Friars Raise Funds

By Max Gross

Published September 23, 2005, issue of September 23, 2005.
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You’d think that at the Friar’s Club, they could make fun of anything.

The famous New York humorists’ lair certainly has had its share of tasteless acts over the years. But when it came to the subject of the Gaza disengagement, one recent Friar’s Club performer found precious little to laugh about. “That’s like saying, ‘Do you do any tumor jokes?’” comedian Steve Solomon told the Forward when asked if he had developed any disengagement material.

Nevertheless, the disengagement was on people’s minds last week when about 150 guests gathered at the Friar’s Club for an evening emceed by Solomon. The event was designed to raise money for the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, which is helping uprooted settlers cope with their new circumstances. Solomon — the author and star of the one-man show “My Father’s Jewish, My Mother’s Italian and I’m in Therapy” — offered the evening’s comic relief, regaling the assembled with stories about El Al stewardesses and about Solomon’s neurotic mother.

Solomon avoided discussing the disengagement. But others who took the stage did address the issue, albeit in a serious vein.

Danny Brom, head of the ICTP, said that the contributions will help the center set up walk-in clinics in places where settlers have moved.

“At this moment, everyone is in distress,” Brom told the Forward. “To live in a hotel room with one’s children is not really an easy thing. These people lost their homes and their community and their work. They need time to stabilize, find work, find where they want to live.”

And while psychological effects of the Gaza disengagement have yet to become clear, Brom said he already has seen some ripples: “We hear a lot about children wetting their beds, a lot of anxiety, adolescents become wilder, but all in all we should not forget that this is a very strong population with a strong sense of community — that helps.”

“We’re not political in any way,” Brom said to the evening’s guests, each of whom had paid $150 to attend. “The project works with Arabs in Israel and Palestinians. If they don’t get out of their trauma, we don’t get out of our trauma.”

And, true to Brom’s word, the evening was more or less apolitical.

The closest Solomon got to politics was an airport joke.

On his way to New York, Solomon said, he was asked by an airport security officer, “Anybody you don’t know helped you pack your bag?”

“Come to think of it,” Solomon said, brushing his fingers across his chin, “I was sitting in my hotel last night — minding my own business — when I heard a knock on the door.”

Solomon said he opened the door to find a gentleman with a long beard, wearing a turban and holding a rifle. “You don’t know me,” the visitor said, “but I’ve come to help you pack your bag.”






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