Free Hannukah Play – A skit for when the lights are lit

imagesFree Hannukah Play? Get your presto-instant Hannukah skit right here:

That’s right! A certified organic kosher Hannukah play for kids! 3 characters, five minutes. Just the right little shpiel for your celebration.

 

HANNUKAH PLAY

By Rabbi Daniel Brenner

www.rabbidanielbrenner.com

ON STAGE: DR D, APPLE SAUCE, and LATKE

 

DR D

 

Hi, I’m Dr. Dreidel and I’m here with my friends Latkes and apple sauce to tell you all about the Maccabees.

Continue reading “Free Hannukah Play – A skit for when the lights are lit”

Free Passover Play: A Fun Seder for Kids!

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Need a fun play for your seder?

This free Passover Play is a 10 minute script for all ages

I wrote this kid and adult friendly alternative to the Maggid section (the Passover story section) of the Haggadah when my kids were in elementary school. This short play is a contemporary take which makes the story current but stays true to the Exodus narrative. I’ve written it for large crowds — so there are 13 parts, but if you have a smaller gathering you can easily double up the roles. Enjoy!

 

LET MY PEOPLE GO!

 

A short play for the seder

 

By Rabbi Daniel Brenner

 

 

 

 

CAST: NARRATOR, JOSEPH, BENJAMIN, PHAROAH, ADVISOR, HEBREW 1, HEBREW 2, HEBREW 3, BOSS, BAT PHAROAH, MOSES, GOD, AARON  (13 parts)

 

NARRATOR: Our story begins in the land of Egypt where Joseph, once a prisoner, is now the Pharaoh’s chief advisor.

JOSEPH: So how are things back in Israel?

BENJAMIN: Oy! Terrible. Our gardens and crops are dying. There is no rain this year. That is why we had to come down to Egypt!

JOSEPH: Well, don’t worry..life in Egypt is fantastic. Xbox One in every house, High Definition 70 inch televisions, Lincoln Navigators in the driveway, This is the most powerful nation on the planet!

BENJAMIN: Did you have rain this year? Are the gardens and crops doing well?

JOSEPH: We don’t have to worry about that. I’ve stored away tons of food in giant warehouses. The Pharaoh will be able to feed the people for three years at least, even if we get no rain.

BENJAMIN: What does the Pharaoh think of us Hebrews?

JOSEPH: He loves me. He welcomes the Hebrews into his land. Bring the entire family, we’ll make a great life here.

Narrator: The Hebrews all moved to Egypt and had many children and lived a successful life. But after many years, after Joseph and his brothers had died, a new Pharaoh rose to power.

PHAROAH: Advisor, bring me the latest census report. I want to know all the people who I rule over!

ADVISOR: Yes, you’re Royal Highness. I have the numbers here.

PHAROAH: Let’s see..Nubians, Midians, yes, very good. Are there really that many Hebrews?

ADVISOR: Oh yes, your highness. They are growing in number. They are very strong workers.

PHAROAH: Do you think that might be a danger? Perhaps they will challenge my rule – make demands. You know how these workers are always complaining about the size of the rocks for the new Pyramids. I am worried that they will use their strength in numbers to rise up against me!

ADVISOR: Yes, you are right, we must do something to break their spirits.

PHAROAH: First, let us begin with something small. We’ll get them to make more bricks each day. If that doesn’t work, we’ll eliminate the fifteen-minute breaks. If that doesn’t break them, then maybe we’ll turn to harsher measures.

Narrator: The Hebrew workers struggled to keep up with Pharaoh’s demands.

HEBREW 1: My hands are killing me. And my back, oy! I can’t take this pace.

HEBREW 2: We can make a thousand bricks a day—but two thousand? No team can work that hard! We’ll fall over!

HEBREW 3: Get back to work, the boss is coming!

BOSS: Efficiency, people! We have got to make 900 more bricks by sundown! Come on, let’s work faster!

HEBREW 1: We are working as fast as we can, boss.

BOSS: Listen, smart aleck, I’ve got a lot of pressure on my shoulders. If Pharaoh doesn’t get his bricks, I’m out of a job. I got a family to feed, too, you know. So get back down in the pit and start working!

HEBREW 2: We haven’t had a break all day!

BOSS: And you are not going to get one! Work!

HEBREW 3: You know what, boss; you have become a real pain in the backside!

BOSS: What’d you say?

HEBREW 3: You heard me.

[The BOSS walks over and pushes Hebrew 3 to the ground]

BOSS: Now get back to work before I get really angry!

Narrator: Meanwhile, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted a young Hebrew child. The child, Moses, was raised with the finest Egypt had to offer.

BAT PHAROAH: Here, sweetheart, eat your honey cakes before your flute lesson.

MOSES: I’m so excited about the party this evening.

BAT PHAROAH: Your new robe looks lovely, dear. I just hope that the Pyramid is finished. Your grandfather has the workers working double time just to get the place finished before the great assembly.

MOSES: I heard that the Hebrews were complaining.

BAT PHAROAH: Complaining? Don’t worry about that. We take care of the needs of all our workers, dear. They are fed, given homes, and we give them a new pair of shoes each year. We are very generous. The only problem is that there are simply too many Hebrews. For that reason, we are cutting down their number. I know that it is sad that we have to kill off their baby boys, but we are really doing it for their own good.

MOSES: I know so little about the world. Someday I’d like to go out of the palace and see how they live.

BAT PHAROAH: They are not clean like us, dear. Especially the Hebrews. They throw garbage on the streets, and the smells are truly horrible.

Narrator: One day Moses decides to sneak out of the palace, and see for himself the plight of the Hebrews.

HEBREW 1: I can’t work, today, I’m sick! And I hurt my arm yesterday lifting stones!

BOSS: I don’t want to hear excuses. This pyramid has got to be finished by Thursday! Today is Wednesday! So get moving!

HEBREW 1: I can’t work. Please, listen to me, have some compassion!

HEBREW 2: Give him a break, boss!

BOSS: Shut up!

HEBREW 3: Don’t get involved!

HEBREW 2: I’m tired of this, boss! My cousin there is hurt. He can’t work today. And he’s not working. So go tell Pharaoh that he’ll have to hire some more workers or this isn’t getting done!

BOSS: Shut up!

[Boss pushes Hebrew 2 to the ground.]

HEBREW 1: Stop it!

BOSS: I’m going to hurt you bad, you whiny Hebrew!

HEBREW 3: Stop! One of Pharaoh’s princes is coming!

MOSES: What is happening?

BOSS: I am going to give this man the beating he deserves, your honor! Watch this!

MOSES: No!

[Moses hits the Boss, who falls to the ground]

HEBREW 3: Oh no! What did you do to the boss? We’ll be blamed for this! We’ll be punished!

MOSES: What have I done?  What have I done?

Narrator: Moses ran away, far off into the wilderness. Where he is taken in by Yitro, and marries one of Yitro’s daughter’s Zipporah. One day, as Moses is taking care of yitro’s sheep, he stumbles across a burning bush.

GOD: Moses, Moses!

MOSES: Who is that? What is going on? What is happening?

GOD: It is me, the God of your ancestors, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

MOSES: You must have the wrong number.

GOD: This is no time for jokes. You must go back to Egypt and stand up to Pharaoh! Then you will lead the people back to their homeland!

MOSES: How will I do that? The people do not know me! I have no power now that I have run away!

GOD: I will be with you. Go to your sister, Miriam, and brother, Aaron, and stand up to Pharaoh!

Narrator: Moses returns to Egypt, with his wife and son, Gershom. Aaron and Moses approach Pharaoh.

PHAROAH: What do you want?

AARON: Our people need a three-day vacation. We need to go outside of the city so that we can pray to God in our own way.

PHAROAH: Why can’t you wait for the festival of the pyramids? Then your people will have a chance to celebrate with everyone.

MOSES: We do not wish to pray to your gods. We have one God, who is mightier than all of your gods.

PHAROAH: You must be joking. The gods have made Egypt a great nation. What has your God done for you?

MOSES: You’ll see what our God can do! And then you’ll give in to our demands!

PHAROAH:  Don’t count on it, Hebrew!

Narrator: Pharaoh was a stubborn man. Even after plagues of blood, frogs, lice, disease, hail, and darkness, he would not let the Hebrews take a day off. It wasn’t until a disease struck and killed the first born of every Egyptian, that the Pharaoh changed his mind.

PHAROAH: Don’t you understand what is happening?

ADVISOR: No, your highness, I don’t know why our gods are not protecting us.

PHAROAH: Everything we did to the Hebrews is now happening to us!!!

ADVISOR: Maybe their God is powerful!

PHAROAH: Tell the police that are surrounding their neighborhood to let them go.

Narrator: That night, Moses, spoke to the people.

MOSES: Put on your sandals, we will not have time to bake the bread for tomorrow! Tonight we will leave Egypt, and set out for a new land! Our children, and our children’s children will remember this night! They will tell the story of how we stood up to Pharaoh, and how God helped us to be free!

AARON: Let all who are hungry come and eat!

Narrator: And thus ends our little play.

Faster, Rabbi! Drill! Drill!

Faster, Rabbi! Drill! Drill! is the one-man-show I wrote and performed during my last year of rabbinical school – 1997. It was performed at the Goldman Theater of the 14th Street Y in New York City, Poet’s House of the University of Pennsylvania, and at a number of rabbinical conferences of CLAL.

