You may have seen this man at your local judaica store. He may have made your tzitzis, and provided your son with his first tallis. And he also might have been one of your daughter’s highlights of second grade: he’s the Parrot Rabbi.
Rabbi Nachem Gober has been known as the Parrot Rabbi for a couple of decades. He had always had birds as pets growing up in his parents house, so it was only natural for him to have a few of his own once he got married. However, maintaining birds is an expensive endeavor, so his wife suggested he find a way to have the birds help pay for themselves.
“I shelved that suggestion away somewhere,” he explained. “It didn’t reappear until my daughter came home one day from school and told me she needed an item for show and tell and that item had to start with the letter ‘B.’”
Housing a variety of fourteen birds, it was expected of him to bring in one of his birds with his daughter. It was such a hit, that when it came down to the letter ‘P,’ the class asked that he come back, this time with a parrot.
“The class had so much fun,” Gober recalled.
As he returned that night from the school, his landlady saw him with the birds and asked him what he had done with them. He explained that he had brought them to his daughter’s school for show and tell. Excited by this idea, she told him how she ran an after school program and would love for him to bring his birds there. He agreed. From there, this side profession just grew mostly by word of mouth.
“I think what makes my show unique is that I have lots of audience participation. I scatter props throughout the audience and command birds to fly onto the props. People enjoy that. Generally an audience doesn’t get the chance to be up close and personal with exotic birds, since most people doing these shows don’t let you touch the birds since they’re so expensive. I’m not that way at all. I want the audience to really get to appreciate the birds.”
But, still, his first and foremost profession is being “the traveling salesman” for judaica. He makes tzitzis as well, and tries to make his way to each of his locations once a month, so that people who need cleaning and repairs know he’s coming. He got started repairing tzitzis when he was a young boy in his Young Israel shul in Long Beach, Long Island, the same shul in which he got involved with NCSY. He grew up in a very modern, Young Israel type home in the 1970’s. Although he was born in Boro Park, his family quickly moved to Long Beach, and that’s where he realized how different Judaism could be. Oftentimes, NCSY would host their shabbatons in his shul and he became very interested in participating in the ruach those shabbatons brought to his Shabbos.
“Rabbi Yossi Lieber was the main person who got me involved in NCSY,” he reminisced. “I’m still lucky to maintain a connection with him.”
This path is what lead him to see that Modern Orthodoxy was not the path for him. Rather, he was yearning for something more.
“NCSY introduced me to a more Torah-oriented Judaism. It was a springboard for me to expand what I knew as my Judaism. And now I’m the man with the streimel and bekkeshe and a part of Bobov.”
Now, he is happy in his level of Judaism and raising a family of nine children and three grandchildren, BH, in Monsey. He likes that he’s the Parrot Rabbi, and also likes that he has a profession within Judaica because it’s such a major part of his life. He ended with a metaphor that his growth within Judaism was a process much like painting. NCSY had scraped him, his shul in Long Beach had primed him, and Bobov had painted him over into the man he is today.