Fiddler on the Hoop!

Unforgettable evening as the Circus comes to KLS

The evening of Sunday 5th February 2023 was one never to forget at KLS. For one night only, our Synagogue was transformed into a Circus and we were treated to a dazzling display of circus acts ranging from trapeze artists, through to animal trainers*, weightlifters and tight-rope walkers.

Photo credit: Dan Pluck, Pluck Photography

The event was the brainchild of Rabbi Miri Lawrence, the Rabbi at Ealing Liberal Synagogue and a colleague and friend of Rabbi René. Rabbi Miri has a keen interest in the history of Jewish Circus families and performs as a circus artist in her spare time. Together with her colleagues from My Aerial Home – an aerial circus school in South East London – she told the story of a German Jewish Circus family, the Blumenfelds, through narrative, performance and music.

The Blumenfeld family were the first German Jewish family to establish an independent circus enterprise in 1811. Their story spans over a century, as they became the first travelling German-Jewish circus family and one of the leading circus enterprises of the German Empire.

Photo credit: Dan Pluck, Pluck Photography

We heard about how the Blumenfelds were committed to their Jewish heritage. From the times of their humble beginnings as fairground performers until their golden age of performing, they were practising Jews, speaking a dialect that was a mix of French, Yiddish, Romance (Gypsy) and technical circus terms. This reflected the way in which the customs of circus folk and their Jewish ancestry were significant to them.

Throughout the telling of the story, the narrative was interspersed with a variety of performances, taking place on a rig constructed in our Synagogue for the occasion.

Audience particpiation was encouraged – both during and after the performance when many members – young and old – tried out the tight-rope and the sling:

To conclude, we were told that the Blumenfeld’s history is not just of one of any circus family or any Jewish family, but of a Jewish circus family. The story we were told was about two things important to the performers – the history of the circus and the history of Judaism – and if one word could be said to encapsulate their approach it would be ….. tradition. And yes, this was followed by the finale in which Rabbi Miri performed to the music of Fiddler on the Roof!

Rabbi Miri Lawrence. Photo credit: Dan Pluck, Pluck Photography

Speaking after the event, Rabbi René Pfertzel said “What an incredible evening! Nothing like this has ever been seen at KLS before and it was wonderful to see so many members, and all generations, of the community enjoying the performances – as well as taking part! I am enormously grateful to my friend and colleague Rabbi Miri Lawrence and her colleagues from My Aerial Home for putting on such an amazing show. It will never be forgotten!”.

You can read more about the Blumenfelds here or in this book by Marline Otte.

*no animals were harmed! Costumed performers only.

Finale of event with audience particpation: