Lisa Appel brings her acrobatic routine to Rejoice: The Central New Jersey Jewish Music & Culture Festival on Sept. 14
Photo by Eduardo Lewy
September 4, 2008
Tumler. Kind of sounds like “tumbler,” but has a different meaning. Tumler is a Yiddish word meaning someone who makes a lot of noise but doesn’t accomplish much.
Lisa Appel, on the other hand, is a tumbler who gets a lot done, using her unique skills to teach Yiddishkeit to ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages.
A lifelong resident of the Philadelphia area, Appel started taking dance classes before she was five years old, followed by gymnastics and acrobatics. She stuck with it throughout her childhood and supplemented the training with trapeze work at what is now the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.
Like many adults, she put aside childish things when it came time to pursue a career. A teacher for several years in both the secular and Jewish community, Appel has always enjoyed working with kids, although that word might be inaccurate.
“It didn’t seem like work,” Appel told NJ Jewish News. “I also had this passion toward Judaism, so as a schoolteacher I wanted to teach something in the Jewish world.”
She never gave up the acrobatics, however. “I had an opportunity to perform in a show a few years back in Atlantic City. I was a magician’s assistant and it dawned on me I had gone to college to have something to fall back on like everyone does. I couldn’t major in dance or tumbling, where my true passion was. So I figured working with children isn’t really work — it’s so much fun — and I’ll be able to go to dance class at night.”
After a time, she decided to combine the two fields. She started her business — MissLisaInc. — two years ago, when she took a job as a “human dreidel” for a Hanukka program. “Little by little, I started to add different programs. I do all the different holidays.”
Appel had taken a course in teaching the Holocaust while she was learning advanced “aerial fabric” (the study of acrobatics), and put those two unlikely themes together. Members of her family had perished during the Holocaust, and she feels passionately about teaching the horrors of the period.
She is also enrolled in a master’s program at Gratz College in Elkins Park, Pa., and is taking classes in American Sign Language.
Hanging in the air proves to be quite dramatic and provides the effect she is searching for to help get her message across.
“As a schoolteacher, I would stand on my head in the classroom. Selfishly I enjoyed it, but you get [the kids’] attention.” Once she had them, the rest of her job was a piece of cake. “I think that they think it’s cool.”
Appel designs each program according to her audience. She also creates her own wardrobe (“because they don’t make human dreidel costumes”).
Appel said the major reason for creating her own business was to allow her to observe Shabbat and Jewish holidays, an issue in the world of professional acrobatics.
In June, she was selected as a delegate for the ROI 120 Summit in Jerusalem, a partnership between Taglit-Birthright Israel and the Center for Leadership Initiatives that brings together young Jewish innovators and leaders from around the world. It goes to her philosophy of using her talents for tikun olam.
“What I want to do through acrobatics is to make the world better, to teach Jewish values…. I’m trying to elevate acrobatics, make it holy, and use it for a good purpose.”
For further information on Appel and her programs, visit www.MissLisaInc.com.