(JTA) — Sitting onstage at a comedy club filled mostly with his target audience of Orthodox Jews, comedian Modi Rosenfeld said that he’s still booking gigs at plenty of Orthodox synagogues — even after opening up about being gay.
“I performed at this beautiful shul, Anshei Emuna in Boca,” Rosenfeld said at the event Thursday night at Stand Up NY, a venue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, referring to Boca Raton, Florida. “You heard of it? The woman who booked me for the event saw the article, she’s like, I would say, between 70 and — older woman, Florida — the whole thing. And it’s an Orthodox shul. And she’s walking around — ‘His husband’s here. Drop dead gorgeous. Drop dead gorgeous.’”
The club erupted in laughter.
The occasion was the first in-person taping of the Jewish interview podcast “18Forty.” The podcast’s host, Orthodox Rabbi David Bashevkin, moderated the conversation (and revealed that he once took a standup comedy class and was promptly told to find another career). The episode that will emerge from the taping will be available to watch online and stream closer to Purim, the jovial Jewish holiday that falls this year on the evening of March 6.
Bashevkin told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he originally booked Rosenfeld because comedy was the perfect topic for a Purim-themed episode. Then Rosenfeld gave an interview to Variety magazine in which he discussed being Orthodox and gay. Same-sex relationships are traditionally prohibited in Jewish law, and Orthodox communities have struggled with how and whether to accept and embrace LGBTQ community members.
Bashevkin revealed to the audience that he was a little nervous about speaking onstage with Rosenfeld now that the comedian’s sexual orientation is public knowledge, and he mentioned that he received an email from someone questioning the propriety of the event.
The audience was supportive of Rosenfeld, clapping loudly when he discussed taking control of his own story, and when he offered advice to parents who find out their children are gay (don’t make it about yourself, and tell your child you love them, he said.)
Apple rates “18Forty” as one of the most popular podcasts in the Judaism category, and after the show, Bashevkin hung around the entrance of the club as dozens of people stopped by to introduce themselves. Some mentioned how they knew him, or where they saw him on an airplane. Others complimented him on the show or expressed how much they love his podcast.
Ultimately, Bashevkin said, “I’m looking to raise up Jews and raise up our traditions.”