It’s an undeniable fact: Comedy is an important part of the Jewish experience. Just ask Congregation Or Tzion Associate Rabbi Nate Crane.
As he looked for ways to reach his congregants when the synagogue’s new building was set to open last year, he had a brainstorm — join forces with one of the synagogue’s younger members and tape a funny talk show.
Called “Between Two Torahs,” the show features 9-year-old Josh Feinberg interviewing Crane as they sit … between two Torahs. Well, interviewing is a generous term for what Josh does. He frequently interrupts Crane’s answers, calls him “Rabbit” Crane and randomly drops in presidential fun facts. Oh, and he also likes giving Crane a hard time about his height.
But it’s all in good fun.
“I thought it would be hilarious for a kid to frequently talk about my height, because I’m not the tallest rabbi,” Crane said with a laugh.
If “Between Two Torahs” sounds familiar, that’s because the name and style are reminiscent of Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns,” the Funny or Die comedic talk show on which Galifianakis ribs celebrities like Jerry Seinfeld and President Barack Obama.
While “Between Two Torahs” isn’t meant to be a direct parody, Josh certainly seems to channel Galifianakis’ deadpan affect.
“All of the humor that comes through is not really in the script,” Crane said. “It’s in the way he presents it, his delivery.”
Crane wrote the initial script and when he and Josh did a table read they began making adjustments based on the youngster’s performance.
“Then we went and set up between two Torahs on the bima in front of the ark,” Crane said. “We filmed it over and over and over again. Josh was great. It was me messing it up. His delivery was fantastic.”
When searching for his partner in comedy, Crane immediately thought of Josh. The boy had sat next to the rabbi during a Shabbat and entertained Crane with a bevy of presidential fun facts.
“When we were thinking about who would be the perfect interviewer, all I could do was reflect back on this really fun conversation I had with him,” Crane said. “I thought that he would definitely be the perfect fit. He’s just like a really fun, really outgoing, really smart, really charismatic kid.”
But don’t get the wrong idea. Crane is no chopped liver when it comes to comedy. Before deciding on rabbinical school, Crane was part of a comedy improv troupe that toured the nation.
“I wanted to make sure that being a rabbi was exactly what I wanted to do,” he said. “So, I tried all the other things that I thought I might be interested in and one of them was doing improv comedy.”
As for Josh, he’s already a veteran of the stage, having performed in productions of “Seussical Junior,” “Peter Pan” and “Alice in Wonderland” at the Valley of the Sun JCC.
During the interview with Crane, the Sonoran Sky Elementary School student walked into the rabbi’s office to prepare for his questioning.
He kept his answers short and to the point when asked why he does the show.
“I just like doing it,” he said.
When asked how many he’d like to do, he said, “As many as he wants.”
While Crane is obviously having a ball with “Between Two Torahs,” it’s not his sole focus as he looks for ways to reach out to the Or Tzion congregation.
“This was done in an effort to have fun, to be accessible, to build relationships with our congregants,” he said. “That’s really where all of this originated from. It’s a different way of reaching out to our community, of reaching out to the greater
“We were we were thinking about the best way to promote our synagogue’s open house for our brand new building last year. We were trying to come up with one of the best accessible and best representative kinds of promotional materials. I thought this might be fun to do.”
Josh agreed — in a way only Josh could.
“It’s one of my favorite things to do … at the synagogue.” JN
You can catch episodes of “Between Two Torahs” at congregationortzion.org.