Jewish Poets Live in Berkeley

When I graduated college, I moved to San Francisco to get away from Judaism. No, that’s not right: I moved there because I thought I wanted to be a writer, and even though everyone at my synagogue warned me that San Francisco was a Jewish wasteland without Orthodox Jews or kosher restaurants, I knew that I had to put my writing first.

It’s a few years later now. I wrote a book about trying to become a professional poet and trying to become an Orthodox Jew, which feels like a book I haven’t read in years. Now I live in New York City. That isn’t to say that I didn’t find observant Jews in the Bay Area — actually, I found some of the wildest and most creative Jews I ever met, from the annual Hip-Hop Chanukah parties to wild Lag Ba’Omer bonfires.

And so it’s really cool — for me personally, and for the whole community — that the local Orthodox synagogue is starting to throw spoken-word festivals. The SF Jewish magazine, J Weekly, which is not exactly known for covering synagogue talent shows, ran two feature stories about it — so it’s good to know I’m not the only one who’s pumped.

berkeley jewish spoken word

As an involved participant, I can’t really offer an objective opinion — but it’s hella cool to see poetry becoming embraced by,well, people you wouldn’t think would embrace it. The Lubavitch Hasidic community in Crown Heights has a monthly poetry slam, and the Sixth Street Shul in New York just started a poetry series called Baruch She’amar, named after one of the morning prayers (but which literally means “blessed are those who speak”).

The Berkeley event will feature beatboxer Joshua Walters, who’s been on the double-crown of MTV and PBS, Cantor Linda Hirschhorn, and Australian import Natan Kuchar (below). And, possibly, you.

natan kuchar

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