In December 2005, more than 130 Philadelphians journeyed to Israel on a pilgrimage sponsored by the Bux-Mont Federation. During that time, after the conclusion of Shabbat, the participants, their rabbis and Roberta Matz, director of the Bux-Mont Region of Greater Philadelphia, attended a performance by Robbie Gringras, a 40-year-old native of Manchester, England, who made aliyah in 1996.
Drawing on his experiences as writer, actor, singer and storyteller, Gringras presented "The Gift and Other Stories," based on midrashim and Jewish folk tales. Federation's leadership decided almost immediately that they wanted to bring Gringras to Philadelphia to teach, act and entertain.
Their goal is being realized on Tuesday, May 30, at 7:30 p.m., when Gringras will present his original dramatic and musical piece, "That's Why I'm (Still) Here," at Congregation Beth Or, 239 Welsh Road in Maple Glen, sponsored by the Bux-Mont Federation.
The father of two, Gringras now resides at Kibbutz Tuval in the northern Galilee, where his wife is an active member. During the last 10 years, he has written and staged a number of one-man shows on Jewish and Israeli topics, which he has presented throughout the United Kingdom, North America, Scotland and Australia.
A graduate of Oxford University, he participated in the well-known Jerusalem Fellows program. After a 15-year career in theater, he regards himself as both an actor and an educator: "I do consultant work for Jewish educational institutions, advising them how they can make best use of the arts, music and theater. All of my own theater works have an educational intent."
"That's Why I'm (Still) Here" – a collection of five stories and six modern Israeli songs based on his autobiographical experiences as a new immigrant – is a celebration of the complexities of life in Israel.
Mazel Tov, Computer
The first narrative, "Living in Translation Part I: My Computer's Brit Milah," describes the need to find Hebrew letters for his computer keyboard.
Other topics include culture clashes between Gringras' Moroccan mother-in-law and English mother.
Interspersed among the stories are six modern Israeli songs written during the last decade that capture the realities of living in modern Israel. Many new Israeli songs "are once again beginning to speak to Jewish sensibilities and values."
Gringras is accompanied by Adam Maher, an Israeli musician playing guitar, viola and mandolin, as the songs' lyrics and translations are projected on a screen behind the performers.
Gringras describes himself as "an educator trying to build intimate and emotional connections to modern Israel. American Jews are having a difficult time coming to grips with the gritty reality. We have to get up close and personal with contemporary Israel."
For ticket info, call 215-646-4500, Ext. 101, or e-mail: [email protected]
On Wednesday, May 31, Gringras will present another of his original pieces, "Wrestling, Not Hugging," at 6:30 p.m., sponsored by the Auerbach Central Agency for Jewish Education.
For venue information, call 215-635-8940, Ext. 1221.
Cantor David F. Tilman, conductor and music educator, serves as chazzan of Beth Sholom Congregation and synagogue-skills instructor at the Forman Center of the Perelman Jewish Day School.