Sunday the rabbi was Ringo: Maccabee mishugas in Vallejo

Memorializing the Maccabees with such spoofs as "Sgt. Judah's Only One-God Band" and "We've Got a Temple To Clean," the Jewish "Beatles" brought a multigenerational crowd to its feet at Congregation B'nai Israel's Chanukah celebration.

Sunday's wild day's night in Vallejo had nearly 100 people dancing in the aisles. Clapping their hands. Stomping their feet. Looking like a room full of overgrown '60s teenagers.

John, Paul, George, Ringo and manager, Brian Epstein, all played by synagogue members in their 40s, sang a medley of songs recounting the Chanukah story.

Beginning with "We All Live in a Happy Jewish Town," (as in Yellow Submarine) and followed by gems such as "It's Been A Bad Day's Night" and the "Twist and Shout" send-up "Shine and Mop," the quintet put an unusual spin on the age-old tale of the Maccabees' victory and the reconsecration of the Temple in 165 BCE.

There was even an afikomen-style hunt for the jar of oil for the candle. The lively grand finale: "Life Goes On!" ("Ob La Di, Ob La Da") had everyone singing along.

"ABeatles' Hanukkah," written by members of the Shalom Tzofim Youth Group of Congregation Ner Shalom in Rohnert Park, was an overwhelming success.

In fact, some women — shrieking and asking for autographs — mobbed the mop-haired singers before they could set foot from the stage. The good-natured group, however, happily obliged.

The Fab Four plus One included Michael Sperling (John), Doug Cort (George), John Campbell (Paul), Gary Horowitz (manager Brian Epstein) and Rabbi David Kopstein (Ringo).

In real life, Sperling is a medical illustrator, Cort a psychologist, Campbell sells and repairs CAT scanners, and Horowitz researches in-vitro fertilization.

"Making a fool of myself every couple of years is OK," explained Campbell, of Benicia. "The Rabbi likes to have people involved in different things."

Kopstein, who insists that the Beatles' Chanukah party was planned long before anyone knew about the recently released Beatles anthology recording, said the purpose of the event was twofold: to celebrate a Jewish holiday and to have a good time. "It's a way to let our hair down. We are a synagogue that likes to have fun!"

An audience ranging from toddlers to grandparents filled the brightly lit hall, where festivities continued from afternoon until evening, sponsored by the sisterhood. Comments after the show confirmed that it was a smash. "It was a riot!" said one. "What are we going to do next year?" one man said to a friend.

"It's a great opportunity for the families to get together and have a fun time," explained another.

As the crowd drifted from the brightly-lit hall, congregation president Heather Campbell (whose husband played Paul) asked their daughter, Rachael, how she liked the show.

The young teen rolled her eyes, then replied thoughtfully: "It was a mixture from the Jewish eye and the English eye."

All in a night's work for the Beatles. "We had fun doing it," says Kopstein. "But to see people getting up and dancing…That was unusual!"

harris-liz
Liz Harris

Liz Harris is J.'s culture editor. She can be reached at liz@jweekly.com.