Prelude

Right before I entered rabbinical school, I had a dream. I’m in a large suburban synagogue. The kind of synagogue with a gift shop which carries little plastic Torahs with gold foil covers, huge chai paperweights, aprons that say “ I love my Bubbe”, statues of Moses bench pressing the ten commandments, and thirty menorahs competing for the title of ugliest ritual art object on earth. I’m in services and the president of the synagogue calls me up to the pulpit to deliver my sermon. My body feels heavy, as if I’ve drunk a punch bowl of egg nog, as I nervously walk up to the podium through the bug-eyed crowd. I take my place behind the lectern, peek down to insure that my private parts are covered, and look out at the vast rows of well-dressed people, a packed house waiting for my first words. I give them a look of confidence. I’m at the top of my game. I take a slow breath and oh-so-gracefully slip my hand into the inside pocket of my blazer to get my speech. I pull out my speech. But it isn’t my speech. It’s a piece of saran wrap folded like a speech . I’m panicking, but I open the saran wrap anyway, hoping that somehow the speech will appear in this silky see-through plastic, but I hold it in front of me and all I can see is a blurred, hazy vision of a congregation, laughing right at me.

Miami Beach

I’m in Miami Beach, the only place where orange, light blue, and brown match. I’m eating in a crowded Glatt Kosher Deli with a contingent of Orthodox relatives I’ve never met before. How we are related I’m not sure, but there is some story about our great grandfathers and a chicken inspector. I’m not making this up. Above me, on the wall is a clock with a glossed picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He’s looking right at me. This makes me feel uncomfortable. You see, I grew up in North Carolina. It’s red earth and frozen bagels, it’s yarmulkas tucked quickly into pockets, it’s alcoholic neighbors who smoke long brown cigarettes, eat ham & cheese sandwiches on white bread while washing their motorhomes and red haired girls and proms and Bojangles fried chicken , gentility, charming and false, worship of manicured lawns, ACC basketball, and yes real bit BBQ, I grew up as a Jew in North Carolina, a gefilte fish out of water. So being around Orthodox relatives doesn’t feel like home to me. With their long sleeves, black hats and sheitels they could have been extras in Yentl. And here I am surrounded by these distant family members, and even though I’m wearing shorts and a T-shirt, I feel naked as if everyone is staring to see if I’m circumcised. I’m in rabbinical school, I remind myself, but around them I don’t feel like a Rabbi at all. I feel protestant.

Our Israeli waitress has been gone for what seems like forever. So I volunteer to go to the back of the restaurant and get us another pitcher of water.

Just as I grab the pitcher I see an eleven year old boy who I recognize from my job the past summer as a camp Rabbi. He’s wearing a Chicago Bulls baseball hat. I also notice that it reads “Back to Back” alluding to the championships won by the team. “Back to Back” also happens to be the Jewish law for how two men should sleep in the same bed. I take a mental note of this.

Then the kid yells to his mother, pointing directly at me– “That’s the Rabbi, look, mom, that’s the Rabbi!” I scamper for a broom closet but no such luck. A frieghtening woman emerges from a plate of spaghetti- “That’s the Rabbi? she says, That’s the Rabbi?’ Then this mutant from the planet Bloomingdales leaves her spaghetti and runs toward me. She pinches my cheeks, “You’re the Rabbi!” she says, “So nice to meet you, such a nice young Rabbi!”
The restaurant got quiet. I saw my relatives peering over my shoulder. In that moment, me feeling protestant, and inauthentic, I just couldn’t face her, I couldn’t be a Rabbi. There was only one thing to do. Lie. “I’m sorry, ma’am” I whispered,” you must have me mistaken for someone else. I’m not a Rabbi, I said. I’m in dental school.”

I returned to my table of relatives. I sat down. Nobody said a word. We ate. They must think that it is a joke that someone would consider me a Rabbi. I feel awful. I look up at the clock and the picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who was once again staring at me. But this time, I feel guilty.

Two Stories Set in Germantown, or How God Works

It’s October. My roomate is in Detroit. It’s 2 AM and I’m sleeping on my mattress on the floor bedroom in a borderline neighborhood. It’s the typical bachelor pad- decorated with old pizza boxes and laundry leftover from the eighties. It’s my first year of Rabbinical school. I’m in a deep sleep and suddenly I wake up because someone in the living room is playing my guitar. This is scary not only because there is a stranger in my house, but because they have very little musical talent. I think it through- there is a robber in the house. They have picked up the guitar and accidently ran their fingers across the strings. Oh my God,What if they come in here and find me? I got to get out of here. So I get up, and I decide to sneak out into the hall and hide behind a door. After a few minutes of listening very closely I hear nothing. No footsteps, no opening and closing of drawers, basically no robbery soundtrack whatsoever. So I decide to sneak into the living room and see if the intruder has left. Noone there.This is a refleif. So I go back to my bedroom. And as I walk in, I hear rustling papers. I freeze. They’re in here. But I scan the room and see that there are no humans other than me. Then, I see, on the floor, the intruder…It’s a mouse, who springs across the floor and into the bookshelf. Ok Mr. Mouse, I’m gonna get you! I bang on the floor but he won’t come out, soon I start ripping books out of the shelf. The Art of Biblical Narrative, My Antonia, Everyman’s Talmud, Watchmen, zing, zing, zing, The Mishnah, I give it a kiss, throw it on the bed, zing. But then the little mouse runs across the room into my laundry. I throw shirts in the air, kick at it, stomp, but it runs across the room and behind my desk. This is man vs. nature. Cunning vs. Wilderness. This is my Rabbinical studies, my philosophy degree up against, well, actual wisdom that’s useful. But I’m the man, so I devise a plan. I go to the closet and drag out an old suitcase. I open it in the middle of the floor and I start chasing the mouse around the room. It darts and dashes about, and then in a moment of stupidity or fantasizing about cheese, it goes into the suitcase. Bam! I got it. The suitcase is closed. Man wins. I put on a pair of shoes and take the suitcase outside to release this little mouse back into the wild. I start walking to the park.

Sometime before I get to the park, it hits me that I’m in my pajamas. Not only am I in my pajamas, but I’m carrying a suitcase. A suitcase with a mouse in it. And I’m wearing my dress shoes and it’s 2 in the morning in Germantown.

Two months later. My roomate is out of town, again, and I’m responsible for walking the dog. Luna is a strange dog – she’s part wolf and part bunny rabbit. But she looks ferocious, and that helps in this neighborhood. Every morning and evening we walk to the park, take a short stroll, pee and poop. Just the dog, I mean.
So one morning, Luna is sniffing around like dogs are wont to do and she’s going wild over this one bush. I look down and I see lying there about 20 vials of crack-cocaine just sitting there in a plastic bag. I immediately pretend like I didn’t see it. I look around for any uzi-toting thugs and I encourage Luna to do her business. We run back to the house.

But then I’m in the house thinking, what am I supposed to do now? I mean do I call the Police? Then I’ll have to wait forever, and I’ll be questioned, and then they’ll probably go arrest some innocent people and it’s such a crooked judicial system and the drug laws are absurd..so forget it.

But, what if I don’t call? Then some kid will end up with the stuff and that would be on my conscience. Some poor teenager dying of crack that I could have stopped. That’s it. I leash Luna again, for protection, grab a paper bag and I go back to the park. I feel like a good citizen. I’m getting rid of drugs. I’m Barbara Bush. I go to the park and making sure that noone is watching I put the crack in the bag. I cross the street and think about which trash can I’ll dump it in.

At about this time I see a police car drive slowly past me. This is when I realize that I am now a White man in a Black neighborhood with a mean looking dog and an amount of crack liable to get me a minimum of ten years behind bars. This is where my active prayer life as a Rabbinical student comes in handy. Ribono Shel Olam, Master of the Universe, I say, let this cop drive by. Avoid the shame on my family, my Rabbinical school, the old Jewish ladies at the Geriatric center, and just then God remembers something. God remembers that one night, on this very same street, God watched me walk in my pajamas and a suitcase to return a stray mouse to it’s home, and then God had pity on me as I had had on the mouse. And with infinite mercy, God let that cop roll on by.

I’ve always felt that God is watching me. Even when I was young, even when I was in my house on Ridgewood avenue, sitting on the toilet, I felt this divine presence hovering above the cold tile-floor. Yes, I feared an alligator would somehow make it through the plumbing and bite my tushy, but I also trusted that God was looking out for me, protecting me even in the most trecherous of places .

Faster Rabbi, Drill, Drill!

When your car is stolen, you do this funny thing of looking around to see if you can find it somewhere other than where you parked it. Well, maybe I parked on the other side of the street,you say to yourself, or maybe I spaced out and parked in the neighbor’s driveway, or perhaps it rolled somewhere. Cars rarely move on their own unless they are named Herbie or Kit. So you eventually give up and call the police.

After our car was stolen, and about a month of rent-a-cars, we got a new car and a shiny new steering wheel car lock, the club. I also got a new Clergy sign to put on my dashboard. It’s the weekend of Lisa’s birthday and we go to a beachfront hotel in Cape May. On sunday morning we are getting ready to go back to Philly for Lisa’s party, jump in our new car, and well, we have difficulty getting the steering wheel lock to unlock. I jiggled and banged and twisted and the lock would not budge. Then a guy comes out of the Hotel, and watching me, yells out “Hey, that Club sure does work!” So Lisa is upset, and I say “don’t worry, I’ll call the police and they’ll get it off.” Three minutes later the entire Cape May police force is on the scene. The first cop, 6’3′, 350 pounds of him, comes strutting out of his car with a cigarette dangling from the side of his mouth. On his lapel is a glossed enamel pin of a pig. He tosses the cigartette and it rolls under my car. This is smart, I’m thinking, just blow up the car and we won’t have to deal with the club. Then he realizes that he can’t quite fit in my toyota. So he leans into the car and jiggles and twists and bangs at the lock. Then he picks up my ice scraper and starts smaking it against the club. I’m not convinced that this will save us. Then a second cop gives it a shot. This guy is the creative genius of the two. He tries everything, nail clippers, keys, hairpins, pliers, until, frustrated, he starts smacking the thing with the ice scraper. He comes out of the car, dejected. “What about the fire department?”, I ask. They call, but the guy says, “short of cutting your steering wheel in two with a chainsaw, there’s nothing much we can do for you.”

