A rebbetzin who clowns around

Rebbetzin Kaplan does a magic trick with a young audience member

Rebbetzin Kaplan does a magic trick with a young audience member

Like any caped crusader, Freda Kaplan has an alias identity.

As the wife of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue's senior rabbi, Dov Kaplan, she is known by their 3,000-strong congregation as the community's stalwart Rebbetzin.

But soon enough, she loses the costume and lets her "true self" shine - comedy wig, oversized shoes and balloon animals included.

This is because, in her other life, Rebbetzin Kaplan is a fully qualified hospital clown - and, as she told an early morning session at Limmud on Monday, it is in this guise that most feels herself.

She said: "People often ask me if it is hard going from rebbetzin to clown, but I say it is much more difficult going from clown to rebbetzin."

According to the hospital harlequin, the benefits of spreading laughter and happiness in what are very often sterile surroundings cannot be emphasised enough.

And surprisingly, it is not just children's wards that take great joy from the rebbetzin's visits; she has also proven to be popular with patients in hospital for high-risk pregnancies, those undergoing dialysis, and elderly people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's.

She told her session: "Happiness is a muscle that we need to work at.

"If we smile at people and open our hearts, not only do we spread happiness, but we get so much happiness ourselves."

With that, she stepped back out into the chaos of Limmud to spread some joy - one comedy-sized foot after the other.

Last updated: 12:08pm, December 23 2013