COVER STORYMay 2024

JFEST Celebrates 31 Years Of Artistic Expression, Cultural Unity In San Diego

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By Deborah Vietor

The Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival, (JFest) celebrates 31 years of performances in diverse venues throughout San Diego and North County, countering antisemitism and welcoming all people and cultures this month. From May 30 to June 30, a variety of cultural experiences will take place throughout San Diego.

Todd Salovey, director, producer, playwright and teacher/professor is the founding Artistic Director of JFest. He has commissioned and developed numerous new pieces of music, theatre, and dance over the last 31 years, many of which premiered in San Diego and have been performed internationally.

“Last year, we rebirthed JFest and were amazed at the size and passion of our audiences,” he said. “This year, the festival is growing with one of the most celebrated and beloved Jewish performers, Mandy Patinkin and nine unique programs meant to heal, bring joy and inspire.”

At UCSD, Salovey teaches Communications utilizing theater techniques, assisting students in becoming more authentic and creative, focusing on entrepreneurship. He loves expressive vocabulary, birthing new things, adapting or creating a new play and bringing something unique into the world.

With credits too numerous to mention, Salovey directed many acclaimed shows over the years including: “A Hammer, A Bell and A Song to Sing,” which he authored as well, and “The Blessing of a Broken Heart” for which he won an Edgerton New American Play Award.

Salovey emphasized how his Judaism and an interest in Jewish mysticism informs his work and passion as he continues to exhibit pride in the audiences, seeing people nourished and uplifted, as well as inspired.

“A good production takes you out of limitation, believing in possibility,” he said of his approach to sourcing materials as part of JFest.

This year’s headliner is Tony- and Emmy-Award winning Mandy Patinkin will perform “Being Alive,” where the acclaimed actor/singer/storyteller presents his most electrifying performance at the Balboa Theatre. Accompanied by Adam Ben-David on piano, Patinkin performs his favorite Broadway and classic American tunes in this show. From Irving Berlin to Stephen Sondheim, and Cole Porter to Harry Chapin, the performance is a musical tour de force you won’t want to miss.

Other highlights of this year’s JFEST include the 15th Annual “Women of Valor” at the Lawrence Family JCC. Directed by Ali Viterbi, written by Sarah Price Keating, Rebecca Myers and Todd Salovey, “Women of Valor” honors six exceptional San Diego Jewish women through words, music and images. This year’s honorees are Sarah Brown, Debbie Kornberg, Vered Libstein, Rabbi Devorah Marcus, Bev Pamensky and Dr. Barbara Parker.

Producing Director of JFest, Rebecca Myers has been mentored by Todd Salovey over the years, now serving as a director, singer, emcee, actor and writer and educator for JFest. She received the Sandy Fisher Award for Excellence in the Creative Arts awarded for exceptional work in theatre, including behind the scenes support, activism and onstage work. She is committed to accessibility, education and opportunities for BIPOC and neurodivergent youth.

Myers has also worked as a Theatre and Enrichment Facilitator for STEAM Academy at University of San Diego, and as the instructor of an engagement course through Company Youth Theatre’s Random Acts of Culture Program.

“‘Women of Valor’ is a chance to engage in my Judaism through the arts,” Meyers said. “With kindness, care and joy, the arts increase empathy and build community.”

Don’t Miss These World-Class Performances at JFEST 31:

  • American-Israeli hip-hop artist and influencer Nissim Black, performing rap, pop and world music. He brings a different identity to music, combining spirituality with musicality as he was raised in the inner city of Seattle as a Hassidic Jew.
  • Ken Jewish Community will present “La Obra by Teatro Punto Y Coma,” (performed in Spanish) at the Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.
  • “Comedy for Koby” features comedian Avi Liberman at Lawrence Family JCC. For over 15 years, noted as Israel’s most popular English stand-up comedy tour, Avi has performed on multiple network shows. Ticket proceeds support the Koby Mandell Foundation and their work for bereaved children and families.
  • Playwright Ali Viterbi explores the Italian Jewish experience with “Italian Jews Through the generations” at UCSD Hillel.
  • Klezmer Summit delights, with Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi offering “From the Shuk to the Shetl” at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego.
  • An Eco Performance Fest at Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas celebrates original eco-theater, dance and music by some of California’s most exciting, forward-thinking artists.
  • “Refuah, Community Concert arrives at the JCC featuring talented performers county wide with healing artistic expression through song, dance, poetry and more.

To learn more about JFest and to purchase tickets to any of these events, visit www.sdjfest.org.

 

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