Searching for God in a Magic Shop
What if you went to a magic show that was not designed to fool you nor to trick you, but rather to teach you how to see?
And, what if our first step in learning how to see, to really see, is to know that we don't see everything?
Take a journey with Arthur Kurzweil through his unique exploration of the world of illusions and some of the profound ideas of Jewish thought.
Having a speaker of his caliber caused the event to be inundated with three times the amount of expected attendees.
Everyone who saw him was enthralled with his wit and wisdom and charismatic stage presence. We feel that he gave the entire event a 'buzz', a positive vibe which resulted in our most successful event to date."
Este Stimler, London England
"How do you introduce Jewish values and ideas into a magic act? You have to experience it to believe that it can be done! Who else could have thought of this but a Master Magician, a Talmudic scholar, and a Jewish Genealogist combined. So where can you find such a marvelous combination? In none other than the Remarkable Extraordinary Fantastic Arthur Kurzweil who works with illusion and sleight of hand, mystery and marvel as he weaves words of wisdom filled with wit into his inimitable magic act. Laughter and diversion set up the audience to learn in a most entertaining way!"
Peninnah Schram, noted author and storyteller
"Arthur Kurzweil’s show, “Searching for God in a Magic Shop,” is an entertaining and enchanting blend of magic and spirituality. Author, educator, editor, publisher, teacher and magician, Arthur is a contemporary Jewish Renaissance man. In his show, magic opens the door to spiritual enlightenment and reminds us of the profound richness and wisdom of this ancient art. Like a fairy tale wizard, he astonishes with tricks and illusions that lead to deeper truths. This is a wonderful show that should not be missed."
Ruth Knafo Setton – Lehigh University
"Arthur Kurzweil's show was delightfully entertaining. He combines wit, story telling and magic into a presentation that is enjoyed by all. Our students not only enjoyed the performance but also loved having discussions with him both before and after the show. I would highly suggest this for all ages."
Rabbi Ely Allen, Director of Hillel of Northern New Jersey
"Arthur Kurzweil's “Searching for God in a Magic Shop” mesmerized the audience with his wonderful blend of fascinating Torah telling, magic prowess and humor. He was able to take a profound topic and make it intelligible and enjoyable for both youngsters and adults. His interactive presentation has given new meaning to the word Abracadabra and helped all to a better understanding of where and how Judaism and Magic meet. Excellent!"
Rabbi Ron Isaacs, Temple Sholom, Bridgewater, N.J.
“Arthur Kurzweil’s evening at our Temple proved to be an engaging, entertaining and educational experience. The audience was captivated by his use of prestidigitation to explain Jewish thought and ideology. From the youngest members in our audience to the more senior among us, we all agree that our evening with Arthur was truly magical.”
“Arthur Kurzweil’s program, “Searching for God in a Magic Shop”, was wonderful! His usual warm, down-to-earth, menschlich style immediately established a wonderful, warm rapport with all the students. His sensitivity and respect for all the different ways students express and celebrate their Jewishness truly have a meaningful impact on them. I – and the students – were so impressed with the way he so brilliantly and creatively used a dazzling magic show to share with everyone your wisdom on Jewish values. He has a unique, very effective way of engaging the audience with his warm personal style, insights from Jewish texts, and inspiring stories form Jewish tradition and from his own life experience. It is clear from the enthusiastic feedback that students and staff not only loved his presentation, but also learned a great deal.”
Rabbi Meir Mitelman, Hofstra University Hillel
Arthur Kurzweil performing for Hofstra University’s Hillel
"Arthur Kurzweil performed a "magic show" on November 17th, leading us through a unique exploration of both the world of illusions and the treasures of Jewish thought."
Ted Merwin, Milton B. Asbell Center for Jewish Life
"Arthur Kurzweil's “Searching for God in a Magic Shop” was delightful. His mix of Torah, magic and Jewish wisdom was entertaining, fascinating and informative. Everyone present agreed that this was certainly a very successful program."
Lauren Varod, Program Director
Congregation Ohev Shalom/Marlboro Jewish Center, Marlboro, NJ
"I’ve just experienced Arthur Kurzweil’s fascinating performance and it was enchanting! It goes way beyond your typical magic act. A harmonious blend of Torah insight, superb story-telling and deftly-accomplished illusions make for a really magical event. My whole-hearted recommendations for audiences of all ages and backgrounds."