It’s hopeless. We’re stranded. It starts to rain. Then the cop sees my clergy sign. “You in for the Christian walk-a-thon?’, he asks. No, I’m not that kind of clergy, I say. “What kind are you then? he asks. Jewish. “Oh, we’ll how about that! My brother reverted to Judaism.” We talk for a while about the stuff he’s experienced with his brother, Hannukah, the taste of Matzah ball soup, and then he walks over to the other cop. Then he comes back and says, “we’re gonna call this guy named Earl for you.” Earl was a retired locksmith, but it was sunday morning, and that meant one thing, Earl was sitting at his favorite fishing hole. But, seeing as I was clergy, Earl’s wife decides to drive out and tell him that there is an emergency and about an hour later, Earl shows up in this raggedy old Ford van. Earl is as raggedy as his van. He’s about 70, he’s still got on his fishing boots. He wheezes between every breath and probably hasn’t shaved or showered since the Nixon administration. Earl is not the ice scraper type. First, he says “Tell the little lady to get in the back seat.” So Lisa begrugingly gets in back. He immediately gets to work with screwdrivers and wrenches and then he says- damn I’m gonna have to drill her off. He starts at it with a mikita rechargable but after ten minutes he looks at me and says, “Rabbi, We need more juice”

So he hooks up this huge power drill to his van and he starts going at the lock, he’s wheezing and coughing and chanting” Come on baby, come on girl, come to daddy..and his breathing starts to sound like an asmathic Darth Vader and he’s drilling and he starts coughing and he stops the drill and chokes and he stops breathing. The guy is dead. I think, oh my God, now not only do we still have this lock on the car, now the only locksmith in miles is dead. I grab his arm and shake him.. Earl, Earl, are you Ok? He wakes up, startled, but, is allright. “You’ll have to drill he tells me.” By this time, I was ready to drill that lock to shreds, so I grabbed that monster and I started drilling away.Then Earl said, with the last of his strength, “Faster, Rabbi, Faster!”, and 20 seconds later the Club came right off. Earl then asked if he could speak with me behind his van. “Well, he said, I normally charge 150 for a job like this, but I had so much fun doing it, I’ll charge you 50. But looking into his eyes, I could tell there was something more he wanted. Humbly, he asked, “do you mind if I keep the club?” That night I imagined him framing it and hanging it over his fireplace alongside a stuffed moose.We got home just in time to shove everything in the closet before the guests arrived.

Sometimes God sends people, like Earl, to rescue me, and I always feel like It’s God paying the check for a big meal at some posh restaurant and turning to me and waiting for me to say “Next one’s on me”. That is the obligation part that comes with being a Rabbi. The sense of responsibility and commitment that weighs heavy on my soul. But I’ve felt this ever since I was a child. My best friend in childhood was Sammy. Sam’s dad ran the local Porno movie house and his mom, once a southern belle and professional ballerina, was the president of the reform synagogue. They smoked pot, snorted a little coke, and let Sammy and I do whatever we wanted. Sammy was one disturbed child. I once remember Sammy, when we were about ten, just going wild over the fact that cats would always land on their feet. So crazy, he was, that he was tossing his sister’s kittens up to the ceiling and watching them crash land. I set out to catch all the kittens and he just kept throwing them, me begging him to stop, but he was laughing and totally out of control. And I just had this voice in me telling me “Daniel, it’s up to you to save these kittens. They are creations of God. You are with God, Daniel. Save those kittens.” This is the responsibility I have felt all my life, which is now gripping me as a Rabbi.

Smell the Ham

A story from childhood. After playing basketball with my neighbor and best friend Eugene Glankler, we’d always go into his house and raid the refigerator. Most of the time this meant me eating slices of wonder bread while Gene devoured slice after slice of Oscar Mayer ham. We’re sitting there in his kitchen and he knows that I won’t eat the ham, so he’s dangling it in front of my face going “ Smell the ham! Smell the ham!” I’d tell him to bug off, and then we’d usually end up on the living room carpet, wrestling, attempting to copy the pile drivers and triple-half nelsons we’d seen our heros Black Jack Mulligan and Ricky Steamboat do in gold tights on TV. The most damage we ever inflicted was to his mother’s furniture. Then we’d go upstairs and have a pillow fight. Gene’s older sister had embroidered “Jesus Loves Me” on a lace pillow, and Gene took great delight in smacking me over the head with this holy object.

I was thinking about my first exposure to catholics when as part of a National Conference of Christians and Jews program I got to go to Washington D.C. to spend a couple of days at the Catholic University seminary. This is the seminary famous for having the most buff portrayal of Jesus in their cathedral. You look up at him and he’s like nautilus Jesus, a hulking, bicep bound god who could come down off that cross and kick your ass. It’s like ‘He’s back and he’s ready for blood, return of the savior -coming of the messiah part 2 coming soon to a house of worship near you.’ I know intellectually that Jesus was a Jew, but up there, blond curls with a crown of thorns, the man scares me. But somehow I feel safe at the seminary, living with the men who have given up secular culture and are training to be priests. I’m going with them to theology classes, and prayer times and dining with them in their small cafeteria. The first night, after having spent a long exhausting day in dialogue and prayer, I’m starving. I grab a tray, get on the meal line and quickly find myself face to face with a large ham. This was not a nouvea cuisine lean meat rosemary spiced ham This was the ham of a Jewish boy’s dreams, the huge, juicy one with pineapple slices and a cherry. “I’ll just have the mashed potatoes and green beans.” I say. Not much of a meal, but to be honest, I don’t care. I love mashed potatoes. I sit down with a group of priests in training and begin to eat. They are all eating ham, and relishing every bite as if they’d been living on peanut butter sandwiches for months. “This is delicious” they say to each other, the ham juices dripping from the corners of the same mouths which I had just seen in prayer. I’m in a good mood, so I decide to make a joke. “Well, it’s funny that the one night of the year you have a Jew visiting that they decide to serve ham!” Everyone laughs, their mouths full of ham, and we eat and have a great time. Then, two weeks later, I receive this letter in the mail from the rector–
And I quote:

Dear Mr. Brenner: I want to extend to you, on behalf of myself and that of the whole Theological College community, a most sincere apology for the insensitivity of one of our entrees Tuesday evening. Though the kitchen staff was informed not to serve ham, its appearance that evening was not only inappropriate but needlessly insulting to you. I do once again, wish to let you know of our most sincere apology for any pain this caused you and that we as a community are sorry.

My favorite part of this letter is the line, Though the kitchen staff was informed not to serve ham, its apearance that evening was insulting to you. It is as if the ham itself, defying the entire kitchen staff decided that it would make an appearance. It’s thinking “there’s a hungry Jew! Hahahahha! I’ll toss this pineapple on my back and see if he can resist me!” Eugene Glankler’s taunting words come back to me. Yes, they tried to make me smell the ham, but the rector’s apology, and loving, sensitive words, still make me feel wonderful, as if I’m being hit over the head with a “Jesus Loves Me” pillow.

Hebrew School Sucks

Teaching a Hebrew School class with nine boys and four girls is a test to see how many fart jokes, penis jokes, booger jokes, and stories about dead squirrels one man can put up with without losing his mind. It makes you talk funny– Right now, I have everyone’s undivided attention. Without running, or touching anyone else or their folder, I’m asking everyone, including you, Kenny, to quietly and neatly place your folder on the top of the pile on my desk. In the next fifteen seconds, two kids are under the table strangling each other, there are papers everywhere, and half the class is bouncing off the walls or committing an act of petty vandalism. You are seconds away from going under the table and strangling someone. It takes a lot of patience for this job. And this, I remind myself, is after all the kids have taken their Riddilin or whatever else their doctors have prescribed to counteract their daily dosage of cartoons. I mean, what would they be like without the pills? What would they do after they’d killed and eaten their parents and Hebrew School teachers? I’ve been with this particular group for two years now and I’m not sure if they’ve learned a thing. It’s an hour into a two hour session. I’ve been teaching them about the Jewish approach to the life cycle. They don’t seem to get it. I’m exhausted, so I open the back door of the synagogue which is right off the kitchen, give them a big nerf ball and let them all out to run around in the yard. All the boys throw off their yarmulkes and charge outside. I make myself some tea. I sit down and rest. This is the first moment that I’ve had to clear my head all day. It’s quiet. Sometimes I really hate this job. I did not plan on becoming a professional babysitter. The next series of events is mundane. One kid comes in for a box of crackers. One kid comes in and asks if he can bring some magic markers and paper outside. A kid uses the bathroom. Then something incredibly weird and inexplicable happens. A boy, one who is generally under the table strangling someone, walks into the room, picks up his yarmulke, put it on his head, and then, to my amazement, takes a stack of prayer books and walks back outside. “Wait,” I say, “Are you using those for kickball bases?”. “Nope.” he says.“ Ok.” The kid goes out and I stand by the window to see what’s going on. This is what I see– Two kids are digging into the ground with sticks. Three others are placing a dead squirrel into the cracker box. The box has been covered with construction paper which has been magic markered with a big blue star of David. They’ve stuffed toilet paper in it to make it soft. The kid with the prayer books is passing them out to lead the funeral service. These kids, these worshipers of Super Nintendo and Weird Al and Disney and Goosebumps and the NHL and Saved By The Bell and Nike and Dumb and Dumber have somehow understood the point that I’ve been trying to make during these two years, ritual enhances life, it is a tool, a gift here to deepen our connections to the natural world, to make the death of a squirrel a reason to pause and acknowledge the sacred. I walk out and join the service.

