To celebrate Educator Appreciation Week last week, Barnes & Noble held a marathon reading of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird on Friday, Apr. 17. The event was organized by longtime B&N staffer Terry Stewart. She recruited 26 readers, who started at 9 a.m. and took their turns reading through the book in just under 30 minutes less than the 12 hours it took the actor Sissy Spacek to record it for the audiobook on sale at Barnes & Noble.
The reading, whatever part you might have caught, or not, was like a tonic, refreshing our minds and bracing us to look more clearly at issues that dogged the South at the time Lee was writing and in the time she was writing about, and still do in our time. The readings were also a powerful reminder of just how much more can be added to a book through hearing it read aloud. The various voices and accents made Jim and Scout, Atticus, Boo Radley and Sheriff Heck Tate come alive and move us again through this tale of love and honor, laughter and exploration, hatred and prejudice and what it means to be Southern. Even if you missed the readings, you can still get ahold of the book and read it, preferably with friends, aloud. Participants in the marathon reading (more or less in order of appearance) were Jayne Lockhart, Eleanor McMinn, Max Reinhart, Ray Watson, Andrea Downs, Tia Nikolopolis, Bob Good, Liza Sampson, Jeffrey Engel, Tom Milton, Brenda Schlicker, Terry Stewart, Todd Vieu, John Campbell, Sharla Campbell, Lorien Campbell, Loretta White, Tyler Drummond, Karen Hankins, Gay McCommons, Pete McCommons, Richard Hoard, Deana Shuman, Todd Vieu and Emma Stephens.
To help raise money for a new roof at Congregation Children of Israel, some local entertainers and would-be entertainers are putting on a fundraiser called “Raise the Roof,” loosely based on the web series, “Old Jews Telling Jokes.” The event takes place at Hendershot’s on Sunday evening, May 3, starting at 7 p.m. The cost is $15, and it’s for a very good cause and will probably sell out, so mark your calendar. For further information or to make a reservation, you can contact Barry Wolk at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 706-548-7829. Dr. Wolk is a retired OB/GYN and headed up the midwifery program at Athens Regional. He seems to have moved into comedy in his retirement, so I’ll let him tell you about this enjoyable evening and how it came about. Hey, Barry: Take my column—please.
Raise the Roof
Let's see, Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with 15 (he slips and drops five of them), uh, 10 commandments (Mel Brooks in History of the World), so Jews have been laughing at and with themselves since biblical days, and considering the history of the "Chosen People" throughout the ages, sometimes you have to laugh so as not to cry. Fast-forward to the large influx of Jewish immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s who brought not only their resolve to make a better life, but their (usually) self-deprecating humor with them. From these roots sprang the Marx Brothers, Olsen and Johnson (yep they were Jews), Benny, Burns, Berle, Jessel, and the list is almost endless. (Joke: Why do Jewish women like circumcised men? Jewish women won't touch anything that's not 20 percent off!)
As first or second generation American-born, most of us grew up with such humor and enjoyed seeing our parents and grandparents laughing out loud at Yiddish jokes—Alan King, Myron Cohen, Jan Murray, Mel Brooks, etc. took those jokes and stories to mainstream America, and the rest is history, I guess.
Now, about Old Jews Telling Jokes, we know a lot of old Jews—us included—and we figured that since we can't eat ham, we can be a ham. Doesn't everyone want to be a stand-up comic for at least a few minutes? I am the host for the evening. Lisa Mende is the emcee. Pianist is Jim Sherman (who converted to Judaism) and bass is Dan Horowitz. Lisa Anger rounds out our cast. We will be doing skits, shtick and some Yiddish/Jewish musical numbers as time permits. Since we don't know how many people will attend or how many will actually come on stage, we have to be prepared with our own pre-planned jokes, etc. So, the show is scripted, but we'll have to be nimble for changes. The evening should be both fun and hectic and, hopefully, hysterically funny.
We will have a bag of jokes for those folks who claim they don't know any, and of course there's no requirement to be Jewish to tell a joke, so all are welcome. It's for a good cause; the Temple needs a new roof (thus the title), and we hope this show will a be a start in that direction. Best of all, it's not your typical fundraiser, like a raffle, art auction, silent auction, covered dish, etc. Also, the venue, Hendershot’s, is kindly donating the space, and as you can imagine, the subject matter is best said outside the confines of a temple. Therefore, no one under 21 will be permitted at the show. Thanks again for your interest and help. [Barry Wolk]