The holiday of Passover reminds us of the Jewish struggle for freedom that happened over 3000 years ago as well as the yearning for a brighter future when eventually all of mankind will have the opportunity to live as free men. Today we don't have miracles like rivers turning to blood or frogs besieging and tormenting dangerous dictators forcing them to change their ways. Instead we have Facebook and other social mediums galvanizing people to create change from within. Revolution has become a common theme in society today, where governments are murdering civilians by the masses or enforcing unjust restrictions on its citizens forcing lay people to take significant courageous action.
On the contrary, the United States is a blessed democratic nation, whose military spends much of its resources protecting the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for its people as well as the citizens of many other countries that have been left in ruins from evil dictatorships, which is why it is apropos to spend some time taking a focused look at one of our own American military heroes of today.
Dave Rosner is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, with a serious unassuming demeanor that projects a surprising wit once he opens his mouth. Sporting stylistic Woody Allen glasses, it's hard to decide whether he is incredibly brilliant, super bad, sort of dorky or all three. What is most interesting about Dave is that he is not only a Marine who has served in Iraq, but he is a born actor, inspirational speaker, writer and comedian. Throw in the fact he's Jewish, and you have a very refreshing "Mazal Tov Cocktail" as Dave likes to tout. Although a lanky skinny guy, he definitely reminds us never to judge a book by its cover.
Lieutenant Colonel Dave Rosner in civilian clothing.
Raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Dave grew up with a deep feeling towards his Judaism. When asked why he chose comedy, he said, "Humor was something that everyone appreciated and we needed that with all the divorces in our family." When asked why Dave decided to become observant he explained that although his family did not follow many of the Jewish holidays, he clearly remembers Passover as a recurring holiday where the whole family got together. It wasn't until later, after Dave got older, when he experienced Israel for the first time in his early 20s that he realized the richness that Judaism had to offer his life.
After he served in the The Persian Gulf War, he went to Israel and met two modern orthodox people and fit in with them quite well. "I had no idea what (modern orthodox) meant, cause they seemed normal to me." On his very first Shabbat in Israel while studying Hebrew in an ulpan at Hebrew University, Dave saw a different sort of Israel than he was expecting as he experienced Friday night services at the Kotel and Shabbat dinner on Mount Scopus overlooking Jerusalem. He walked on Shabbat to dinner, sang Shalom Aleichem and Aishet Chayal. He was surprised that he had never experienced spirituality quite like this before. "I was moved, angry, and sad all at the same time. Thinking to myself, how did I not know about this stuff'?" He could recall listening to those tunes and feeling stirred by the singing. Even though he got kicked out of chorus in 7th grade for purposely singing off key, a trait he attributes to his nudnick nature. Dave has always been hugely connected to song and melody. His favorite quote said by Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi is an adage which has inspired him to work on learning how to lead services, "The tongue is the pen of the heart, but melody is the pen of the soul."
It was Israel that made him realize that he had a new path and a new mission as a Jew. When he came back to America, it didn't take him very long to find a Chabad house where he could recreate his own Israel experience here in the States.
Although Dave had dreams of becoming a stunt man as a kid, it was the military that became his first calling. He jokes, "When I was a kid, I went to military boarding high school, its a great place to send your kids if you hate them ...I was always attracted to the military, my lack of structure as a kid probably contributed to that. I'm still a bit of a slob, getting up early isn't my favorite, but becoming a Marine changes you from the inside out because there is an attitude you carry. When I came back from officer candidate school, I felt like the biggest, baddest, toughest guy, like I could eat fire, lift cars, it made you believe nothing is impossible... Marines solve problems, and take charge."
Dave not only specializes in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness for his nation, he specializes in inspiring people through laughter. He's performed for Chabad houses all over the United States, Canada and Australia as well as for the United States Marine Corps to encourage Marines to use their veteran's benefits and seek mental health counseling if needed. He went back to Iraq and Kuwait as a civilian on a stand-up comedy tour for the troops. "One of the most meaningful things I have ever done."
Dave reminds us that change is truly from within by thoughts, speech and action. Knowing when to use strength and kindness. And that "... freedom allows us to do what we are supposed to do as human beings, to bring light to the mundane and physical life we live in."
When asked what was next for him, Dave said in between pull ups, "Now that I just moved from New York to Hollywood, I'm working toward having my own talk show, something relevant, funny, and that highlights the good in the world -- a Conan meets Oprah."
Dave's purpose is to fight for his country, and work in the entertainment industry and on his entrepreneurial projects. He's been approached by a literary agent and publisher to write a dark humored political memoir to date and was the lead in the great funny award winning artsy film Bert's Plan that has been on the film festival circuit, which lead him to be currently cast in a supporting role in a feature film with Elliott Gould. A screenwriter as well as a film and television producer, this is one Marine who's not afraid to use his noggin.
Dave is not only driven, but he is clearly connected to his mission. Whether his mission is on the stage, in uniform or praying with a minyan, Dave is clearly tapping into his strengths and gifts from within and changing the world one funny joke at a time. Today we may not have miracles like rivers turning to blood or frogs besieging and tormenting dangerous dictators but we do have our own inner soul that we can miraculously strengthen by allowing our uniqueness and our Jewish faith to be our extraordinary guide. Thanks to Lieutenant Colonel Dave, this Passover we shall not forget the importance of affecting our own personal revolution to inner freedom.