April 4, 2002
Once a year, Highland Park is converted into Chai-land Park for what might be the most gone-amok of all Jewish celebrations: "Jew Night."
Michael Perrick created a post-modern Borscht Belt bash that has become a local tradition for Jew and non-Jew alike.
"Every year, people ask me, 'So when is 'Jew Night?'" says the 34-year-old Silver Lake artist.
"Jew Night" is all about wacked-out Jewish kitsch: the gyrating Jelvis ("The Jewish Elvis"); the Whirling Hors-Dervishes klezmer band; the Sinai Puppets; a Whack-a-Mohel game; bagel flinging; and even a Miss JAP contest where contestants are judged on hair, nails and whining. The biggest draw: "Strip Dreydel." The Fourth Annual shtickfest will be hosted by Perrick's alter-kacker alter ego, Sye Goldstein.
"I like how he treats it so playfully," says Kim Cooper, who assists Perrick. "He's very serious about celebrating Jewishness, but he doesn't want to be rigid."
"I'm a firm believer in the idea of bringing stereotypes out so it becomes something you can laugh at," Perrick says, "and then it loses its power."
Despite his unorthodox appearance, Perrick has always been closely connected to Judaism. "I grew up watching concentration camp footage and war films, and it scared the crap out of me," says Perrick, whose father was "obsessed" with the Holocaust. Through Jew Night, Perrick hopes to "celebrate the Jew in everyone." All inhibitions go out the window, save for one: "Negativity is not allowed."
Perrick's mission is to make everybody feel comfortable with Jewish culture by not taking it too seriously.
"If you aren't a Jew when you come in," Perrick says, "you will be when you leave."
Jew Night takes place April 6 at 9 p.m. at Mr. T's Bowl, 5621 1/2 Figueroa (at Avenue 57), Highland Park. Admission: $10 (21+ only). For information, call (323) 692-3136 or visit www.jewnight.com . -- Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer