What do dirty stories, a rabbi and Syrian refugees have in common?

Published 21, Jan, 2016

Brian Finch and the night his rabbi unexpectedly drops in on Brian’s deep dish, risqué storytelling event

What do dirty stories, a  rabbi and Syrian refugees have in common?

I’ve known my rabbi, Rabbi Ben, now for five years. He’s a little older than I am. A petit man, short buzzed grey hair with a small frame. Religiously he’s conservative and socially liberal. Like, be gay, but just be gay with a with nice Jewish boy.

When I first met him I’d have to visit him once a month while I was on my path to conversion. I’d always feel awkward with him. He’s super nice and a smart guy. I’ll chalk it up to the “rabbi effect.” My friend’s husband is like that too, so it’s not just me.

Needless to say he doesn’t know a lot about the real me. I’m usually the kind of shy quiet guy that nicely chit chats with people but  never letting my guard down.

Over the years I’ve been moderately involved with my shul (synagogue) by creating their Facebook page.  And since they only know the one side of me, I put heavy privacy restrictions on any shul people. I don’t want to feel inhibited about what I post.

It’s not like they are bad people. They do a lot of great work, and it's quite wonderful - for instance raising $40,000  to sponsor a Syrian family.

Another part of my life is my storytelling. Usually my stories have some sort of edge to them that I wouldn’t say are for all audiences - like getting caught shoplifting while having a half ounce of MDA on my possession or the first time I had sex with a woman.

The monthly storytelling show I run is called Dare: Stories We Thought We’d Never Tell. The name pretty much sums it up. The stories can get pretty wild sometimes.

Last November’s audience was pretty sparse. I was pretty sure we’d have a near to empty place in December. It’s such a busy time of the year. So why not make it fun and book friends and we can tell each other stories and get together. 

When I heard about the shul raising money for this family I thought as well, why don’t we contribute what little we get at the door to the fund. What could go wrong? Seemed like a good idea.

Because the show can get a wee bit racy I wanted to get permission to put on the event page the name of our shul as where to proceeds would go to. I know the chair of the board, who also has been to the show, so she knows what we get like.

She enthusiastically replied “yes! that’s so kind of you.” Next thing I know emails are flying all over the place about our fundraiser show. First to the committee members, then to the board, and finally out in the newsletter email and pew sheets.

“Yikes” I thought, “If I’d known they were going to put this out all over the place I would have asked them to put a “not family friendly” kind of warning

The day arrives and I receive an email from my friend who works on the show with me. She is sick, I am on my own. “Fuck!!!!” She takes care of content of the stories. I have no idea what their stories are going to be. I’m going in dark. At least my good friend Anto is hosting. 

The performers are starting to arrive. Thirty minutes before showtime the audience is filling up far beyond my expectations -which was basically two or three people.

While talking with Anto I look over and I see someone. Slow motion kicks in as I’m reconciling this new reality. The voice in my head is screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” as I realize that I’m looking right at my rabbi.

There is my rabbi. Now I have to use my acting skills to welcome him while thinking, “Oh God he doesn’t know what he’s in for.” I can’t state how panicked I felt. In the scenario I’d rather have my mother there, and that says a lot.

By show time the entire place is packed with people standing. I planned the night to be a low key “who cares what happens" kind of night.

Moments later I’m greeted by a pretty young woman, “Hi I’m Sarah with the fundraising committee. When I heard it was a storytelling night i had to come out.”

“Oh shit.”

She takes a seat front row right beside Rabbi Ben.

The show is starting; nervously I start fidgeting at that back. I feel as if I’m in a train wreck in real time that is not about to end anytime soon.

Anto is doing a great job getting the night started. The first performer was not prepared, winging it after a few drinks. Side note, this is not how you do storytelling.

“What, you think I’m going to suck a dick up here?” echoes back to me from the stage. Time stands still as my inner machinations take a turn to the dark side. 


I’m officially the most mortified that I have ever been in my life.

She then rambles on to some story about a guy who had a contest on how much snatch he can get to eat in 24 hours.

I’m wrong, now I’m the most mortified I’ve ever been in my life.

I frantically grab my phone to light her (this is the sign to get off the stage).

While the next performer wasn’t explicit, it was about her, a Jewish woman married to an abusive anti-Semitic man - with a lot of swearing in it.

Every time someone says "fuck", I lose five seconds of my life span due to stress.

The next story is about being a MILF - a mother I’d like to fuck - going to a cougar bar.

Deep sigh. . . . 

The night is running long. My rabbi and Sarah need to get running. I cannot begin to convey the sense of relief. As I’m sending them off saying good night, I’m called up to stage by Anto to do my non-swearing, no sex travel story. Finally something appropriate, and they are leaving, but trust me that’s OK.

Standing in silence in front of everyone with my hand over my eyes I’m trying to see if my rabbi has actually gotten out of the door. Everyone is looking at me like “What the hell is he doing?”

Finally I say, “Guys, guys, that was my rabbi sitting up front here and I’ve been dying a thousand deaths at the back every time I hear "fuck" or "suck a dick". I’m not sure, but they probably left horrified. Let’s give us a round of applause for traumatizing my rabbi.”

I needed to transition into performing mode and shake off my angst.

The audience bursts out in laughter while clapping.

I do my story, the night wraps up. Anto is the saving grace who keeps this train wreck together for the night, and I can’t think him enough. We raised $200 that night.

While laying in bed flashbacks and the corresponding emotions made it hard to sleep. I tossed and turned from one side to another. “Am I experiencing PTSD?” What’s done is done and I can’t do anything about it.

The next morning I get up and this is the email I receive from him. He’s a smart and gracious man he was quite right.


Thanks so much for donating the proceeds of last night's event to our Syrian refugee fund. You could probably guess that not all the content was my cup of tea, but it was certainly all in good fun. There's probably a good story in there somewhere...the night my rabbi showed up at my somewhat off-colour event :-) Did I miss you perform? In any event, thanks again for supporting the cause.