Gershon Sabol, Director Partners in Care / Yedei Chesed
"Arthur Kurzweil spoke at our Synagogue and he was a tremendous hit! Who ever thought that there could be a "Jewish Magic Show"? And who ever figured that something so entertaining could be so profound, and meaningful?
Arthur is a wonderful performer, and more importantly, a great teacher. Our congregants greatly enjoyed his presentation, and are talking about it long after he left us; his messages will stay with us."
Rabbi Michael Katz
Temple Beth Torah, Westbury, New York
Educator brings a magic touch to event on faith and spirituality
by Debra Rubin
NJJN Bureau Chief/Middlesex
Harry Houdini may have been a rabbi’s son, but many would agree that there’s nothing particularly Jewish about stage magic.
And yet to Arthur Kurzweil, that’s just, well, an illusion.
The author and Jewish educator thinks both magic and Judaism require a faith in the unknown and an inquisitive and open mind. (And that’s not even to mention the Jewish prestidigitators who left their mark on the craft.)
“When I perform magic, the theme is always concerning questions of how the mind works, how do we perceive the world, what does it mean to truly see,” said Kurzweil. “What if our first step in learning how to see, to really see, is to know that we don’t see everything?”
Kurzweil demonstrated his innovative exploration of “eternal Jewish spiritual ideas” at a Jan. 7 program, “Searching for God in a Magic Shop,” at the Jewish Community Center of Middlesex County in Edison.
As Kurzweil performed tricks with a deck of cards, numbers, and postage stamps, he tied each into a discussion about a concept in Torah, Talmud, or Jewish history.
He also presented the audience with an overview of the Jewish influence on stage magic. While Jewish tradition frowns on magic and wizardry, rabbinic law permits sleight of hand as long as the entertainers make no claims about having special powers.
Even the most famous phrase in stage magic — “abracadabra” — has Jewish roots. Kurzweil said the incantation is a corruption of the Aramaic phrase avra k’dabra, meaning “I will create as I speak” and was probably a reference to God’s great “trick” of creating the universe.
And of course there was Houdini, born Ehrich Weiss, the son of a Hungarian rabbi who brought his family to Appleton, Wis. The famed escape artist is “buried in a Jewish cemetery in Queens,” said Kurzweil.
A member of the Society of American Magicians — founded by Houdini — and the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Kurzweil has written for the journal Genii: The Conjurers’ Magazine.
He said he has been interested in magic since his father took him to a store to purchase a costume for his third-grade play and he spotted some magic tricks on the counter.
As a Jewish educator, Kurzweil is the author or editor of 30 books, including The Encyclopedia of Jewish Genealogy, Kabbalah for Dummies, and the recently published On the Road with Rabbi Steinsaltz, about his friendship with renowned talmudist Adin Steinsaltz.
Kurzweil’s Jewish and magical sides combined as he discussed one of his favorite books, Steinsaltz’s The Thirteen Petalled Rose. As he explained Steinsaltz’s thoughts on the different levels of angels in the four kabalistic worlds and how the mitzvot we do create and energize them, Kurzweil called up Jennine Shpigel, the JCC’s director of Jewish and family programming.
While a copy of the Steinsaltz book — sealed in a plastic bag “to prevent fingerprint smudges” — was being circulated through the audience, Kurzweil asked Shpigel to select a card from a deck he was shuffling. She chose the four of hearts, which Kurzweil held up for the audience to see. He then asked the audience member who had the bag to unseal it and remove the book and shake it. Out dropped the four of hearts.
Eleven-year-old Jacob Siegel of East Brunswick was impressed. “It’s really cool and interesting to find out how magicians do things,” he said. “It’s tempting to try and figure out how they do it.”
For Kurzweil, however, knowing the secret behind a trick or illusion would strip it of its magical properties, just as fully understanding the workings of God would eliminate the need for faith.
“We are told if we study Torah and Talmud everything is in there,” said Kurzweil. “It’s a thoughtful idea. Everything is for the best, but we don’t see everything.”
Click to read: PROJECT MAGIC by Arthur Kurzweil
Published in Genii: The Conjurors' Magazine Vol. 66, No. 1, January 2003
Click these titles to read what others are saying about Arthur's Magic:
Inside Magic.com features Arthur Kurzweil in an article entitled; Arthur Kurzweil: Our Hero!
Jewish Week of New York features Arthur Kurzwei in an article entitled; Tricks and Tractates