White bunnies, hop away quickly, or Joshua Jay might snatch you up. Unless, of course, you don’t mind popping out of a black felt hat.
Jay, 30, a world-renowned magician, author and lecturer, will explore the intersection of magic and Judaism in Seattle on September 9. He has performed and lectured in over 59 countries, has written seven books on magic, and has made appearances on Good Morning America and the Today show.
Jay said Judaism and magic have been intertwined for centuries.
“A lot of Jewish people immigrated to this country in the second wave of immigration, from 1840 to 1913,” he said. “Coming from Eastern Europe, there was always an emphasis for them on performance — music, art and magic.”
Moreover, during that time, Jewish Americans encountered anti-Semitism, which furthered magic’s appeal to Jews.
“Magic was a way to avoid anti-Semitism,” Jay said. Jews could set up their own performance facilities without relying on the help or services of non-Jews.
Jay’s lecture is part of his “Tragic Magic” series that recounts unusual deaths of notable Jewish magicians in history — particularly Houdini, who lived from 1874 to 1926.
Born as Erik Weisz in Hungary, Houdini was the son of a rabbi, Mayer Samuel Weisz. Arriving in the U.S. in 1878, he first attracted notice for his escape acts, where he challenged police to keep him locked up. He soon extended his repertoire to escaping from chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, straitjackets under water and holding his breath inside a sealed milk can. After a life of attracting thousands of fans through his magic career, Houdini died due to a ruptured appendix.
“I’ve taken it upon myself to research magic members who were killed in the line of magic,” Jay said. “I will also expand on why there is an inclination for Jews to go into magic.”
Jay has prodigy-like status within the magic community.
In 1998, while a teenager, he was crowned World Champion of Close-up Magic at the World Magic Seminar, and has subsequently appeared on every major television network. He has performed magic professionally since he was 10 years old.
Jay’s books include the best selling “Magic: The Complete Course,” available in four languages. He is also a headliner at the Magic Castle in Hollywood and writes a monthly column in MAGIC Magazine, a leading magazine for magicians.
The Seattle lecture will be illustrated with audio, visuals and Jay’s sleight-of-hand magic.
“My goal, whenever I speak, is for the audience to come away with a deeper appreciation for magic.”
But Jay noted magic’s secretive nature.
“It’s our job to keep people out. Many of the most interesting aspects of magic happen behind closed doors.”
However, Jay said he plans to bend this rule at the Seattle event.
“While not revealing any tricks, I hope to disclose to the audience more [of what goes on behind the scenes].”