceed by JSA board member Michael Geller, whose involvement in JSA was inspired by his late father, Sam Geller.
“He derived a great deal of joy from regularly attending JSA events and this is one of the reasons why the organization is so special to me,” Geller told the Independent.
“This comedy night is a follow up to a similar event organized by JSA 13 years ago,” he explained. “It was initiated by a phone call from the late Serge Haber, who called to tell me that the province had just canceled JSA’s gaming grant, but he knew my father would want me to help replace the funds. I asked how much was the grant. He said it was $18,000. I told him that was too much for me, but I had an idea.
“I was a fan of the website Old Jews Telling Jokes. Since JSA served many older Jews, I offered to book a room, buy some deli, and invite 17 of my friends to join me and each put up $1,000 and we would entertain one another with our favourite Jewish jokes.”
Haber – who founded JSA – liked the idea, as did the board, but they also wanted to join, and couldn’t afford to pay $1,000 each. So, the format was changed to one where people would attend and donate what they could, said Geller. Held at Congregation Beth Israel, almost 250 showed up.
“We presented clips from Old Jews Telling Jokes and invited people in the audience to share a joke in return for a donation. Everybody agreed it was a fabulous event,” said Geller. “There was just one small problem. We didn’t raise very much money.
“So, this year we are charging $118 dollars to attend. Some generous members of the community are coming forward and agreeing to be sponsors. This will allow other seniors in the community who can’t afford $118 to attend. It has also allowed us to hire Tim Bissett, an experienced professional event organizer to assist with the program.”
Expressing gratitude to the sponsors on behalf of JSA, Geller said, “we are hoping other community members will come forward, especially those who regularly share their favourite Jewish jokes on the golf course. Sponsors will be invited to participate in the program by telling a favourite joke or two, or introducing a favourite comedian or routine.”
For his part, Geller is preparing for his role as emcee by watching vintage and contemporary Jewish comedians and selecting material. “The program will also include some professional comedians who are volunteering their time, and special appearances by local rabbis who have been urged to share stories they would never tell in shul,” he said.
“I am thrilled to be celebrating our 20th anniversary and look forward to going from strength to strength as my own children now, believe it or not, become seniors!” said Berger, who shared her appreciation for the organization that Haber started.
“As I gracefully age,” she said, “I thank Serge for enabling me to spend my golden senior years embraced by the love that Seniors Alliance offers.”
“JSA undertakes many programs that benefit so many Jewish seniors, including the excellent Senior Line magazine,” said Geller. “While we are supported by many community organizations and foundations, we need additional funding. I am, therefore, hoping this evening will help promote the organization’s good work and, this time, actually raise money to allow it to continue.”
For tickets to A Night in the Catskills or to become an event sponsor, visit jsalliance.org or call 604-732-1555.