Klezmer, Leonard Cohen and Women of Valor Get Ready for a Quarter-Century of JFestby Leorah Gavidor April 25, 2018
2018 marks the 25th year for San Diego Repertory Theatre’s popular Lipinsky Family Jewish Arts Festival, affectionately known as JFest. After so many successful years, now it’s time to celebrate—with a gala on May 27 that will feature performances by Hershey Felder, Malashock Dance and klezmer musicians Yale Strom and Hot Pstromi.
“It’s important to celebrate all of those who have been a base and a rock for the Jewish arts community,” said gala chair Julia Ramirez-Stone, also a trustee on the board at SD Rep.
JFest director Todd Salovey, along with members of the Lipinsky family, will be guests of honor. Thanks to the patronage of Dorris and Bernard Lipinsky, the Jewish Arts Festival continues to bring new performances and old favorites to venues around town, including the Lyceum, the Encinitas Library and Seacrest Village. The Lipinsky children have carried on the family tradition of supporting the arts in San Diego. Salovey, associate artistic director for the Repertory Theatre, was the founding director for JFest and is still at the helm.
In its history, SD Repertory Theatre’s Jewish Arts Festival has premiered more than 50 plays that have gone on to travel to other stages. “The Blessing of a Broken Heart,” produced in 2008, was Salovey’s first work as a professional playwright, and it still tours the U.S today.
Hershey Felder—a playwright and performer who has taken on the personae of such luminaries as George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Tchaikovsky, Leonard Bernstein and Beethoven, to name a few—has a long history with the Rep and JFest in San Diego.
“He found a niche here in San Diego,” said Ramirez-Stone, “and we are so honored to have him.”
Last year Felder debuted his Sholem Aleichem character at the 2017 festival, and he regularly tries out his work on the Rep stage. His Irving Berlin show premiered at JFest. His most recent piece, “Nathan Gunn FLYING SOLO,” plays at the Rep May 23-June 10. (Editor’s Note: Read our theater piece on page 51). Felder’s performance at the gala will be a one-of-a kind experience for the guests.
Women of Valor, an annual cohort of four to six women who are chosen for their contributions to the community and featured during JFest, will also be honored at the gala. Dr. Ellen Beck, Marsha Berkson, Sura Leider, Evelyn Rady, Jill Spitzer and Ruth Sax will be this year’s honorees.
Ramirez-Stone emphasized that the event is truly a celebration of the past, present and future of the Jewish Arts Festival. This year festival attendees can look forward to 11 shows from May 27-June 27. The Klezmer Summit, highlights of the past 17 years of klezmer shows, takes the stage on June 5. Singer Perla Battala presents House of Cohen, a theatrical tribute to the late Leonard Cohen, on June 25.
“Having guided this Festival from a one-day event at the Lyceum downtown 25 years ago, to now a dozen events across San Diego, La Jolla and North County, I am just humbled and astonished by how our shows have brought people together from across the communities of San Diego to celebrate Jewish traditions, history and ideas expressed in high-caliber art,” Salovey reflected.
“I never imagined I would stay at the helm of the Festival this long. In fact, I thought it might only be a year or two. But I witnessed the joy and pride that our shows bring, and I just got hooked.”
Barbara Fischbein “so graciously offered her Rancho Santa Fe home” for the gala, Ramirez-Stone shared. Tickets were almost sold out at press time. Organizers expect around 150 guests.
The gala is on May 27 at 5 p.m. at a private home in Rancho Santa Fe. Go to
to buy tickets.