The Parking Lot

I’m working at a Geriatric center and one of the Nurses assistants calls me over to her with a gesture of distress. “Father, I mean Rabbi, ” she says, “I’ve got to speak with you. ” I sit down beside her and the woman in a gerichair who she is feeding. “Rabbi, the nurse says,” I’ve got demons in me car” This is beginning to sound strange. Then she says, “Rabbi say one of your Jewish prayers to chase those demons out of my car, please, God Bless you.” We don’t learn exorcism in Rabbinical school, I wanted to tell her, and that I’ve never dealt with any demons before, that I’m not sure if they exist. But I looked into her eyes and knew what I had to say. “I promise that I’ll say a prayer to chase the demons out of your car.” The next hours went by slowly as they always do when you’re with those who are waiting for the angel of death. But as I headed to the parking lot, I knew that it was time for me to face the demons. I promised, so I’ve got to do this. Ok. Demons, no I shouldn’t talk to them, I’ll talk to God, Ok. God, now wait, do I pray for her car alone, or do I include her car within all cars that are suffering demonic posession. Ok, I’ll just do it. ” Master of the Universe, May it be your will to chase demons out of that good woman’s car, and all other cars and vans, speedily, Amen, Selah.” These words stumbled out of my mouth, and I felt friegthened of the power of my own prayer.

The next week, I was scared that my prayer had failed her, and I avioded the nurse as best I could . But then, as I was picking at the salad bar in the cafeteria, she cornered me. “Rabbi,” she said” look in my eyes. God Bless You. Thank you for chasing the demons out of me car.”

Body Parts

As part of my training to be a Rabbi, I spent a year working as a Chaplain in the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in center city Philadelphia. During certain hours of the week, I was the Chaplain- on- call for the entire hospital. To do this job, I got a beeper, which alerted me to serious traumas coming into the ER, events on the ICU floors where a patient was approaching death, or any other crises which called for a Father Mulkayhee type. On the first day that I was handed the beeper, I placed it on my belt and nervously walked over to the ER. I was scared. The first thing I realized was that I had to pee. I went to the men’s room, stepped in front of the toilet and undid my belt. Then I watched in what seemed like slow motion as my beeper slid from my belt and into the toilet bowl. I took off my jacket, rolled up my shirt, and fished it out. The screen was blank so I shook it. I kept shaking the thing but it was no use, it was dead. This was a sign. I don’t need a beeper. Trouble will find me.

A few weeks later I’m finishing my lunch in the office when one of the secretaries in patient services, a young Irish woman who is reading bridal magazines in a desperate plot to make her boyfriend propose, tells me that I have a phone call. I take the call. “Hello, Rabbi, ok, well, we have a Jewish man here who had his leg amputated, and he wants you to pick up the leg and bring it to the Mount Zion cemetary. This is not our usual hospital policy, but due to the religious circumstances we have the leg waiting for you in the lab in the Thompson building. Please get it now, because Mr. Bernstein is very upset.” I’m in total and complete shock. They definately did not warn me about this in rabbinical school. Me, the kid who dropped his beeper in the toilet is now in charge of transporting some guy’s leg! Oh my God! Will I have to touch it? Ok, Daniel, you are wearing a suit. You have a responsibility, remember how your mother warned you about these. Ok, think practically… well, details…how am I going to carry this guy’s leg out of the hospital and into my car? Will they have it wrapped in a plastic bag that I’m supposed to carry it out in? What would happen if I was stopped by the Police with a leg in my trunk? The Irish secretary looks at me and senses that somethings wrong because I’ve turned even whiter than my already pale Eastern European shade. She asks me “What’s wrong?”, ” I have to go pick up an amputated leg and bring it to the cemetary. ” “Is that something Jewish?” she asks. I never studied burial practices in depth but I stumble to explain that we don’t want our body parts to become medical waste, so we bury them, and there is a belief that in the end of days our bodies will be restored to life, but she looks at me blankly and says, “We’ll what are you going to carry it in.” “I don’t know” Then, after a few moments she says: “Wait I have an idea.” The next thing you know we frantically walk ten minutes to the other end of the hospital and are rummaging through a closet filled with the belongings of patients who for one reason or another left them behind. After about five minutes, the secretary drags out a nice sized plaid suitcase and I size it up. “Would this be big enough for a leg?” I believe myself to be one of the few non-gangsters who has asked this question. “Well if he’s under six feet this will be perfect” I think and I walk down to the lab with the suitcase.

In the lab there is a very strong smell, an ubersmell, a smell to cover up all smells, and a very somber woman who tells me, after punching names and numbers into the computer, “I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t find the leg.” I explain to her the religious importance and ask her if she could personally look for it. She goes away for about ten minutes and comes back with no luck.

At this point I realize that I screwed up. I wasted twenty minutes getting this stupid siutcase. And now they probably already threw the leg away.I mean how long are they just going to leave it laying around. I’m an idiot. How am I gonna tell Mr. Bernstein about this one? Well, what can I say, I spent too much time looking for a suitcase so your leg is now in with the medical waste? But, I can’t lie. I’ve got to tell him the truth. I’ll tell him that I tried, but it was too late. I decide to go to Mr. Bernstein’s room. Before I walk into his room, I quietly stash the plaid suitcase behind the sofa in the guest lounge. Then I hesitatingly walk in, and see Mr. Bernstein, a man in his late seventies, depressed, lamenting the loss of his leg, watching Oprah. “Hello, I’m the Rabbi.” “Oy, what a terrible thing. look at this, they had to cut it off.” The man is deeply upset, so instead of apologizing for my mistake, I sit and listen. ” It was gangrene, that’s what it was, my wife says that it was the best they could do.” He’s talking about his ulcer and his wife’s kidney problems and I’m sitting there, praying, and then the phone rings. “Excuse me, Rabbi, “he says, and picks up the phone. He speaks for about 30 seconds and hangs up. Then he turns to me, grabs my arm and says, ” Rabbi, that was the man from the cemetary. They picked up my leg and already have it in my plot.” Mr. Berstein will never know this, but at that moment, a sigh of relief was released from my lungs and soul that I still feel to this day.

Chief Rabbi Of Exit 7

For two years, I was the Rabbi of a small town in New Jersey. My unofficial title was Chief rabbi of exit 7. In my town, there was a 5 and dime shop with dusty, nearly barren shelves holding eyeglass pads and athletic supporters. There was a barber shop in which an aged Italian barber has been giving people the same hair cut since the first world war. At the Cafe on main street the coffee menu reads, regular or Sanka. There are no traffic lights in this town, where the tiny synagogue, a block from the center of town, sits across the street from a Catholic church, and it’s so quiet that at night we could hear the nuns turning the pages of their Bibles.
Being the Rabbi of a small town has it’s advanatages. First, you get to ride on the clergy float in the 4th of July parade. Second, unexpected things happen. Once my father had sent up a package express mail, but we weren’t home to receive it, nor were our neighbors. Lisa and I were frustrated, ” how will we get the package, if we aren’t home during delivery times?”. Then the Bergmans called us. They live on the other side of town. “Rabbi, we have your package.” You see, the delivery guy thought ” well, the Bergmans are Jewish, and the Rabbi is Jewish so I’ll deliver the package to them.” As a sideline to this story, Benny Bergman, their four year old, came up to me after services one week and asked: Who’s smarter, you or God?
I still feel like a gefilte fish, but now I am swimming in a tiny aquarium in the room of a wide-eyed four year old.

One Friday afternoon, I was on main street, in the town pharmacy, which also doubles as a liquor store, and I was picking up some beer for the weekend. On my way to the register I remembered that it was time for me to revisit the “Family planning” section of the store. This is a quaint term for a section that should be named “rubbers” or at least “Family prevention”. So I quietly muster up enough manliness to non-chalantly stroll up to the assortment of condoms and choose a box that meets my prefrences. I go back to the register, set my merchandise on the counter and the pharmacy lady rings me up. I hate it when a woman watches me buy condoms. They’re all probably smugly thinking “Yeah, good luck, big guy”. As she hands me the bag, I absent-mindedly stare at the floor. I grab the bag and make for the exit. But before I get there she says. “Have a fun weekend, Rabbi.”

Once, Lisa and I were given free tickets to the local amateur theater, which has a number of synagogue members on it’s board of directors. They did a Neil Simon play, California Suite, in a renovated barnhouse. At the top of act two, one of the charcters said “Shitty, shit , shit” the audience, in shock, shook their heads “tsik, tsik,tsik” After the show , I was accosted by one of the synagogue members “Rabbi, I’m so sorry about the foul language in the play. I hope that you weren’t offended. But that’s the way Neil Simon wrote it!”

But what is really amazing to me is the respect I get from my fellow clergy on the inter-faith council. My first year I was invited to speak at the Catholic Church across the street.

