It felt a little ironic walking into what was once a chapel to the rousing mix of Israeli and Arabic music, but perhaps it’s a credit to our society. After all, Jeremie Bracka, human rights lawyer and comedian extraordinaire, believes Israel and Palestine are really like Siamese twins and the heartbeat of the music resonates the same in either culture.
To be considered Jewish, you must have a Jewish mother. Bracka has a Jewish mother from Poland and a French Jewish father brought up in Egypt. Being a ‘nice Jewish boy’ from Caulfield, who thought Doncaster residents were settlers and had no knowledge of the West Bank or Gaza Strip, brought mixed blessings as well as expectations. Learning Hebrew was obligatory, as was the accepted premise that it was better to be clever than right and, if you can’t be a doctor, a lawyer will have to do.
Bracka’s mother was so definite about a lawyer being a last resort for him that she “had him enrolled straight after circumcision”. Bracka, who now lives in Israel, developed a passion for the work he carried out as a lawyer for the peace process in the Middle East and with the United Nations, has devised the best way to get the message across with yet another language, Yiddish.
Originally an eastern European vernacular. Yiddish is, without question, the best language to express Jewish humour, and to which so many American comedians would testify. Bracka’s pronunciation of Hanukkah and Pesach had the audience convulsed with laughter before he actually hit the psychiatrist’s couch to relay the eccentricities of his family or the agonies of Middle Eastern leaders in the guidance of their countries.
As a female CNN TV interviewing Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat, he cleverly revealed their ineptitude in relation to everyday life before he whirled back on stage as one of 20 other characters.
It would be a mistake to give this wonderfully clever show a miss because you don’t understand Yiddish. There are only a handful of throwaway lines their expressive delivery will have you convulsed with laughter.
The lines are a little bit blue, sometimes black and occasionally naughty, but what a fabulous performance from a very talented, intelligent and extremely humorous comedian. And he’s accompanied by the music of Tomi Kalinski, previous music director for Barry Humphries.
Bracka hopes to take the show to New York, where he feels it will be a revelation to see an Australian delivering Jewish humour about such a controversial subject. He certainly has enough chutzpah to carry it off.