So a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim walk into a synagogue ...
It turns out this particular Jew, this particular Christian and this particular Muslim also tell jokes. A lot of jokes. Professionally. They plan to walk into a local synagogue this week to tell some of those jokes, for a greater cause: Social justice, advanced in part through interfaith humor.
The trio — Rabbi Bob Alper of Vermont, New York-based Baptist Rev. Susan Spark, and Muslim writer and performer Gibran Saleem (a veteran of MTV and TV Land who writes for “Saturday Night Live”) — have been sharing stages for years at comedy fundraisers. Their next stop is this Thursday night, Oct. 11, here at Congregation Mishkan Israel. They’re headlining a “Comic Relief” fundraiser for the Immigrant Bail Fund, a New Haven-based not-for-profit that raises money for detainees swept up in the Trump administration’s deportation offensive.
It’s a return engagement: The performers appeared at Mishkan Israel in the wake of Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago to raise $17,000 for a mosque, a Christian ministry and a Reform Jewish camp wrecked by the storm.
Two of the organizers behind the event — Mishkan Israel Rabbi Herbert Brockman and bail fund organizer Brett Davidson — discussed how their Jewish roots figure into their immigrant-rights activism, on an episode of WNHH FM’s “Chai Haven” program. Mishkan Israel is part of a network of “sanctuary congregations” that have been housing and/or providing support for local immigrants whom the federal government have ordered to leave the country. Brockman has regularly spoken and marched at the front at immigrant reform demonstrations this year The Immigrant Bail Fund launched this year as an outgrowth of the Connecticut Bail Fund, which Davidson cofounded in 2016 to raise money to free indigent New Haveners from pretrial detention.
“Not only do we struggle together. We laugh together,” Brockman said of the interfaith genesis of Thursday night’s event. It is part of our common humanity. We are the only species that laughs.
“We need to laugh. We need to find in each other these common joyful experiences.”
Brockman spoke of how people of all Abrahamic traditions trace their roots to Adam and Eve. According to both the Talmud and Koran, he noted, “God began humanity with one man, one woman” so that “no man can ever say, ‘My ancestors are greater than yours.’”
In organizing Thursday’s event, Brockman and Davidson worked with, among others, Hamden Plains United Methodist Church Rev. Paul Fleck and immigrant-rights activist Ana Maria Rivera-Forastieri. Brockman, who last month received a community advocate award from Junta for Progressive Action, spoke on “Chai Haven” about how anti-immigrant politics prevented some Jews fleeing the Holocaust from arriving in the U.S. And how the first Jews to arrive in this country spoke Ladino. They were of Spanish origin, with last names like Lopez and Tauro. “They’re not ‘other’. They’re our brother,” he said of the relationship between Jews and Latinos. “We have common roots here.”
Thursday night’s event begins at Mishkan Israel, 785 Ridge Rd. in Hamden, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $10 per person, $30 for a family. A donor has offered to match all contributions that night up to $10,000. Click here for more information about the Immigrant Bail Fund.
Click on or download the above audio file to hear the full episode of WNHH radio’s “Chai Haven” program with Brett Davidson and Herb Brockman; or click on the video below to watch it on Facebook Live.