Singing in the shower recently after streaming “Hamilton” on Disney+, Rabbi Mark Zimmerman realized the message he wanted to relay to his congregation to bring hope and humor during an enduring pandemic that is playing havoc with traditional high holiday plans. (Read more about holiday preparations in the AJT’s upcoming Synagogue and Arts & Culture issue hitting the shelves next week.)
Donning a cheap crown, his wife’s purple scarf and a shiny black chasidic robe, Zimmerman channeled a sardonic King George III in the wildly popular Broadway musical. The longtime rabbi known for appearing in Purim shpiels and singing with a modern Israeli rock group sat in his office at the Conservative Congregation Beth Shalom in Dunwoody, looked into the webcam he’s used weekly during the pandemic to comment on the Torah portion and sang his version of “You’ll be Back.”
The 3-minute spoof posted Aug. 3 on YouTube garnered more than 2,500 views in just a day.
Here’s a little taste:
The pandemic is ending; by yontuff you’ll be back at shul
It seems it’s not ending, and we’re all just looking like fools
Why so sad?
Remember we made an arrangement when you went away
Now it’s not so bad
Remember, despite our estrangement, there’s a plan.
Throughout Zimmerman’s rendition of the parody, he recalls Shabbat traditions.
And when push comes to shove
I will send a dozen bagels over to remind you of my love!
And further into the song:
You’ll be back, like before
We’ll do shots with Kiddush Club once more
But one of the most memorable lines in the satire comes when Zimmerman takes out his only prop in the melody – scissors.
If you’re gone, I’ll go mad
So don’t throw away this thing we had
‘Cause when push comes to shove
I’ll redo your circumcisions to remind you of my love
Zimmerman told the AJT he was “Just looking to offer a little humor and encouragement to the congregation missing our being together in shul.”
The catchy “You’ll be Back” ditty and title voiced his desires to tell the congregation: “I miss you. We’ll get together again soon,” he said. “It was a funny way to warmly reach out and keep the congregation together.”
Zimmerman said he never expected the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the “humorous little shtick.” It was intended largely for the synagogue membership, but he said he’s heard from former congregants around the country. Instead of an anticipated hundreds of views, such as he attracts to his YouTube parshah posts, Zimmerman was shocked to see close to 3,000 views in just a day. “It hit a nerve,” he said.
“Most of what we do as a rabbi is in person.” But COVID-19 has forced spiritual leaders to reinvent themselves, Zimmerman said. He, like his colleagues, are looking for ways to connect with congregants in innovative ways. His “amateur” dramatic performance was his latest attempt at that, he said.
Zimmerman, who comes from a long line of rabbis and cantors, said that in addition to watching the Disney+ “Hamilton,” he saw the Broadway production when it came to the Fox Theatre several years ago.
Asked if he’s considering a future in professional acting, Zimmerman replied tongue-in- cheek, “If they call me.”