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The Art of the Laugh

Leah Gebber

Keren Keet’s greeting cards, featuring her wry cartoons, have caused a mini sensation in London, where customers stand in stores chuckling at her latest creations. Meet the woman behind the smiles.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Glance at Keren’s cartoons and you’ll notice her unique vantage point; many of her jokes poke gentle and affectionate fun at the frum lifestyle. But Keren wasn’t always living the lifestyle she now knows so well. From a traditional background, Keren was brought up in a home infused with traditional values, if not observance. Keren loved art, and pursued it through her school career. When her brother became fully observant, he paved the way for Keren. At 18, before heading off to university to study English literature, Keren took a year off to spend in Israel. There, she enrolled in a course geared for all streams of Judaism — Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative. Concurrently, her eldest brother was studying full time in Aish HaTorah. Her course emphasized Jewish history and took a hands-on approach — after learning about the Beis Hamikdash, the students were taken to archeological sites to view the finds from the period. “Seeing the concrete reality of this distant period of our history was a catalyst in the deepening of my emunah.” Keren’s growth in Torah came gradually. “My brother would tell me things and they made sense, so I kept them according to my knowledge.” A Shabbos spent with her brother on the secular moshav where their grandmother lived was memorable. “My brother and I took a walk after the meal. We talked a lot about being Jewish and having a Jewish identity and being able to pass that identity onward. I had always had a strong Jewish identity and wanted my kids to be Jewish too. I thought about the fact that Shabbos was a huge distinguisher between Jews and non-Jews. It also serves to separate us from secular culture, the world, the social milieu. So I decided then and there that I would keep Shabbos. It was my contribution to Jewish continuity.” After a year in Israel, Keren returned to England to begin her studies in the University of Birmingham. She stayed there for a single, difficult year. “Birmingham had nothing for me in terms of spiritual growth. I felt very isolated. I needed to be with people who were heading in the same direction.” Keren made the decision to transfer her studies to a London university; there, she became a frequent face at the Jewish Learning Exchange. Every evening Keren attended shiurim, and she spent Shabbos with frum families in Golders Green, joined by her other brother, who was also becoming frum. “It struck me,” Keren reflects, “when I first ventured into the chareidi world, that this community that seemed so cold and serious from the outside was actually full of warmth and humor. It helped me to be able to see myself as potentially being part of it.”

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