When I started writing my speech I realized that I couldn’t say the expected “We have so much in common” or “Isn’t it nice these Judeo-Christian values we share” I knew, deep down that I had to tell them the one thing they didn’t want to hear– I don’t believe in Jesus. So I wrote this heartfelt speech about why I believe in only one God, in one unifying force and how I view the afterlife not as heaven and hell, but a return to the sacred realm. Before I went over there, I told a couple of the bigger guys from the synagogue “watch my back”, just in case. Midway through mass the priest says “Please welcome Rabbi Brenner for today’s sermon” Throughout the speech not a single congregant moved. Nobody even breathed.”Do they want to kill me, or are they always like this?” I finished my speech and there was a long silence. Then the priest came charging over to me. I thought that he was going to deck me so I stepped back and to the side, but then he grabbed me and said, in front of the entire congregation, “Shalom Brother!” the place erupted in applause. That is what it is like to be a Rabbi in a small town.
For the first time I’m begining to to recognize myself as a rabbi. I’m not the embarassed student who sat five years ago with my relatives in Miami. Yet, there are still challenges.
While those moments in the hospital have built my confidence, there are still issues, serious soul-searching tensions, that I continue to wrestle with.

Who Knows Eight?

Recently I met a pregnant Jewish woman who, after hearing that I was a Rabbi, said that she had something very important that she had to speak with me about. I asked her to sit down in a more private space and once she was settled I looked toward her waiting to empathize to whatever problem she was dealing with. Then she asked: “What do you think about uncircumcised penises?” Now people have asked me to chase demons out of their cars, and people have asked me to do funerals for hamsters, and people have even asked me if Rabbis have sex through a sheet, but never has any one asked me about my feelings on uncircumcised penises.
She went on to tell me that she had married a Christian man because she believes that only uncircumcized men can be sensitive to a woman in bed, and that Jewish men don’t experience sexual pleasure, they just stick it in, do their job, and pull it out. She then went on to to describe circumcision as a primitive and brutal act of child sexual abuse, and then she asked me for my thoughts on the subject.
All the uncircumcized penises from my past suddenly popped up. First there was Jacob, who was on the JCC swim team. I was seven or eight, and everyone in the locker room was staring at his member, and I couldn’t understand it. For me it was deformed, and that’s how I understood it for many years. I mean something was wrong with his penis..a birth defect or tragic accident. It didn’t help that he was also a goofy kid-I mean, weird kid, weird dick- it was like a matching set.

Then there have been the penises in foreign movies, frenchmen pulling back their foreskins to pee, and the Mappelthorpe book of uncircumcised long Black penises.

All these penises came to my mind and I was thinking about how uncomfortable I am looking at men’s penises or men looking at mine. I even get embarassed when the airline stewardessess walk up and down the aisle checking for seat belts I imagine them thinking, ‘circumsized, uncircumsized, circumsized, circumsized.’

So I tell this woman that she is asking the wrong Rabbi. I tell her, look, if I ever have a son, God willing, I don’t care where I am, I’ll circumcize that boy. I’ll do it myself if I have to.

Now it is hard for me to imagine this, but I do own a Swiss army knife. I mean, I can scale a fish or saw a branch with that thing.

One of my Gay friends tells me that Circumcision is the Jews’ gift to plastic surgery. But he also tells me that there are some guys who want to experience what it is like to have a foreskin. There are actually people who have this operation. They pay to have this operation. I have to wonder whose foreskin do they use? Would you want to walk around with some dead guy’s foreskin on your penis? Or do they just graft it from the skin on your leg? Is there a market for foreskins? Are there different foreskin styles? A catalogue?

But why? why do I care so much about circumcision? Basically I care because to me circumcision isn’t just for the kid. I mean sure it prevents nasty infections and looks great, but there is another reason why I’m going to do it if I get the chance. I think that circumcision is for the Dad.

I mean, really, it’s beautiful. The mother has just been through trauma. But the dad’s part in making this baby happened nine months ago and he can’t even remember it. So what is his connection to this child? A connection of the flesh, something that connects his body to the child’s body. And so he does a bris and then the boy is part of his tribe. This mark of our tribe makes the baby a part of him. I mean, the very first thing a father has to do for a baby boy is to carry out a responsibility. And to do it gently. And to see in that act that the world isn’t perfect, that it requires us to make it right. It is an act about responsibility, and that is why we connect it to God, the one to whom we are all responsible.

It’s popular amoung my friends to do what is known as the “final cut” . The final cut happens when the moyel sets up the special clamp and penis protector and gives you the go ahead. One of my friends has had two sons, and I’ve watched him make two final cuts. The first he was thinking “Oh my God, I’m not good with knives, Just keep focused, think about the Ginsu 2000 commercial, don’t get nervous, ok, now cut along this area and ok, I’m cutting, I’m cutting, and almost done, and yes.” The second bris happened like this. “Give me the knife. cut. Please, everybody, have some whitefish!”

Now sure, a father needs to also have a strong bond to a daughter, something the ancient world didn’t seem to value as much, but if it’s done right, I envision the bris as a way to complement the mother’s role, to acknoweldge Women, and the unique power only they have to bring babies into the world. In the bris men get to understand what it is like to be a woman, to have a physical connection to a child in that moment. As for brises, I know exactly how I feel about them.

But, I couldn’t think to say any of this to the woman that day. I sat there like an idiot. And after a minute or two I decided to respond to the one argument she made that I could possible respond to. She had said that that circumcized men can’t experience sexual pleasure. Well, I said, “let me put it this way, if I experienced any more pleasure in sex than I already do, then my neighbors would probably call the police.” I bet she never heard that from a Rabbi.

Freedom

Right before Passover I got a call from a Chaplain asking me to go to a local prison to meet with some Jewish inmates and do a passover program. I love passover–it is the one time of the year when Jewish people will sit for an hour anxiously awaiting food that they know will have absolutely no flavor. I love Passover because of it’s spiritual message of bondage to freedom, and it is that message that I imagine when I’m asked to go see these guys who are locked up. The only thing holding me back was the simple fact that I’m scared of prisons. I mean, why on earth would you willingly go into a locked building which contained murderers and good ol’boys with shotguns? But I wanted to experience prison life, so I told the Chaplain that I’d do it. Usually I give little thought to what I’m going to wear, but as a young guy going into a men’s prison, I knew that I didn’t want to walk in their with tight white slacks and an Izod shirt. I put on my most boring and ugly suit and made a point not to shave for three days. I drove out to Eagleville, and through this winding road leading to the prison. The place was enormous, it looked like a Home Depot or a huge shopping mall, except instead of an ugly clock it had an armed guard tower. I park and go to the main entrance. There, before me, is a huge bullet-proof glass window and a guard, a guy so big he probably has his own zip code, who asks who I am. “I’m the Rabbi, I’m here to meet with the Jewish prisoners.” “Do you have any ID?” he asks me. I pull out my driver’s license and hand it to him. He looks it over and hands it back. “Do you have any proof that you’re a Rabbi?” “We don’t have a Rabbi ID card” I explain “Well I’m sorry, but I can’t let you in.” At this point I’m thinking how absurd this is. I want to get into the one place everyone is trying to get out of and I can’t do it. And I’ve got to give this man proof that I’m a Rabbi, I mean what should I do, quote a talmudic passage? Sing the haftorah blessings?Dance the hora? Then an idea dawns on me and I tell him to call the Chaplain. The Chaplain comes up, and he remembers my voice, so he and two armed guards save me from the gatekeeper and escort me down into the bowels of the facility. The place is enormous, and we pass through gate after gate, deep into the maximum security levels. As we do this, prisoners all around me are eyeing me, sniffing out the fresh meat in the cell block. I try to act as manly and serious as I possibly can. I think about Dan Rather. If I act like Dan Rather I can get through this thing. I’m finally led into this big, windowless room, where five prisoners sit, in folding chairs, waiting for me. The guys are dressed in drab grey prison fatigues, all the same except for their sneakers. Sneakers are the one item that they can get as a gift from the outside. My first thought when looking them over is “thank God these guys are behind bars” The largest guy of the group, a man about 6’4 280lbs, faded green tatoos running down his arms stands to shake my hand. “What kind of Rabbi are you?” he asks. I’m reluctant to tell him. I don’t want him to think of me as being to far in left field, but I don’t want to lie so I answer firmly “Reconstructionist”. “You aren’t one of those faggot Rabbis are ya?”he asks. I give him a manly chuckle and smile to confirm my heterosexuality, to duck the question, realizing that I’m betraying my principles by keeping silent in the face of another man’s bigotry. But I’m in a prison, and different rules seem to apply. I don’t have the freedom to be myself. I introduce myself to the other prisoners, pass around a stack of bibles and we begin to sink our teeth into Exodus. One guy dosen’t open his book. He just sits in his chair with his arms folded. The other guys immediately begin to follow as I go verse by verse through the story of Moses killing the taskmaster, fleeing to the wilderness and finding God. The guys relate to the story. They speak about their crimes and trials and relate to commentary I add. One of the prisoners, for the first time since his Bar Mitzvah, reads a Hebrew verse.

Before I knew it we get so wrapped up in the Torah study that I totally forget that we are in a prison. We’re engaged intellectually and laughing and trying to understand the nuances of the text, and just as we are getting somewhere, we hear “times up, everybody back to your cells!”

The Torah study was over. The prisoners thanked me for making their lives feel human again for the hour. And I exited, through door after door, and finally stepped into the sunlight, and in that moment, walking toward my car, I understood more deeply than I ever have what it is to be free.


