MUSICAL SHABBAT    Held on the third Friday of every month at 6:30 PM

A joyous service of music and prayer, led by Rabbi Goldhamer, Rabbi Chen, and Cantorial Soloist Charlene Brooks, with the addition of wonderful musicians.

HEALING PRAYER GROUP for PHYSICAL MALADIES   Monday, May 21, 2018 at 7:30 PM

Healing prayer group for physical maladies, open to all congregation members.  If you have physical illness or know someone with physical illness who could benefit from the Healing Prayer Group, please ask Peggy or Rabbi Shari or Rabbi Doug for more information.


The dynamic Charlene Brooks, premiere Chicago cabaret artist, shares the music and passions of her acclaimed one-woman-show 

“Life Stinks!”…and other things my mother taught me

From Broadway to Klezmer, the amazing music, musicians and stories will bring you joy and touch  your heart!

“Life Stinks … and other things my mother taught me,” is a benefit performance for Congregation Bene Shalom where Brooks is the Cantorial Soloist.
Daughter of Holocaust Survivors, Brooks celebrated singer, lyricist, and actress  sings songs from Broadway to Klezmer, embracing her mother’s unintentional humor and meaningful punch lines. Her powerful performance is a celebration of her “family” of Survivors: from the card-playing “aunts and uncles,” to Meyer the butcher, to Mom, the funniest woman you’ll ever meet. The amazing music, musicians and stories will bring you joy and touch  your heart!
COURIER-POST South Jersey’s Newspaper

Singer Charlene Brooks uses humor to honor a dark past

Written by Sally Friedman For the Courier-Post

‘It was a very common story in homes like ours — the sense that we were different and that there was a story behind it that we might never understand fully,’ explains Charlene Brooks, creator of ‘Life Stinks.’ She is a singer/cabaret performer who often has been compared vocally to Barbra Streisand.

It was always in the air, but unspoken: Something was different about the household and family of Charlene Brooks, who lived on the North Side of Chicago.  Her mother — a funny, outspoken woman about some things, was silent about others.

Charlene and her older brother and sister had no relatives. No grandparents or aunts and uncles. Nobody explained why — but along the way, there were clues.

By the time Brooks pieced it all together, a terrible tapestry was emerging: Her mother had been in a labor camp by the time she was 13 , and lost both her parents.  Her father also lost his first wife and two children in the same terrible war.

And somehow, their youngest daughter was to make everything better for this man and woman who had met in a Displaced Persons camp just after World War II, and then got sponsored to come to America.

While the Holocaust might seem an unlikely context for entertainment, Brooks explains the show is actually a tribute to her mother, who passed away several years ago.

“In my mother was a comedian she never recognized was there — everything she said was inherently funny despite her very painful history. She was just an original,” Brooks said during a recent phone interview.

Her own singing career came as something of a surprise to her parents, who never realized this youngest daughter had been singing into a tape recorder for years while they were working at the family cleaning store.

“My mother wanted me to be a lawyer, but I started voice lessons at 19 and it was where I was meant to be. The first time my mother heard me sing, she cried and said, ‘I didn’t even know you could sing.’ ”

And can she!

Brooks has opened for the late Alan King and Tony Bennett, and has sold-out clubs and theaters around the country with her own shows. She also has assisted in leading   synagogue services at Congregation Bene Shalom in Skokie, Ill., where she now lives.

But the show she lovingly calls “Life Stinks” is in a special category, dedicated as it is to her mother’s history and life here in America.

Brooks admits that despite the lack of focused conversations about the terrible years her parents experienced, she still felt their grief and loss, and wanted very much to impart that — along with their coping mechanisms — in her show.

“There’s a great deal of humor and humanity in ‘Life Stinks,’ and it introduces audiences to the characters in my mother’s life, including the ladies at her card table … and were they characters!”

The community of Holocaust survivors who shared the neighborhood — and lives —of her parents were a “second family” to her, and their children were her unofficial cousins.

And that show title?

It sprang from her mother’s unwitting humor when, after going through a series of answering machines and voice mails in trying to reach people, proclaimed, “I can’t get nobody —Mel Brooks was right, life stinks!”

“My goal in the show,” says Brooks, “is to make sure that my mother is remembered, along with her generation of survivors. They deserve to be.”

And her part in that effort?

“Telling this story is my purpose in life. This is my mark. This is what I can offer so that my mother — and others like her — will be remembered. And if people laugh — and cry a little, too — then I’ll have done what I set out to do.”

June 10, 2018 at 3pm at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, Skokie  Tickets:

General Admission – $50     VIP seating – $100

Your ticket includes free admission to the museum on June 10, 2018 only (a $15 value)
Information: 847-677-3330    You can also buy tickets through the temple office, via check, cash, or credit card.