March 15, 2001
A rabbi and an ad man entertained readers with 'Dayenu.'
Any regular reader of the Jewish Voice in the 1950s and 1960s will remember "DAYENU," a gag panel spoofing Jewish life. The weekly cartoon was attributed to Henry Leonard, actually a hybrid moniker representing two locals -- Rabbi Henry Rabin, longtime executive director of Hillel of Southern California, and advertising artist Leonard Prikitin.
The Journal was unsuccessful in its search for Prikitin, but we found retired Newport Beach resident Rabin, 85, who told us that he created "DAYENU" because "I felt that all the papers were too parochial and too bar mitzvah-ish. There was not much of a critical nature in Jewish journalism of that day. My desire was to do cartoons that poked fun at the materialism and the rivalry in the community."
At its peak, "DAYENU," at a buck a panel, ran in 50 Jewish papers, including periodicals in Canada, Australia, South Africa and England -- remarkably, without the aid of a syndicate. In 1960, Crown Publishing began releasing four paperback collections: "Open Your Mouth and Say, 'Oy!'," "With a Little Bit of Mazeltov," "Never on Shabbos" and "Bagel Power." The day's top Jewish humorists -- Sam Levenson and Harry Golden -- wrote the forewords. By the climax of its two-decade run in the early 1970s, "DAYENU" totaled 1,100 cartoons and outlived many of the Jewish newspapers that ran it. "I used to use it on the Jewish Record, in place of a political cartoon on the masthead," remembered Ted Sandler, longtime associate editor of L.A.'s B'nai B'rith Messenger. "It was funny; it was really funny!" So what was the most rewarding aspect of Rabbi Rabin's side gig as a gag cartoonist?
"Getting the ideas," Rabin said. "It certainly wasn't the money."