In Cedarhurst, the Long Island hamlet a few miles southwest of JFK Airport, the rumble of low-flying planes was audible inside the Chofetz Chaim Torah Center, where Ayelet, billed as The Kosher Komic, was performing on a recent Saturday night.
The air carriers overhead, to be sure, were not part of “Glatt Kosher Airlines, ” the imaginary fleet that is a highlight of Ayelet’s hour-long stand-up routine. In it, she conceives an air carrier for the fervently Orthodox: The flight attendants are trained in lengthening hemlines; collapsible black hats are stuffed in seat pockets; the radio station continually plays the Jewish traveler’s prayer; and, when the cabin pressure drops, a book of Psalms, in place of an oxygen mask, is released from the overhead panel. “Please say your own tehillim prior to assisting the small child, elderly passenger or recent baal teshuvah seated next to you,” said Ayelet, mocking a “Glatt Kosher Airlines” flight attendant during her Cedarhurst performance.
“I’m not making fun, I’m making light,” Ayelet, a baal teshuvah who lives in Jerusalem’s Old City, told The Jewish Week.The Kosher Komic performed for about 30 women — most wearing sheitels and long skirts –– who packed the small Chofetz Chaim sanctuary. In addition to the Glatt Kosher Airlines shpiel, Ayelet’s shtick includes jokes about her efforts to find a shidduch (“Always a shomeret [bridesmaid], never a kallah [bride]”); why Jewish women have no need for the witness protection program (“All you have to do is get her frum and get her married, and Lisa Smith becomes Chaya Sarah Teitelbaum”); and about her yiches (“My ancestors come from Poland and Transylvania, so if you really believe in stereotypes, that makes me a dumb vampire.”) She also proved to be particularly adept at mimicking Israeli, Persian and Russian accents.
Audience members chuckled almost without cessation as Ayelet, wearing an ankle length black skirt, a turtleneck, sweater and “bulletproof pantyhose,” delivered sketch after yeshivish vocabulary-laden sketch. As her jokes assume more than a basic knowledge of Jewish law and rituals, Ayelet’s shows attract a primarily Orthodox crowd. Cedarhurst was Ayelet’s fourth stop during her two-week, six-city tour before heading back to Israel later this month.“Good for her for getting up there and doing this,” said Estie Bodner, who attended the performance. “It’s a gutsy thing to do, especially if she’s looking for a shidduch. Generally people are so worried about what other people are going to think of them, but she’s able to make fun of herself.” Ayelet — like Madonna and Cher, she uses her first name only — grew up secular in Long Island.
After high school, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. She attained moderate success there, garnering roles in a Lifetime television movie, an HBO series and even a bit part in the 2003 feature film, “The Hebrew Hammer.”While auditioning in Los Angeles, she became involved in Aish Hatorah, the Jewish outreach organization, where she befriended Orthodox rabbis and their families. “The more I got to know them, I was amazed that they could live such pure and holy lives a town full of immorality,” she said. Inspired by their way of life, she started to become more observant. Slowly, the working actress, who had sworn off marriage and children and prayed incessantly for commercial auditions, began to change her priorities. “I realized I want a husband and children,” said the tall, raven-haired comedienne. “I want God and meaning in my life.”When she became, by her own description “a flaming baal teshuvah,” she knew show business in the traditional sense would not mesh with her new Orthodox lifestyle. She began working behind the scenes at Aish and Isralight, another outreach organization, while doing “kosher” stand-up on side.
Just what is kosher comedy?For one, she performs for women only, so not to transgress Jewish modesty laws. In addition, her rabbi-approved material includes no references to the violent, vulgar, sexual or derogatory.“It’s easy to be dirty and funny,” Ayelet said. “Dirty equals funny most of the time. It’s not simple to put together a routine that’s funny and 100 percent kosher, but I’ve never been one to take the easy road.” Ayelet remains mum about her age, but said she is looking for match between the ages of 23-33. “I’ve been looking for my beshert,” she said, during a recent performance. “If you know him, call him. I’ve got a rabbi and two witnesses on call 24 hours a day. They’ll be here in 15 minutes.” Though much of her act revolves around her search for her soulmate, Ayelet said she plans to continue doing stand-up after she marries. “I will have a shtick about engagement, marriage, children,” she said.
Then one performance-goer piped in, “You should do something about mikveh.”“Mikveh,” Ayelet said. “Add that to the list.” nFor more information on Ayelet’s upcoming shows,visit www.kosherkomic.com.