CURTAIN

A letter to myself.

Dear Daniel,

Life is absurd. Becoming a Rabbi was an absurd decision. But I hope that you find holiness in this absurdity. Look at your suitcase. The photograph. The paper bag. The clergy sign. The knife. The package. Treat them as holy objects. This is your new Torah.

All my blessings,

Daniel

When I was sixteen. On my way to school, my ‘71 dodge dart had a flat tire and I skidded off the road into a no parking sign. But all I could think about was my math test. So I got out of the car, walked the rest of the way to school and called my dad. My father then called his mechanic who dispatched a tow truck and picked up my car. Meanwhile, an old man who had watched me skid called the police to report that I was a “drunken teenage driver” who had fled the scene of a crime. By the time the Charlotte Police arrived at the scene the car had already been towed. They found the fallen no parking sign and concluded that it was a “hit and run.” Meanwhile, I was busy taking the math test, probably doing my best to copy off of someone else’s paper. I’m busy cheating and then, suddenly, the police, with all the tact of Deputy Barney Fife, appear at the door signaling my math teacher to call me out. I go outside and the officers handcuff me and begin to walk me across the quad. I don’t know what is going on. I’m thinking–do they somehow know that I drank beer and smoked pot in the Burger King parking lot? I’m taken to the principal’s office where he sits me down. He asks me why I did what I did. What did I do? He found this answer to be a smart ass reply. Finally one of the officers explained what I was wanted for, and I told them what was

Smell the Ham

A story from childhood. After playing basketball with my neighbor and best friend Eugene Glankler, we’d always go into his house and raid the refigerator. Most of the time this meant me eating slices of wonder bread while Gene devoured slice after slice of Oscar Mayer ham. We’re sitting there in his kitchen and he knows that I won’t eat the ham, so he’s dangling it in front of my face going “ Smell the ham! Smell the ham!” I’d tell him to bug off, and then we’d usually end up on the living room carpet, wrestling, attempting to copy the pile drivers and triple-half nelsons we’d seen our heros Black Jack Mulligan and Ricky Steamboat do in gold tights on TV. The most damage we ever inflicted was to his mother’s furniture. Then we’d go upstairs and have a pillow fight. Gene’s older sister had embroidered “Jesus Loves Me” on a lace pillow, and Gene took great delight in smacking me over the head with this holy object.

I was thinking about my first exposure to catholics when as part of a National Conference of Christians and Jews program I got to go to Washington D.C. to spend a couple of days at the Catholic University seminary. This is the seminary famous for having the most buff portrayal of Jesus in their cathedral. You look up at him and he’s like nautilus Jesus, a hulking, bicep bound god who could come down off that cross and kick your ass. It’s like ‘He’s back and he’s ready for blood, return of the savior -coming of the messiah part 2 coming soon to a house of worship near you.’ I know intellectually that Jesus was a Jew, but up there, blond curls with a crown of thorns, the man scares me. But somehow I feel safe at the seminary, living with the men who have given up secular culture and are training to be priests. I’m going with them to theology classes, and prayer times and dining with them in their small cafeteria. The first night, after having spent a long exhausting day in dialogue and prayer, I’m starving. I grab a tray, get on the meal line and quickly find myself face to face with a large ham. This was not a nouvea cuisine lean meat rosemary spiced ham This was the ham of a Jewish boy’s dreams, the huge, juicy one with pineapple slices and a cherry. “I’ll just have the mashed potatoes and green beans.” I say. Not much of a meal, but to be honest, I don’t care. I love mashed potatoes. I sit down with a group of priests in training and begin to eat. They are all eating ham, and relishing every bite as if they’d been living on peanut butter sandwiches for months. “This is delicious” they say to each other, the ham juices dripping from the corners of the same mouths which I had just seen in prayer. I’m in a good mood, so I decide to make a joke. “Well, it’s funny that the one night of the year you have a Jew visiting that they decide to serve ham!” Everyone laughs, their mouths full of ham, and we eat and have a great time. Then, two weeks later, I receive this letter in the mail from the rector–
And I quote:
Dear Mr. Brenner: I want to extend to you, on behalf of myself and that of the whole Theological College community, a most sincere apology for the insensitivity of one of our entrees Tuesday evening. Though the kitchen staff was informed not to serve ham, its appearance that evening was not only inappropriate but needlessly insulting to you. I do once again, wish to let you know of our most sincere apology for any pain this caused you and that we as a community are sorry.

My favorite part of this letter is the line, Though the kitchen staff was informed not to serve ham, its apearance that evening was insulting to you. It is as if the ham itself, defying the entire kitchen staff decided that it would make an appearance. It’s thinking “there’s a hungry Jew! Hahahahha! I’ll toss this pineapple on my back and see if he can resist me!” Eugene Glankler’s taunting words come back to me. Yes, they tried to make me smell the ham, but the rector’s apology, and loving, sensitive words, still make me feel wonderful, as if I’m being hit over the head with a “Jesus Loves Me” pillow.

Who Knows Eight?
By Daniel Silberman Brenner

Recently I met a very pregnant Jewish woman who, after hearing that I was a Rabbi, said that she had something very important that she had to speak with me about. I asked her to sit down in a more private space and once she was settled I looked toward her waiting to empathize to whatever problem she was dealing with. Then she asked: “What do you think about uncircumcised penises?” Now people have asked me if ostrich meat is kosher, and people have even asked me if Rabbis have sex through a sheet, but never has any one asked me about my feelings on uncircumcised penises.

She went on to tell me that she had married a Christian man because she believes that only uncurcimcized men can be sensitive to a woman in bed, and that Jewish men don’t experience sexual pleasure, they just stick it in, do their job, and pull it out. She then went on to to describe circumcision as a primitive and brutal act of child abuse, and then she asked me for my thoughts on the subject.

All the uncircumcized penises from my past suddenly popped up. First there was Jacob, who was on the JCC swim team. I was seven or eight, and everyone in the locker room was staring at his member, and I couldn’t understand it. For me it was deformed, and that’s how I understood it for many years. I mean something was wrong with his penis..a birth defect or tragic accident. It didn’t help that he was also a goofy kid-I mean, weird kid, weird dick- it was like a matching set.

Then there have been the penises in foreign movies, frenchmen pulling back their foreskins to pee, and the Mappelthorpe book of uncircumcised long Black penises.

All these penises came to my mind and I was thinking about how uncomfortable I am looking at men’s penises or men looking at mine. I even get embarassed when the airline stewardessess walk up and down the aisle checking for seat belts I imagine them thinking, circumsized, uncircumsized, circumsized, circumsized.

So I tell this woman that she is asking the wrong Rabbi. I tell her, look, if I ever have a son, God willing, I don’t care where I am, I’ll circumcize that boy. I’ll do it myself if I have to.

Now it is hard for me to imagine this, but I do own a swiss army knife. I mean, I can scale a fish or saw a branch with that thing.

One of my Gay friends tells me that Circumcision is the Jews’ gift to plastic surgery. But he also tells me that there are some guys who want to experience what it is like to have a foreskin. There are actually people who have this operation. They pay to have this operation. I have to wonder– whose foreskin do they use? Would you want to walk around with some dead guy’s foreskin on your penis? Or do they just graft it from the skin on your leg? Is there a market for foreskins? Are there different foreskin styles? Designer foreskins? A catalog?

But why? why do I care so much about circumcision? Basically I care because to me circumcision isn’t just for the kid. I mean sure it prevents nasty infections and looks great, but there is another reason why I’m going to do it if I get the chance. I think that circumcision is for the Dad.

I mean, really, it’s beautiful. The mother has just been through trauma. But the dad’s part in making this baby happened 9 months ago and he can’t even remember it. So what is his connection to this child? A connection of the flesh, something that connects his body to the child’s body. And so he does a bris and then the boy is part of his tribe. This mark of our tribe makes the baby a part of him. I mean, the very first thing a father has to do for a baby boy is to carry out a responsibility. And to do it gently. And to see in that act that the world isn’t perfect, that it requires us to make it right. It is an act about responsibility, and that is why we connect it to God, the one to whom we are all responsible.

It’s popular amoung my friends to do what is known as the “final cut” . The final cut happens when the moyel sets up the special clamp and penis protector and gives you the go ahead. One of my friends has had two sons, and I’ve watched him make two final cuts. The first he was thinking “Oh my God, I’m not good with knives, Just keep focused, don’t get nervous, ok, now cut along this area and ok, I’m cutting, I’m cutting, and almost done, and yes.” The second bris happened like this. “Give me the knife. cut. Please, everybody, have some whitefish!”

Now sure, a father needs to also have a strong bond to a daughter, something the ancient world didn’t seem to value as much, but if it’s done right, I envision the bris as a way to complement the mother’s role, to acknoweldge Women, and the unique power only they have to bring babies into the world. In the bris men get to have a physical connection to a child in a delicate and personal way. As for brises, I know exactly how I feel about them.

But, I couldn’t think to say any of this to the woman that day. I sat there like an idiot thinking about penises. And after a minute or two I decided to respond to the one argument she made that I could possible respond to. She had said that that circumcized men can’t experience sexual pleasure. Well, I said, “let me put it this way, if I experienced any more pleasure in sex than I already do, then my neighbors would probably call the police.” I bet she never heard that from a Rabbi.

