International theater artist Robbie Gringras made aliyah in 1996. He’s still there, and he wants you to know why. The answers in “Why I’m (Still) Here” are complex, as life in Israel tends to be. The answers are also funny, poignant and provocative, as life in Israel tends to be.
A British-born Oxford University graduate, Gringras is a writer, actor, singer and storyteller who lives on Kibbutz Tuval with his family. He tours the world with his shows, expressing his passion for the land of Israel through theater and music.
On Thursday, Robbie Gringras comes to Har HaShem for a unique Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration that includes a performance of “Why I’m (Still) Here,” underwritten by 18 Pomegranates and sponsored by Jewish-Together Boulder (JT Boulder), a new organization made up of area congregations and the Boulder JCC. The Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration, which begins with Israeli dancing and family activities, is the first collaborative program produced by JT Boulder.
Shari Edelstein, director of 18 Pomegranates, has recruited a group of young Israeli families to help plan a celebration for all ages preceding the performance. During the show, which is suitable for teenagers and adults, there will be supervised activities for children 12 and under. There will be an outdoor gaga pit and falafel will be for sale.
“Why I’m (Still) Here” is a series of stories chronicling Gringras’ adjustment to Israel and the significance of his decision to live in the Jewish homeland. His performance provides personal insights into Israel and what it means to live there. “In the end aliyah isn’t about arriving,” he says. “It’s about staying.”
Gringras is also the chief editor and artist in residence of the online network, Makom (translated as “place” and another name for G-d). Its goal is to support the effort to restore and preserve Israel’s important role in Jewish life. The site includes a popular and active book club, which Gringras created with musician Kobi Oz.
When asked about the message of his shows, Gringras says he doesn’t believe in messages.
It is my belief that good art (and good education) is about setting fire to important questions, and not giving self-important answers. I also believe that good art allows for an audience to assume and to interpret many different messages. The fun of art is that many people can draw from it so many different things.”
One of the main goals is to provoke the audiences into thinking deeply about their connection to Judaism and Israel. Gringras describes himself as, “an educator trying to build intimate and emotional connections to modern Israel. American Jews are having a difficult time coming to grips with the gritty reality. We have to get up close and personal with contemporary Israel.”
The free Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration begins at 5:30 pm in Har HaShem’s south building, 3950 Baseline Road, concluding with a ceremony at 6:30. Falafel will be available for purchase. Tickets to the 7:00 pm performance of “Why I’m (Still) Here” are $8 online or $10 at the door. To register: https://boulderjcc.wufoo.com/forms/menorah-why-iam-still-here/