Comedian Benji Lovitt made his first trip to Israel at age fifteen. However, it was his life-changing post-high school year in Israel, on the Young Judaea Year Course, that set him on the path towards making Aliyah. A firmly committed Jew and Zionist, the young Benji who hails from Dallas, Texas, first explored psychology and high-tech before discovering his calling in the Jewish communal world and, of course, comedy.
Since making Aliyah, Benji has performed stand-up comedy for audiences throughout Israel as well as bringing his unique brand of Aliyah-themed comedy to North America performing at Hillels, Birthright Israel, the Jewish Federations General Assembly, and more. His perspectives on Aliyah and life in Israel have been featured on Israeli television and radio and in publications such as The Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and the Jewish Daily Forward. His blog, videos, and his famous annual Yom Ha'atzmaut list of things he loves about Israel have developed a huge following and he works regularly with Jewish organizations to promote Israel.
If you ask the 37 year-old Lovitt why he made Aliyah, he answers with his standard humor, “I had been super-connected to Israel for years, beginning with my experiences in Young Judaea. Teen tour, to gap year, to staffing a trip, sandwiched around 47 bajillion years at summer camp (ech omrim ‘bajillion’?) After several less-than-satisfying jobs in the corporate world, I decided to make the switch and become not only a Jewish professional, but an ‘Israel professional.’ (Somebody trademark that, quick!) So, yeah, let’s say I was nuts about this place.”
Upon further reflection, he adds, “without Aliyah, I’d just be another Israel-crazy American Jew.” Benji explains that he decided that he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life saying “what if?” Or to look back in forty years and wish he had given in a shot. “I feel like 99 times out of 100, I wouldn’t have made the crazy and unorthodox decision to move to the other side of the world but somehow, it only took one unlikely time for me to move here and give this interview almost six years later.”
While many people move to Israel and do what they can to reestablish their lives there, Lovitt’s life in Israel is completely different than his former life. Then again, it seems to be continually evolving. “My first couple of years here,” Benji recalls, “I would tell people that if I had to boil my Aliyah experience down into one word, I’d choose ‘humbling’. Now? ‘Never-a-dull-moment.’ I’d say that goes for all Olim. The more time I’m here, the harder it is to extract specific, illustrative anecdotes about the wonders of Israel from my memory as life becomes more of a blurred, meaningful and different way of life. Let’s say that there was my life before moving to Israel and my life after moving to Israel. It’s more real in many ways…more meaningful….I feel like I’m creating more of a legacy for myself, leaving my mark on this country and the Jewish people in a way that I couldn’t do while in America.”
Even though he had been here many times, Lovitt remembers that nothing could have prepared him for the Aliyah experience. “We’re immigrants, for G-d’s sake! Who in their right mind would immigrate by choice? And who could even understand the ramifications beforehand?” Thinking about the challenges, he adds, “There was a lot of adversity: Building a new life from scratch and doing so in a different language with enough cultural differences to fill a blog for years (not just a cliché). Frankly, I can in no way remember what I expected. Is this what parents feel like after having kids? By the same token, how could I have dreamed I would have experienced and accomplished what I’ve been able to?”
Here’s where things really start to be fun. Lovitt is the king of playing to his own strengths. About his post-Aliyah career direction, he describes, “When you’re starting a new life as a non-Hebrew speaking immigrant, with fluency in English, hey, why not go nuts? For the last three years, I’ve been doing a mix of stand-up comedy, writing, and work with Jewish groups such as Taglit-Birthright Israel and Masa Israel Journey. It’s great seeing the same people in different capacities: pitching a long-term program to a Birthright group on Tuesday, seeing them at the Masa program fair on Wednesday, then doing a comedy show for them on Thursday.”
Asked what he would say to people considering Aliyah, he replies without hesitation: “Do it.” Then he adds, “What’s the worst that could happen? You move back. What’s the worst that could happen by not doing it? You spend the rest of your life wishing you had.I never met anyone who regretted moving to Israel; only those who regretted not trying. You only live once so why not follow your dreams?” It seems that Benji Lovitt has.
Benji is currently booking shows for his fall tour in North America. For more information about bringing the hilarity of Israeli to your community, click here.
Original article appeared in The International Jerusalem Post; article written by Laura Ben-David