Aaron David grew up a performer and he grew up busy.
He began taking acting and music classes as a young boy, became a DJ at age 16, and when he was 23, he joined the Afrodisiacs, a touring ‘80s cover band.
Because he was so busy, David, who grew up outside of Chicago in a Conservative Jewish household, didn’t get a chance to do something he always wanted to do — he never went to Israel.
But now that he’s established and in his late 20s, David, who works as an all-in-one emcee, dance leader and singer based in Mountain View, was able to block off three weeks last November and finally go to the Promised Land.
His time there didn’t disappoint.
“It was a turning point for me internally,” David said recently, as he described staying with an Israeli family and traveling throughout the country. “I felt things there that changed me.”
This connection to Israel motivated him to give back to the Jewish community at home. After volunteering at the 2012 Jewish Family and Children’s Gala in March, David — along with his ensemble of dancers — will donate their time to perform and emcee at the interactive “O-Zone” at Israel in the Gardens. The action starts at 12:15 p.m.
“This will be 100 percent tzedakah,” David said. “I jumped at the opportunity to give the families and the kids an experience that would reflect even a small amount of what I felt in Israel.”
During his visit to the Jewish state, David stayed with an Israeli family he knows in Netanya. One night, a group of veterans from Shayetet 13, the Israeli version of the Navy Seals, came over to the house to watch a documentary on TV about their unit. Spending time with these men and hearing their stories had a profound effect on David.
“It wasn’t that Israel grew around them; these men were part of history,” he said. “It really put things in perspective and it makes being able to go to Israel and travel around in a free Jewish country hit home.”
Back in the Bay Area, David owns and operates Aaron David Productions, a group of interactive entertainers that perform what David describes as “hip-hop meets ‘Glee’ meets camp counselors meets break dancers.” His production company specializes in b’nai mitzvah parties and also performs at corporate and charity events, including recent performances for the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.
David describes this type of show, which breaks down walls between performers and the audience, as being more fulfilling for him than traditional performances.
“You can begin to form relationships with the crowd with this type of performance,” he said. “[These relationships] do a lot more for both the people being entertained and for the entertainers.”
David is also used to breaking down the traditional barrier between singing and acting.
At age 23, he became lead singer of the Spazmatics, a touring ’80s cover band in which each member performed as a nerdy character. David took on the persona of one Irving “Earnest” Smorgasborgnine III, a play on the actor Ernest Borgnine and cybernetic “borg” organisms from “Star Trek.”
“We always performed in character, wearing costumes,” said David. “We got really into it — everyone started calling me Irving backstage and on tour. It was great.”
A few years later, he moved on to the Afrodisiacs, an offshoot of the Spazmat-ics that had members around the country, some of whom performed at the Stanley Cup Finals and for President George W. Bush at the White House. David himself performed for the pop star Jessica Simpson and guitarist Joe Satriani.
After David and his ensemble complete their first act in the O-Zone, the Israeli folk dance group Café Shalom will lead dancing at 12:45 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. At 2 p.m. Be’chol Lashon, an S.F.-based nonprofit that aims to foster understanding and opportunities for Jews of color, will sponsor an African drum circle with Rhythm Village.
David will emcee and provide entertainment between acts, with performances slated at 1:15 and 2:30 p.m.
Diller Teen Fellows will also run activities in the O-Zone, including their popular annual Israel in the Gardens scavenger hunt.
Aaron David kicks off action in the O-Zone at 12:15 p.m.