Last monthafter Saturday morning services at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, I stood up in Rabbi Andy Bachman’s spacious study. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Were the personal stories of life in Jerusalem and Israel-forged humor of my Necessary Stories presentation going to click with the 50 sophisticated New Yorkers I found before me?
I’m happy to say that it went splendidly. From the start, people laughed in the right places—the best indication that they were engaged and entertained. And when the audience started breaking up before I’d had a chance to present my final segment, it wasn’t because they were bored. They explained that the children’s activities being held in parallel were coming to an end and that they had to pick up their kids.
Kudos came later by e-mail: “Haim Watzman transports his audience both in time and place in an authentic, heartfelt and intellectually thought-provoking performance,” wrote Doris Traub. David Greenberg, to whom I owe thanks for helping arrange the appearance, gave me this blurb: ““Haim Watzman brings the Israeli experience to life in a way that a history book never can. He reminded me again why Israel means so much to me. Mr. Watzman’s program was at once funny, thought-provoking, wise and enjoyable.”
My performance the next morning at Manhattan’s West End Synagogue was a similar success—and thanks to Moshe Sayer and to my friends Nancy and Jeff Heller for helping to arrange it.
(And thanks to storytellers Jane Golbert and Joyce Klein for coaching me and helping me prepare the show.)
Later that week I had the opportunity to speak, on behalf of J Street U, to the Cardozo Israel Alliance at Cardozo Law School. My talk on the conflicts of conscience and duty in military service in the Israel Defense Forces, in the wake of the Goldstone Report, provoked a lively discussion. Josh Gajer, who helped arrange the appearance, wrote to me afterward: “Thank you so much for sharing your story and views at Cardozo. I think the event was a huge success and lent some much-needed diversity and passion to the debate over Israel-related issues on campus. I also think you handled the tough questions and some harsh feedback from a few attendees quite well. You conducted yourself professionally but at the same time came across very personable and approachable.”
I’m currently in the process of setting up trips and appearances for 2010 and 2011. Want to see me at your synagogue, community center, or organization? Just drop me an e-mail.