24th Jewish Arts Festival is a train worth catching

By Eric George Tauber

Eric George Tauber

SAN DIEGO — The 24th Annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival is well underway. Every year, there’s something different to experience, reminding us what a strong, vibrant and creative Jewish community we have here in San Diego County. None of us can catch everything, but everybody can catch something and nobody should let this train go by without catching anything.

So far, I’ve seen Women Together Sing Out and Asimov: The Last Question, both hosted by the San Diego Repertory Theater at the Lyceum Space.

Women Together Sing Out

The women together were klezmer vocalist, Elizabeth Schwartz; acclaimed actor and singer Lisa Peyton and the multi-lingual siren, Coral MacFarland Thuet. Elizabeth got the ball rolling with a Yiddish song about a laughing bird, representing our need for freedom, and later a powerful anthem of the Jewish partisans who fled to the forests and fought the Nazis.

“Because the hour that we have hungered for is near.

Beneath our tread, the earth shall tremble. We are here!”

Coral’s soul cried out en español about giving one’s heart and the constant stress of immigrants who lack papers and live in fear of El Hielo (ICE). It’s worth noting that many Holocaust survivors snuck into “Palestine” under the wire after being denied papers by the British.

Lisa gave a soulful tribute to the legendary Billie Holiday with “God bless the child,” as well as songs from Nina Simone and Alicia Keys. “Steal Away” -sung in a haunting acapella- was a coded message to help slaves escape to freedom.

Many Orthodox consider it a great shonda to hear kol ishah (women singing). Well, that’s their problem. We were delighted by three very talented women with beautiful, soulful voices bringing their diversity of culture and language into accord and inviting us to sing along.

What makes this happen? What is powerful enough to traverse the boundaries of culture, language and creed? The heart’s cry for freedom and the voice’s demand for justice, that’s what.

Asimov: The Last Question

On a normally dark Monday night, we were treated to a work-in-progress about the iconic science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov by the Rep’s Playwright in Residence, Herb Siguenza. Herb is well-known to SD audiences for his adaptations. El Henry puts Shakespeare’s Henry V in a dystopian barrio fraught with gang warfare and Manifest Destinitis is a Californio retelling of Moliere’s Imaginary Invalid. Is that “cultural appropriation?” Who cares? I love his chutzpah.

Herb Siguenza and Mark Pinter gave a staged reading of “The Last Question” in which humanity in the far distant future is desperately trying to reverse entropy, cheating death. But there are forces in the universe that are simply beyond human control.

“Society gathers knowledge faster than it gathers wisdom.”

Based on actual interviews of Asimov, Siguenza donned a gray wig with bushy side burns. Asimov’s work isn’t just about what’s scientifically possible. He waxed philosophically about the nature of humanity and infinity. A devout Humanist, Asimov rejected all superstition and dogma in favor of the uncertainty of Science.

Coming Up…

The Wandering Feast: Yale Strom’s personal musical memoir about his journey of exploration behind the Iron Curtain, Sunday, June 18 at 2:00 in the Encinitas Library.

Hershey Felder and Friends: “The Stories of Sholem Aleichem and More”, Monday, June 19, 7:30 pm on the Lyceum Stage.

Challah Rising in the Desert: The Jews of New Mexico. This is the festival’s first film screening, a documentary about five different “tribes” of Jews in Santa Fe. July 6, 7:30 pm at the Lyceum Space.

“For Honor” is a staged reading with music and a tribute to the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. July 9, 7pm at the Garfield Theatre in the LFJCC.

For more information and to buy tickets, go to www.sdrep.org.

Tauber is a freelance writer specializing in coverage of the arts.  He may be contacted via [email protected]




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