Body Parts

As part of my training to be a Rabbi, I spent a year working as a Chaplain in the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in center city Philadelphia. During certain hours of the week, I was the Chaplain- on- call for the entire hospital. To do this job, I got a beeper, which alerted me to serious traumas coming into the ER, events on the ICU floors where a patient was approaching death, or any other crises which called for a Father Mulkayhee type. On the first day that I was handed the beeper, I placed it on my belt and nervously walked over to the ER. I was scared. The first thing I realized was that I had to pee. I went to the men’s room, stepped in front of the toilet and undid my belt. Then I watched in what seemed like slow motion as my beeper slid from my belt and into the toilet bowl. I took off my jacket, rolled up my shirt, and fished it out. The screen was blank so I shook it. I kept shaking the thing but it was no use, it was dead. This was a sign. I don’t need a beeper. Trouble will find me.

A few weeks later I’m finishing my lunch in the office when one of the secretaries in patient services, a young Irish woman who is reading bridal magazines in a desperate plot to make her boyfriend propose, tells me that I have a phone call. I take the call. “Hello, Rabbi, ok, well, we have a Jewish man here who had his leg amputated, and he wants you to pick up the leg and bring it to the Mount Zion cemetary. This is not our usual hospital policy, but due to the religious circumstances we have the leg waiting for you in the lab in the Thompson building. Please get it now, because Mr. Bernstein is very upset.” I’m in total and complete shock. They definately did not warn me about this in rabbinical school. Me, the kid who dropped his beeper in the toilet is now in charge of transporting some guy’s body parts! Oh my God! Will I have to touch it? Ok, Daniel, you are wearing a suit. You have a responsibility, remember how your mother warned you about these. Ok, think practically… well, details…how am I going to carry this guy’s leg out of the hospital and into my car? Will they have it wrapped in a plastic bag that I’m supposed to carry it out in? What would happen if I was stopped by the Police with a leg in my trunk? The Irish secretary looks at me and senses that somethings wrong because I’ve turned even whiter than my already pale Eastern European shade. She asks me “What’s wrong?”, ” I have to go pick up an amputated leg and bring it to the cemetary. ” “Is that something Jewish?” she asks. I never studied burial practices in depth but I stumble to explain that we don’t want our body parts to become medical waste, so we bury them, and there is a belief that in the end of days our bodies will be restored to life, but she looks at me blankly and says, “We’ll what are you going to carry it in.” “I don’t know” Then, after a few moments she says: “Wait I have an idea.” The next thing you know we frantically walk ten minutes to the other end of the hospital and are rummaging through a closet filled with the belongings of patients who for one reason or another left them behind. After about five minutes, the secretary drags out a nice sized plaid suitcase and I size it up. “Would this be big enough for a leg?” I believe myself to be one of the few non-gangsters who has asked this question. “Well if he’s under six feet..which most old Jewish guys are.. this will be perfect” I think and I walk down to the lab with the suitcase.

In the lab there is a very strong smell, an ubersmell, a smell to cover up all smells, and a very somber woman who tells me, after punching names and numbers into the computer, “I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t find the leg.” I explain to her the religious importance and ask her if she could personally look for it. She goes away for about ten minutes and comes back with no luck.

At this point I realize that I screwed up. I wasted twenty minutes getting this stupid suitcase. And now they probably already threw the leg away.I mean how long are they just going to leave it laying around. I’m an idiot. How am I gonna tell Mr. Bernstein about this one? Well, what can I say, I spent too much time looking for a suitcase so your leg is now in with the medical waste? But, I can’t lie. I’ve got to tell him the truth. I’ll tell him that I tried, but it was too late. I decide to go to Mr. Bernstein’s room. Before I walk into his room, I quietly stash the plaid suitcase behind the sofa in the guest lounge. Then I hesitatingly walk in, and see Mr. Bernstein, a man in his late seventies, depressed, lamenting the loss of his leg, watching Oprah. “Hello, I’m the Rabbi.” “Oy, what a terrible thing. look at this, they had to cut it off.” The man is deeply upset, so instead of apologizing for my mistake, I sit and listen. ” It was gangrene, that’s what it was, my wife says that it was the best they could do.” He’s talking about his ulcer and his wife’s kidney problems and I’m sitting there, listening, deep into his world of sickness and hurt, and then the phone rings. “Excuse me, Rabbi, “he says, and picks up the phone. He speaks for about 30 seconds and hangs up. Then he turns to me, grabs my arm and says, ” Rabbi, that was the man from the cemetary. They picked up my leg and already have it in my plot.” Mr. Berstein will never know this, but at that moment, a sigh of relief was released from my lungs and soul that I still feel to this day.

Free Passover Play

If you’re looking for an easy way to add some good drama to your Passover Seder, then you are in the right place. I’ve got twenty people coming to the first seder and probably as many to the second. Rather than read through the Haggadah’s maggid section, we’ll have fun with this short skit that tells the story. I offer it free to all those who would like to spice up their seders. Enjoy – and Zissen Pesach!

Daniel

Free Passover Play 

Free Purim Shpiel Script

Director’s note: This play can be performed with a cast of five actors…or expanded to include more.

The Whole Megillah

By Rabbi Daniel S. Brenner

SCENE 1

KING A (swinging a drink)

Show me the way to the next whiskey bar…oh don’t ask why…of don’t ask why…(he falls) I can’t reach it. Help!!!! Oh my gods, look at this. Dry cleaning! I need dry cleaning! You – you look at me and laugh. `but do you know how expensive it is to get wine off of my royal bathrobe! Haman, come here! Haman!

HAMAN
There’s a problem?

KING A
No I just felt like calling your name. Yes – yes, there is a problem, and it begins with your failure to kiss my ring.

(Haman runs to kiss the ring)

HAMAN
Your highness, great and exalted ruler, leader among men, number 1, top dog, el capitan…

KING A
Enough!

HAMAN
What is it?

KING A
I can’t remember. Wait…More wine! I need more wine! And not the wine that comes out of a box!

HAMAN
I could run down to that little over-priced place on Main Street.

KING A
Just get me something that won’t stain regal attire.

HAMAN
How about a chardonnay?

KING A
I’m allergic. Get me the merlot.

HAMAN
But sir, the merlot will stain your….(KING A interrupts)

KING A
I don’t care. I want merlot. The party is about to start. We need entertainment!

HAMAN
I’ll just move the plasma screen TV into the chambers.

KING A
What?

HAMAN
Nothing, sir. Nothing.

KING A
Haman, I’m feeling. I’m feeling a little you know. My juices are flowing. My mojo is working baby! Tell my wife Vashti to come down here.

HAMAN
It will take her awhile to get dressed sir.

KING A
Getting dressed will not be necessary. But I have a little thing for crown. Bring her down, with only her crown!

HAMAN
No clothes?

KING A
Just her crown. And she can dance the mambo in front of my friends! Cha-chacha-chah!

HAMAN
But it is the law that all who come before the king must wear a belt and shoes!

KING A
OK. Her crown, belt and shoes, but nothing else.

HAMAN
As you wish, sire.

SCENE 2

HAMAN
Queen Vashti, your highness, royal majesty…

VASHTI
Cut the baloney, Haman. What does he want now?

HAMAN
Your husband has requested that you dance before him and his friends tonight wearing only your crown, a belt, and shoes.

VASHTI
Is he drunk again?

HAMAN
I’m afraid so. A little tipsy.

VASHTI
He needs help, that man. First I though his brains were like banana mush. Then I realized that I had married a man whose mind was a plastic bag full of go-gurt. I took pity on him, realizing that his skull contains only Smucker’s strawberry preserves. But living with a man who’s mind is like an un-curdled sack of goat cheese is, well, just too much.

HAMAN
Shall I get your crown?

VASHTI

Tell him that I won’t entertain him. Tell him that I don’t listen to him anymore. Tell him that he is not even fit to work for (add corrupt local politician here)!

HAMAN
You must not disobey an order from the king.

VASHTI
I’ve packed my bags. I was just accepted to law school in the next kingdom over.

HAMAN (grabs the handle of the bag. Vashti and Haman pull the bag in a tug of war)

Give me that!

VASHTI
Get you hand off of it!

(VASHTI wins out by kicking him to the floor. She runs off)

HAMAN
He is not going to be very happy about this!

SCENE 3

HAMAN
Your highness, I must speak with you.

KING A
Have you seen my Snuggly?

HAMAN
No, sire.

KING A
I need my Snuggly!

HAMAN
Sire, I have bad news. Your wife, Queen Vashti, has refused to dance at the party. She is leaving you.

KING A
What? How can she do this to me? [he cries] I loved her! We used to be so happy! Now she hates me. Haman, Haman, I feel a song coming on.
(to So Lonely by the Police)

Noone’s knocked upon my door
For a thousand years or more
Achasverosh is all alone
None to share my shushan throne
From hodu to kush is where I reign
But no one to understand my pain
No one to cuddle no one to hug
I lie drunk on my Persian rug

So Lonely, so lonely, so lonely, I feel so lonely

HAMAN
You have me, don’t you?

KING A
That’s different. I need a queen. I need a wife! And I want her to be the most beautiful woman in the entire kingdom!

HAMAN
Well what do you want me to do?

KING A
Find me a woman!

HAMAN
I’ll go out in the city and see what I can do, sire.

SCENE 4

HAMAN
Hey you, bow down!

MORDY
Ex-squeeze me?

HAMAN
Do you know who I am? I am the King’s minister, so hit the dirt and pay me some respect.

MORDY
I’m sorry, but I don’t bow down to people.

HAMAN

Bow down, it is the law!

MORDY
Not my law. I am a Jew, and I bow down to no man. Only to God do I give the highest respect.

HAMAN
Where is this so-called God? What is this God’s name?

