London Free Press review

There’s lots in a name

August 5, 2007

What’s in a name? For Robyn Israel — it’s everything.

One of the best one-woman shows at London Fringe 2007, Jewish Girls Don’t Kayak is a cackle-filled personal view into Israel’s family life and how she came to have her eponymous surname.

Her comedic routine retells her experience, wading through stereotypes, culture clashing and racism.

Israel tells the story of when her grandfather wanted to come to Canada. She says he was met with a snarky immigration official who, not understanding her father’s thick accent when he spoke his real name, ignorantly dubbed him Morris Israel, a name that stuck through generations.

Israel tells us about struggles through her childhood wishing she had a more Anglo-saxon name, something like Anderson. She comically enlightens Fringers, proud to inform them that Judy Holiday’s real name was Judith Tuvim. She tells of her disappointment when Norman Jewison, director of 1971 film Fiddler on the Roof, wasn’t Jewish, as his name suggested, but Protestant.

With Yiddish references, Israel takes us on a path of self-learning: Her name, culture and her wacky yet lovable parents.

And while Israel mostly makes light of her experiences — the latent bigotry and family strain over finding a Jew to marry — she does hit her audience with painfully emotional material.

I held back a sniffle when Israel recalled the fire-bombing of her high school, its glass library shattered and books strewn. [… spoiler removed …]

Jewish Girls Don’t Kayak makes us all proud to preserve our own ethnic heritage while still being truly Canadian.

Comments are closed.