Modi Rosenfeld is a stand-up comedian and actor who performs Jewish comedy around the world. Along with Dani Zoldan, he is a co-founder of the Chosen Comedy Festival, a celebration of Jewish humor and music that made its debut in Coney Island, Brooklyn, last summer. “I do comedy for Jews, but also when there are non Jews in the audience, it opens a window to them to see into the Jewish world,” says the Lower East Side resident, who frequently performs at Jewish fundraisers. “It’s very inclusive, but it has a Jewish flavor.” Over the past year, Rosenfeld, 53, has become more forthcoming about his sexual identity (he’s been married to his husband, Leo Veiga, since 2020), telling our partners at JTA: “Be a proud Jew and be you.”
For the full list of this year’s 36 to Watch — which honors leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making a difference in New York’s Jewish community — click here.
Was there a formative Jewish experience that influenced your life path?
When you get comfortable on stage, you begin to find your voice. My voice was very Jewish, and it came out proud to be Jewish — not making fun or deprecating. It was just very, very proud. When I do these amazing charity events to raise money and see Jews helping other Jews, I feel very proud. This is who I am. These are the people I’m from. It makes you proud. That’s how that voice grew.
Do you have a favorite recent experience as a Jewish New Yorker?
Not one in specific because I have one every day. I love everyone’s style in New York. Every day, you just see looks and events that can only happen in New York.
What is your favorite place to eat Jewish food in New York?
Second Avenue Deli. I don’t usually eat meat, but if I’m there, I’m gonna have the stuffed cabbage, maybe a pastrami sandwich — those are my two go-tos. Then whoever I’m with, depending on what they order, I’m going to be on their plates as well.
Who is your New York Jewish hero?
My hero — not in comedy, just in general in the big picture — is the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Even though he was from Europe, he was a New York staple and lived here for many years.
What are three spots in NYC that all Jewish New Yorkers should visit?
The Comedy Cellar and Second Avenue if they really want to experience a real deli. The third would just be to walk the streets of New York and look at the style — avoiding Midtown. Go to Washington Square Park and people-watch. The looks people pull are absolutely stunning. Trench coats, belts, clothes from the ’70s — the style of New York is unbelievable.
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