Photo Credit: Modi Rosenfeld
Modi leading his audience in Hatikvah at the Jerusalem Theater.

We all know the story in the Talmud where Eliyahu Hanavi is asked to point out someone in the marketplace who has earned Olam Haba. And he points to two men who make people laugh and make peace between them. They are bringing, as Modi Rosenfeld would call it, “Mashiach energy.” And he, himself, is spreading it around.

While there are many Jewish comics, there are few who have made Judaism, Jewish history, Jewish practice, and Jewish issues the focus of their comedy. Modi has accomplished that. He is one of the top Jewish comedians today and he doesn’t let us forget that he is Jewish (and originally Israeli) for a moment. But what makes him different is that he is vastly popular, with this Jewish material, even in in secular and non-Jewish circles. He always makes it a point of asking who in the audience is not Jewish and then has fun with them.


Modi was in Israel for a family wedding, and a stop on his new tour, Pause for Laughter, which was presented June 13-18 in Jerusalem. Israeli comedian Yochai Sponder, opened for him (in English). Part of the purpose of the new tour is to give people a break from all the tension of the last few months.

Modi was actually in Israel during Sukkot and Simchat Torah when the war broke out. He went to Paris to perform a few nights later. He performed a couple of nights, but his Thursday show was cancelled due to a Palestinian protest (unrelated to him) right across the street.

Modi performs all over the world, and since the events of October 7, he has ended each show with Hatikvah, including in front of audiences in Germany, Holland, and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It was truly moving to be in the audience when he did this in his Jerusalem show. But what underscores the fact that perhaps Modi is in fact creating Mashiach energy is that the sold out performance of almost 1000 seats held people everywhere on the continuum of Jewish/Israeli society, from the most secular to men in frock coats, black hats and curled peyos. And they were all united in laughter – and in singing Hatikvah.

The 54-year-old comedian is an anomaly in many ways. He has this loud, intense, almost manic energy on stage, and brilliant comedic timing, but talking to him on Zoom he’s this nice laid-back, American yeshiva bocher type exuding calm, confidence and contentment, and great joy in what he’s doing.

Born in Tel Aviv, to Israeli parents, and having lived in Israel till age 7, Modi speaks fluent Hebrew and peppers his routines with it.

For non-Jews, the comedy shows he does at clubs are a portal into the Jewish world. His shows require a lot of security, especially in Europe, but he says that apart from some unpleasant comments to his page, he hasn’t been harassed or threatened. Most people are inspired by his shows.

“I explain that in the Shema we talk of Hashem’s Oneness. It isn’t just that there is one G-d, but that it is all one, a part of Him. When people laugh together, it also creates a Oneness.” That Mashiach energy is the objective of his shows.

He has a point, Unity has been stressed over and over again, by both religious and political leaders as the only remedy to what we’ve been experiencing, and laughing is a unifying experience.

Part of Modi’s repertoire are jokes that reference the Holocaust. They aren’t in bad taste but one would think that they would touch on a raw nerve for survivors, and make people uncomfortable. But Modi says that survivors thank him for the jokes. When he performs in front of Millenials or Gen. Z he says they don’t even know what the Holocaust is. They look at each other not understanding Modi’s references. Modi’s routine means that these people will be going home and looking up what a Holocaust museum is, even what the Holocaust was, and in this subtle way, he is educating the public and keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive.

Modi has made Jewish pride a thing. He gets messages all the time about how he’s inspired people. His jokes are not fleetingly funny; they stay in your head. I can’t say “Shabbat shalom” anymore without his joke popping into my head, which makes me smile more when I say it.

He also gets messages from people who have been struggling with personal loss. A family who had lost a child wrote to him that his show was the first time in six years that they had laughed.

Someone else wrote to him, “My father and I have nothing in common except your videos.” They have nothing to talk about but they send Modi’s videos back and forth.

“People have been consumed by this war and we need to forget for an hour and pause for comedy,” he said.

“We all know of the theory of six degrees of separation. In Israel, it’s a one-sixth of a degree. Everyone has friends or relatives in the army, fighting in the war.”

Modi says that we need to bring comedy to the Knesset. “Through comedy we can bring peace.”


A show from his last tour, “Know Your Audience,” can be watched in its entirety on YouTube:

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