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Comic Relief, Israel Style
Stand Up Comedy artist Avi Liberman
by Judy Lash Balint
June 28, 2007

Many kids of English-speaking immigrants get into trouble in Jerusalem--just hang around Zion Square at the beginning of the Ben Yehuda Street pedestrian mall after dark any night of the week and you'll see them floating aimlessly, doing all the things that troubled teenagers do the world over.

Caryn Green, a young American-born social worker, has made it her mission to reach out to help the kids and provide a safe alternative to the drugs and violence of street life. Six years ago she founded Crossroads, a program that provides counseling, case management, a resource center and a way for the kids to take the GED and get on with life.

Funding has never come easy for projects that deal with problems the community would rather not acknowledge, so Green started to look around for innovative ways to raise money for her kids.

Five years ago, she recruited Avi Liberman, an old high school buddy and professional comedian to come over to raise the spirits of then-beleagured Jerusalemites and to raise money for Crossroads.

This week, her friend Avi brought three professional American comedians (known as "standupistim" in Hebrew) over to perform at the fifth annual Crossroads comedy benefit.

At the Jerusalem show, it was standing room only as a few hundred American immigrants piled into the Yellow Submarine club eager to laugh both at themselves and the comedians who put on an outstanding show.

The two Jewish stand-up artists, both veterans of Comedy Central and HBO comedy specials, were so obviously comfortable and appreciative of playing before an all-Jewish audience who got all their jokes about Jewish holidays and their Jewish upbringing, while the show's two non-Jews, Dwight Slade and Craig Robinson (Daryl in The Office TV series) shared their hilarious impressions of the little pieces of Israel they've seen during their brief visit.

Both Slade and Robinson couldn't get over the fact that it's not so unusual here to find families with 10 or 12 kids and bantered with audience members who came from such large families. All four performers showed off the Hebrew they'd learned, with Robinson even making a successful rolling "chet" as he told the audience about the beautiful "Chana" he had met on a sherut to Tel Aviv.

The comedians who had never been in Israel before kept on proclaiming their awe of being in the Holy Land: "Today I stood in Jerusalem at the spot where Jesus spoke," said Robinson, "...right next to Coffee Bean on Jaffa Road!."

Nothing wrong with a bit of comic relief for a good cause on a day when a look at an Israeli newspaper with its news of Kassam attacks on Sderot and Israeli troops in Gaza could make you want to weep.