Sunday 26th October 2014, another great night, another great event, in the life of the magical Beit Issie Shapiro. Anyone who has never heard of Beit Issie or who doesn’t know what Beit Issie is all about, please read my ToI blog of 18 July 2014.

Nik Rabinowiz, billed as South Africa’s funniest Jew (and that’s quite a statement considering, in Ra’anana, there are lots of ‘funny’ South Africans!), visited Beit Issie some months ago and, smitten with the place, as most people are when they visit, he decided to return, which he did for just 24 hours, to do a stand-up ‘gig’ to raise funds for the organisation. Just think about this for a sec…in the middle of a hectic stand-up schedule all over the world, Nik, in the UK and due to fly on to Canada, gets on a plane and flies to Tel Aviv, performs his show, is in Tel Aviv for 24 hours and then flies on to Canada! Heck of a guy!!

My wife, Yaf, and I (a native Israeli and Brit respectively), we, of course, agreed to buy tickets to see the show and to support this great, inspiring, life-enhancing organisation, to help, in our own little way, Beit Issie Shapiro which in my July blog I described as being

“the culmination of a dream, the dream of a wonderful man who had love flowing through his veins”.

I went on to say that

“Issie Shapiro z”l had a dream, a dream to spread the message that ALL children, regardless of their intellectual or cognitive advantages or disadvantages, are members of society, that ALL children should have equal rights to education and opportunities, that ALL children should have access to the love and dedication of carers and teachers so that they can ALL fully participate in society, so that they can ALL achieve their potential, so that ALL children feel that they ‘belong’  –  Issie Shapiro saw ALL children as making up the ‘us’ group, not ‘them’ and ‘us’ groups….and ‘ALL’ means Jewish Israeli, Arab Israeli  –  Jewish, Muslim, Christian, people of any and no religion. ‘Integration’ is a key word at Beit Issie: the aim is to work with children to ensure that, wherever possible, they can go to school and socialise with children who do not have intellectual or cognitive difficulties…”

The Ra’anana Music and Arts Centre, what a great venue, what a great stage for Nik Rabinowitz! The place was packed, a fact which reflected the reputation of Beit Issie, the love felt towards Beit Issie, the continued support of and for Beit Issie and also the altruistic spirit and warmth within the South African community in Ra’anana and beyond and within Ra’anana society, and beyond, in general.

Yaf and I walked into the auditorium and took our seats in the front row  –  front row seats at a stand-up comedy gig…that should have put us on notice! It did not. Rather than asking if we could move a few rows back, we felt fortunate and honoured, amongst the great and the good, the creme de la creme of the South African community, to have been allocated such great seats. Even the South African Ambassador to Israel was sitting 3 or 4 rows back…little did I realise that that was in his very best interests! The punters in the front row seats were as appetising to, and tantalising for, Nik as are bottles of good malt at a Kinor David Shul Kiddush.

10 minutes communal banter in the auditorium  and then the lights went down…first, a few introductory words from Jean Judes, Executive Director of Beit Issie Shapiro. Jean gave the audience an overview of what Beit Issie is with the aid of a video via a Power Point Presentation. I had a tour of Beit Issie a few months ago and the video brought it all flooding back. Jean thanked the audience for their support and gave a special thanks to Nik for coming all the way from South Africa to do the gig to raise funds for BIS. Jean then introduced Evan Shein, father of Oren, one of the children in the Beit Issie family. Evan waxed lyrical about BIS. He talked about it as a life saver, as an extension of his family  –  very moving! and then, in bounded Nik with an energy more typical of an 18 year old than a man of, if I may respectfully suggest, slightly more advanced years. Speaking at speed and in a heavy Jo’berg accent, Yaf and I quickly realised that we were not going to catch every word. Moreover, and somewhat expectedly, a lot of the jokes were ‘in’ jokes, jokes geared very much to the majority South African audience so a lot of them went over our heads. Did that spoil it for us? Nope. It was great to be part of a crowd which was full of laughter. The atmosphere was terrific.

Knowing that I might blog a few words on the evening, I thought I should take a photo of Nik doing his ‘thing’. Phone in hand, Nik in focus….flash….photo taken. Error. Nik’s attention was immediately drawn to me and a public ‘put down’ followed….I have no idea what he said, I couldn’t make it out, but the ‘house’ enjoyed it and, of course, I took it in good part. That should have been lesson learned BY ALL. Memories were short. Some time later, Yaf’s attention was drawn to a text/SMS which arrived at her phone and, much to her embarrassment, Nik’s eyes fixed on her like a hawk’s on a mouse. For 5 minutes, Nik and Yaf became a double act, Nik the funny man, Yaf the straight person. Subject matter broached was, I think it’s fair to say, not typical of what one expects in a ‘family show’ so I shall not repeat it now but, whilst embarrassing for Yaf  –  evident by the red hue of her face  –  I think I’m right in thinking that she took it all in the spirit of the evening and that she enjoyed it (in a way)…the audience certainly did!!!

In summary, a fun night, I’m sure a financially successful night, Yaf and I were happy to have sacrificed ourselves on Nik’s comedy altar for the good of Beit Issie Shapiro and Nik, a job well done, flew off to Canada with a certificate complete with photographs of Beit Issie’s children to mark the occasion.

Why not contact Beit Issie Shapiro (info@beitissie.org.il) to set up a tour and see it for yourself  –  I strongly recommend it!!