MORDY
God does not have only one name. This God has many names and dwells inside of all people. God is a process that makes for salvation.

HAMAN
Enough of your stupid religion! The King is the most powerful, and you must bow down to his minister, and that would be me!

MORDY
No man is God.

HAMAN
I will punish you for this!

SCENE 5

ESTHER
Excuse me sir, would you like to buy some triangle shaped cookies for the Shushan girl scouts?

HAMAN
Let me try one.

ESTHER
Here you are.

HAMAN
Delicious! So tasty! Give me another!

ESTHER
Yes, sir, here are some more.

HAMAN
Yum, yum! So good! You are very beautiful, you know? The King is looking for a new queen. He’s holding a beauty pageant on Sunday to find one. Here is an invitation. I’ll see you there!

SCENE 6

KING A
Haman! Haman! Bring me my cigar!

HAMAN
Here you are, sire.

KING A
Smells good!

HAMAN
I have some bad news. There are people, called the Jews who will not bow down to you. They also do quite well on the SATs and they run the stock market and Hollywood and the Democratic party and they want to force people to have health care. But that is besides the point. I met one of these Jews today — this man Mordecai. He was incredibly rude to me.

KING A
What do you want me to do about it, Haman?

HAMAN
Well, I wrote a very simple law that should take care of the problem.

KING A
Sure, whatever. I’ll sign it.

HAMAN
Good, you’ll see, the world will be so much better without these pushy, rude and unappreciative people! Now I have good news. The beauty pageant will start on Sunday.

KING A
Good work, Haman.

SCENE 7

KING A
Let the contest begin, Haman, bring in the next contestant.

HAMAN
Here she is your highness.

ESTHER
Hello, sire.

HAMAN
Wait! No one speaks to the King unless they are spoken to!

ESTHER
I’m only trying to be friendly.

HAMAN
Leave! Go!

KING A
No! Stay! Who are you?

ESTHER
My name is Esther. My hobbies are rollerblading and bee-keeping. I enjoy sunset walks on the beach and marshmallow treats.

KING A
I also love marshmallow treats!

ESTHER
Have you tried them with chocolate chips?

KING A
I’ve been dying to.

ESTHER
I can make some for you.

HAMAN
Sire, you should watch your diet.

KING A
Haman, shut your smelly mouth for once– this woman is going to be my new queen!

SCENE 8

MORDY
How is life in the castle?

ESTHER
It’s great, Uncle Mordy. The King treats me very well. I have servants for everything, I don’t have a worry in the world.

MORDY
But there is a great worry that I have.

ESTHER
What?

MORDY
Haman. He is responsible for a law that will get rid of all of our people. All the Jews will be gone, Esther.

ESTHER
What can I do?

MORDY
You must do something, Esther.

SCENE 9

KING A
(doing jumping jacks)
And one and two and three and four…oh I feel great, Esther.

ESTHER
See, I told you that if you gave up the booze that you’d feel better.

KING A
It’s not the booze, Esther, it is you.

ESTHER
What do you mean?

KING A
I was so lonely and depressed. I wasn’t myself. Now that you are here, I feel young again. I want to give you something, Esther, a gift, an amazing gift. What do you want? Half of the kingdom? Take it! What can I give you?

ESTHER
You can give me my life.

KING A
What do you mean?

ESTHER
I feel a song coming on.

(“I’m a Jew” sung to the tune of “I’m a Be” by the Black Eyed Peas. )

ESTHER
I am a Jew. You signed a law to get rid of all the Jews. And that means me, too! You must do something.

KING A
I don’t remember signing any laws. I was so drunk. Who told you of this?

ESTHER
My Uncle, Mordecai.

KING A
He should be honored! I have a plan, I can sign another law.

ESTHER
What do you mean?

KING A
I will sign a law so that the Jews will get swords to defend themselves.

ESTHER
Thank you. You have saved my life and that of my people.

SCENE 10

HAMAN
Sire, I heard that you will have a parade!

KING A
Yes, we are having a parade to honor someone. How should they be honored?

HAMAN
Honor me? I mean someone? Well the honored man should ride on a white horse with a gold saddle, and wear the royal jewels and a silk gown.

KING A
Very good idea. Get all of those things for the Jew, Mordecai.

HAMAN
The Jew?

KING A
Yes. He will ride a white horse and you will clean up the poop!

HAMAN
I don’t understand, what have I done?

KING A
I know what you did. Now you’ll have to pay, Haman. It’s an order, and you follow orders, don’t you?

HAMAN
Yes sir.

SCENE 11

MORDY
We’ve been saved by you Esther. The Jews are free. Let’s celebrate, have some wine!

ESTHER
Want one of these funny cookies?

MORDY
[SINGS ] Halleluyah! Halleluyah!

ESTHER
Wait, I have an idea, let’s write a book about this whole thing.

MORDY
We’ll call it the Book of Esther!

ESTHER
Forget it, nobody would ever read it. They wouldn’t believe it, they’d think we made it up.

Every once and a while people contact me to get a copy of the all ages purim shpiels I’ve written. These have been produced in a number of congregations in New York, New Jersey, and Vermont….and can be done with a small cast. (Five will do the trick.)  This year, I started a blog 

 
which contains a free Purim Shpiel script based on the story of the Book of Esther. It is titled The Whole Megillah. Feel free to cut and paste from it as you like! 

Here’s the Press Release for Driving School!

November 15, 2004 – by BWW News Desk

VITAL THEATRE COMPANY is pleased to present its ninth installment of VITAL SIGNS, the company’s annual new works festival. The three-part series begins Wednesday, December 2nd at 7:00 p.m. Each series runs 1 week – Wednesdays through Sundays at 7:00 p.m. – through December 19th. Tickets are $15.00, $10.00 for students. TDF Accepted. To purchase tickets, please log onto www.TheaterMania.com or call (212) 352-3101. For more information, visit www.vitaltheatre.org. Vital Theatre Company is now located at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre above the Promenade, 2162 Broadway on the 4th Floor at 76th Street.

Series One: December 2 -5
For two men, the gravitational pull of JUPITER is stronger than either might have suspected, as written by Scott C. Smith and directed by Andrew Sheppard. In STRESS TEST, by Pat Pfeiffer and directed by Mahayana Landowne, a patient’s test checks more than stress. In DEATH COMES FOR THE THERAPIST, by Laura Owen and directed by Jason Chimonides, it’s just another day for a busy and caring therapist — until a young woman appears in her office claiming to be the Angel of Death. Is this really it — or can the problem be solved with a little therapy? Norma Kline writes and directs LOCAL POTATOES, in which a young carpenter gets more than he bargained for when he asks a farmer why he wants to sell the car on his front lawn.

DRIVING SCHOOL OF AMERICA, by Daniel Brenner and directed by Joanna Luks, tries to find out what a Chinese scientist and a Dominican ex-seminary student have in common.

Series Two: December 9 – 12
Thriller, the Pepsi fire, cocaine cowboys, and a white family moving into a black neighborhood: it’s 1984 in Miami and life is about to get a whole lot more confusing for a group of kids who want to be MJ in DEFACING MICHAEL JACKSON by Aurin Squire, directed by Denyse Owens. In MINA, by Kyoung H.

Park and directed by C.S. Lee, a young Korean woman raised in Lima, Peru, falls in love with a Peruvian-Japanese man, only to ignite intolerant rage which dates back to the conquest of the Incan empire. Mom and Dad fall in love and out of love in 20 minutes and every word of it is true in TRUE LOVE STORY OF MY PARENTS by Elizabeth Meriweather, directed by Shira Milikowsky.

NEVER NEVER LAND – penned by NYC writer Laura Rohrman, directed by Habib Azar — is a psycological drama about where grief can take us. When Wendy comes home to her small town for her best friend’s funeral she is forced to deal with unresolved issues or be haunted by them forever. In #9, by Chisa Hutchinson and directed by Christopher Kloko, a white woman has decided to rage against the machine by (what else?) having an affair with a black man.

When caught by her husband, she presents him with a rather bizarre solution to their socio-sexual problems. An unseen danger lurks in the darkness in COYOTES, by Catherine Gillet and directed by Emily Tetzlaff.

Series Three: December 16 – 19
William Borden’s FALLING, as directed by Aimee Hayes, imagines the thoughts of two, and for a moment, three, of the people who were forced to jump from the World Trade Center the morning of September 11, 2001. Dark fun in Hell is had in JUICE, written and directed by Jane Shepard, this year’s winner of the Robert Chesley Playwriting Prize & the recipient of last year’s Berrilla Kerr Playwriting Award. Gothic mystery and mayhem collide in Ian Finley’s stylish SUSPENSE, directed by David Hilder. JESUS HATES YOU by Robert Shaffron, directed by Paul Adams, explores heterosexual marriage and values, 2004-style. In Samuel French One Act Competition 2004 winner Kellie Overbey’s OVERHEAD, directed by Linda Ames Key, the playwright takes an unflinching look at modern-day morality.

Now in its seventh season, VITAL THEATRE COMPANY programs include the VITAL MAIN STAGE, VITAL SIGNS New Works Festival which has seen 14 new short plays go on to publication, VITAL CHILDREN’S THEATRE which commissions and presents new plays with music for young audiences, performed by adults, VITAL VOICES Education Outreach and VITAL DIRECTIONS. Vital Theatre Company is a six-time winner of the Off-Off Broadway Review’s Award for Excellence and was also named 2002 Theatre Company of the Year from The New York Theatre Experience.

For more information, please visit www.vitaltheatre.org.