Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

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February 20, 2014
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Aspen Jewish Congregation celebrates 40th anniversary with service, comedy

The Aspen Jewish Congregation is set to celebrate its 40th anniversary in Aspen with two very different events this weekend.

During today’s 6 p.m. Shabbat service at the Aspen Chapel Sanctuary, many of the founders, past presidents and educators, as well as children who recently had their bar/bat mitzvahs, will be honored and invited to the pulpit for a special blessing.

“We want to bring the past, present and future generations together,” Rabbi David Segal said. “We’ve invited more than a dozen founding members to the Friday service.”

Gideon Kaufman, the son of a rabbi, was part of the original group of families that started the congregation in 1974 and will be one of the founders honored tonight.

“If you go back to Aspen in the 1970s, there was a small group that decided to offer services with a Jewish presence,” Kaufman said. “Back then, if you wanted something done in Aspen, you had to do it yourself. It also gave us an opportunity to provide some continuity for the kids to understand their Jewish backgrounds, which is very important.”

Also this evening, the volunteer band “Shir Bliss” will perform. Segal described the band’s music as eclectic with a mix of rock and folk, and he should know, since his wife, Rollin Simmons, is not only the cantor for the congregation — she’s also the lead singer in the band.

On Sunday, Segal has put together a fundraiser titled “Three Rabbis Walk Into a Bar,” a night of comedy that begins at 6:30 at Belly Up Aspen. Segal and two other rabbis, Matt Soffer and Molly G. Kane, will perform their original comedy routines and music. Aspen resident Doug Weiser will host the event which will feature music by the Howling Kettles.

It won’t be the first time Segal has performed comedy with Soffer. The two have been friends for nearly a decade, and both graduated from rabbinic school in 2010 from the Hebrew Union College of the Reform Jewish Movement Seminary in New York.

Prior to attending classes together at the rabbinic school, Segal and Soffer were students together in Israel, where they put together a comic variety show that was a mix of music and comedy.

While studying in New York, the two friends took a stand-up-comedy class that culminated with a performance at the Comic Strip Live club in New York.

Kane was a year behind Segal and Soffer at Hebrew Union College and took the same stand-up-comedy class.

“Molly has a great sense of humor,” Segal said. “She’s continued to occasionally do stand-up in New York.”

When it was decided to do something special for the 40th-anniversary celebration, Shereen Sarick, the wife of congregation President Jordan Sarick, who knew Segal had done stand-up comedy in the past, suggested a comedy show as a fundraiser.

When Segal reached out to his rabbi friends, they didn’t hesitate to help.

“Molly said it was one of the best emails she’s ever gotten,” Segal said. “They’re both excited to be a part of the celebration and fundraiser.”

Segal said to expect some variety throughout the show. Soffer will combine comedy and music in his routine, while Kane and Segal will do more traditional stand-up routines. Weiser has some comedic plans as the MC, and the show will be opened by the Howling Kettles, a folk trio currently playing at Justice Snow’s this month.

Segal said there will be a musical finale featuring all three rabbis.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun Sunday evening,” Segal said. “We’ll laugh at ourselves a little and maybe laugh at Aspen a little.”

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Feb 20, 2014 10:24PM Published Feb 21, 2014 05:33PM Copyright 2014 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.