Nick Cassenbaum is Jewish, it is something that he mentions quite a few times during his telling of this Bubble Schmeisis (old wives’ tale). Nick is also a writer, a street performer and a story teller par-excellence. One of those talented people who has found his niche in life and his enjoyment is obvious and infectious.
Journey across Jewish London
In Bubble Schmeisis he tells the story of a journey across North London from his grand-father’s house to the only authentic Schvitz (sweat) bathhouse left in London, in Canning Town to be exact.
Collecting Alta Kakas
Along the way, as well as a crash course in Yiddish, and the launch of a campaign for the correct pronunciation of Beigal, (bread with a hole in the middle or a hole surrounded by bread), we collect several Alta Kakas (old men). As we pass various landmarks our storyteller digresses to expand our journey into his recollections of his life as a North London Jew.
Well an Essex Jew to be exact. Very different to the Hendon Jews apparently.
Growing up Yiddishe
We quickly learn that life is different when you’re Yiddishe (Jewish). But no point in kvetching (complaining) Nick does seem to have had quite the Simcha, (party) growing up. Well isn’t that what being part of the FZY (Federation of Zionist Youth) is all about?
What unites us?
Sometimes Nick has a positive relationship with his Jewish community, at others being part of the Jewish community excludes him from other groups that before he identified as Jewish he was welcomed into.
There are also times when the lines between being Jewish and being something else are blurred. We learn that a shared interest can over-ride what divides us, even if he is only interested in being a Yiddo (Tottenham fan) to please his Dad.
His Mom knows he will never find a nice girl on White Hart Lane.
Without histrionics, and aided with music performed by Daniel Gouly and Josh Middleton these experiences are recounted, with genuine emotion. And then with a deep breath we are returned to the car.
At one point Nick tells us about a FZY trip to Israel and someone who has been asked to experience being Jewish so that they can understand their wider family history.
It’s all about doing something that will make someone else happy, but is not guaranteed to build some sort of connection with that past. It can simply highlight differences that we were previously unaware of. In some ways this journey to the Schvitz is the same for Nick.
Sense of belonging
There is lots of humour in Bubble Schmeisis so you could experience it as just that, but Nick is ultimately asking us to understand how people with roots in a minority culture become part of wider society without losing any of their personal history.
Is culture something that we define for ourselves or something that happens to us?
In the end how do we gain entry to the community that despite our reservations deep down we know we belong?
Nick comes from the sort of family that not only wants, but needs to avoid the heavy traffic so a short journey along the North Circular is bound to be quite an event.
It is more than just a car ride. Nick presents something that exposes himself emotionally in a way that could not be matched physically.
Yet at the same time his use of humour makes his story easily accessible and he achieves perhaps a sort of resolution that many people can only dream about.