April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Former Circus Clown Brings Joy to the Isolated

(Courtesy of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ) When Lisa Buber saw Maplewood resident and former Ringling Brothers Circus clown, Kevin Kraft (a.k.a. “Krazy Kevin”), perform at a friend’s socially distanced birthday party in South Orange, she mentioned him to her sister, Rachel Klinghoffer Marcus. Rachel then hired Kevin to perform at her daughter’s 4th birthday party where their parents, Lori and Steve Klinghoffer, were in attendance. Krazy Kevin was a hit, and soon the family began thinking about how he could cheer people up, especially those who have been most isolated during the pandemic.

Rachel suggested contacting Daughters of Israel, where she serves on the board, and then they all thought “Why stop there? Let’s think bigger.” So Lori contacted Jessica Mehlman, chief planning officer at Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, where she and Steve are both past presidents. Jessica then contacted Federation’s partner agencies, including Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled (JSDD), JESPY House, Lester Senior Housing and Daughters of Israel—and within a week, several outdoor performances had been scheduled at the residential facilities.

Krazy Kevin presented a total of seven shows, all of them sponsored by Lori and Steve Klinghoffer. The shows were held outdoors, socially distanced, and had audiences of about 25 people each. Some of the performances brought together residents and staff from different JSDD facilities, and as Lori said, “The shows were like reunions for many of the residents who had not seen each other in months and months and were brought together for the shows. We could see the joy in the residents’ faces and sense the respite they felt during these isolating times. All the way around, it was a beautiful thing.”

The JSDD performances, held at locations in Livingston, Millburn, West Caldwell and Whippany, were a hit. One resident, Daniel, assisted Kevin as he performed juggling tricks with bowling pins. Daniel proved to be an excellent assistant and expressed particular pride, saying he believed this was something he could never do. Executive Director Linda Press noted, “The past eight months have been challenging for the residents of JSDD’s homes and they have sacrificed a lot, as we all have.” Linda went on to say, “The gift of Krazy Kevin from the Klinghoffers and their thoughtful consideration of the needs of this community says everything about who they are. We are so grateful for their ongoing support.”

The audiences at two JESPY House performances in South Orange were equally thrilled and amazed. One resident wondered, “Wow, how does he do that?” Another exclaimed, “This was the most fun afternoon!” “It was really great to have Kevin perform for our clients,” said JESPY House Executive Director Audrey Winkler. “His positive energy and unique talents kept them engaged and entertained throughout the entire performance.”

The last of the seven performances took place at Whippany’s Lester Senior Housing Community, a facility run by the Jewish Community Housing Corporation (JCHC). Krazy Kevin performed in the courtyard, and while some residents came outside, others watched the show from inside through windows. CEO of JCHC, Harold Colton-Max, said, “Having Kevin come was so important because it gave a connection to people outside Lester. It provided a sense of normalcy—a time for laughter and joy. It was an incredible gift. A real mitzvah that I know will help our residents during our difficult time.”

Not surprisingly, Krazy Kevin was profoundly touched by the shows as well. “I loved performing for them. Their reactions were so honest and true, and I loved discovering their personalities.” He went on to say, “These individuals inspired and touched me, and increased my own sense of worth. They reminded me that even in these challenging times, we each have purpose and we can all contribute to the whole.”

Jessica Mehlman commented, “The Klinghoffers are a Federation family through and through. They don’t just give to Federation; they understand the power of the collective—Federation’s value in connecting the dots around the Jewish community and its ability to enable an idea to turn into reality.” Mehlman went on to say, “Federation and our partner agencies are so grateful to the Klinghoffer family. Their generosity has brought joy and laughter to members of our Greater MetroWest community who have been suffering significantly from isolation due to the current pandemic. This was a beautiful gift.”

And it’s a gift that will keep on giving, because coming up this spring, Daughters of Israel is looking forward to having Krazy Kevin perform for its residents!

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