Brookwrite

Columns - 2015

    Jew's Line is it Anyway?

    Welcome to "Jew's Line is it Anyway," the game where, like Midrash, everything is made up and, come Yom Kippur, the points don't matter. Yes, they matter as much as Jimmy Carter at a pro-Israel rally.

    Four performers make up everything you see, right on the spot, like some Torah readers on Shabbat morning. Everything they do is based on suggestions from the congregation and what's written on cards that they've never seen before.

    The first game is called "Questions," or in its original Jewish form, "Rabbinic Answers." In this game, the contestants are allowed to speak only in questions, thus answering each other's questions with nothing but more questions, like the rabbis of yore (and evermore). Get it?

    "Let's Make a Shidduch" is a dating game, where one contestant asks questions of three blind dates, to try to determine who they are. The three are given an outlandish persona to enact as they answer the contestant's questions.

    For example, one bachelor might be, "the cool kid who always won at ga-ga, thirty years later." Another could be, "that annoying song leader from summer camp." (Not that they all are annoying, but THAT one.) The third might be, "that guy who dozed off and missed that the Red Sea parted."

    It's always an eclectic group, but more appealing than any three bachelors one might find in real life.

    Perhaps the most popular game is "Scenes from a Kippah." In this, congregation members get to write (before Shabbat) a one-line description of a scene. These are pulled at random from a kippah -- preferably a large, Bukharan kippah, because the papers fit better. The contestants must make as many brief scenes as they can from the description.

    The descriptions can be anything. For example: "Things to not say at the end of a bris." "Holidays that aren't on the Jewish calendar, but should be." "Prayers we say in our daily lives, but not in services." "What not to say to the new Rabbi." "Things you can say about services, but not about your spouse."

    In "Kiddush Quirks," one contestant gets to experience what most rabbis do each week after services: Meet very strange people and try to figure out what their deal is.

    For example, one kiddush guest could be Moses, smashing everything in sight, trying to get water to come out of it. Another could be a specific animal, going through other kiddush attendees to find a mate so he can get the last seat on Noah's Ark. The third might be a mosquito sampling and judging every dish at this week's bar mitzvah kiddush.

    What is one of the greatest Jewish pastimes, hearkening back all the way to the forty years in the desert? Complaining. In "World's Worst," the contestants offer one-line suggestions for things like: "Worst blessing a parent could give a bar mitzvah kid." "World's worst pitches for the annual campaign." "World's worst things to include on a seder plate." "World's worst titles for a High Holy Day sermon."

    In the game, "Jew's Line," two performers are given a subject to work from. They're also given several slips of paper, each with a single, random line of Talmud. At spontaneous times during the scene, they pull out a slip and say whatever line is on the slip and make it fit into what they're saying.

    There is also a one-person version of this, sometimes played in some synagogues on certain slow Saturdays. It's called "The Rabbi's Sermon."

    One game that has been lost in time features a field reporter interacting with two news anchors. The reporter can't see the breaking news he's reporting on, but the anchors can. From what the anchors say, the reporter has to figure out what's going on.

    It seems innocuous enough, so why is it never done? The name of the game set up an unintended expectation: "Jews Flash."

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who once brought down the house on USY Pilgrimage doing a Switch game, flipping back and forth arguing the pros and cons of shilshul. It was an audience suggestion. Look it up. Better yet, don't. For past columns, other writings, and more, visit http://brookwrite.com/. For exclusive online content, follow facebook.com/the.beholders.eye.

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.