By Sarah Dilworth
Comedian Benji Lovitt performed for over 80 students over Zoom on Nov. 5 as part of a Terps for Israel event, uniting comedy lovers from Hillel Montreal, Tulane University for Israel, GW for Israel and Huskies for Israel.
“Laugh with Lovitt” was created as part of a fundraiser to support the Koby Mandell Foundation, which works to help those who have lost loved ones to terror and other tragedies, to rebuild their lives and create meaning out of suffering, according to their website. Participants were encouraged to make donations to the foundation throughout the event with a prize offered to the university that raises the most money (to be announced).
Although Lovitt fought off the challenges of having a cold and being in a different time zone, he kept the laughs flowing for almost an hour with his jokes, including some stories about his time spent in Israel. He told jokes that related to the audience, sharing about his life during the pandemic and compared what it was like to run out of food during quarantine to a typical college student’s diet.
Lovitt’s journey through comedy began after he immigrated to Israel in 2006, a process formally referred to as “aliyah.” Since then, Lovitt has led comedy shows for several Jewish organizations to share his experiences and inspire others.
As people all over the world continue to face the effects of the pandemic, many students at this university and across the country have found comfort in comedy, according to senior supply chain management major Sammy Garcia. While some use the current situation to fuel their own jokes and as a way to cope with everything, others have looked to comedy for a break from the seriousness of it all.
“It’s really a way to escape reality,” said Garcia. “With going into quarantine, people have realized what’s important to them and many have had more time to appreciate and consume entertainment including comedy.”
Over the past several months, live performances have changed drastically as social distancing became the new normal. A virtual comedy show without the ability to hear and gauge an audience’s reaction could be awkward, but Lovitt understood and encouraged students at this event to participate by turning on their cameras and unmuting their microphones.
“He was really good at connecting to everyone,” said freshman public health major Marisa Avni. “Reform or Orthodox, everyone can relate to his jokes and it brings the Jewish community together which is very special.”
Terps for Israel combines education and Israeli culture in their events for students. Programming Chair and senior public policy and communications major Atara Kahn emphasized the organization’s desire to expand its outreach and engage with more people, which led them to incorporate other schools in the event.
“We wanted to bring in Israel humor but also make it relatable to everyone in general,” said Kahn. “The idea was to give students an event to be comfortable during and a reason to smile.”
The organization is looking forward to planning more events for the upcoming semester and hopes to host safe socially distanced activities along with their virtual ones.
More information about the Koby Mandell Foundation and the option to donate can be found on their website.