This fall, Jewish cultural venues in the Washington area will showcase a little less Zoom and a lot more live programming. Producers are offering up prayers for COVID-19 case counts to stay low and audiences to embrace the opportunities.
“I say Shehecheyanu (Thank you God for bringing us to this moment) on every opening night,” says Dava Schub, executive director of the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center.
Some programs will continue to be remote only or hybrid opportunities, but expect many concerts and plays to be live only with no remote options because of copyright and other artist agreements, say area cultural directors.
Rules about mask wearing and vaccination requirements vary around venues in the Washington area, with some spaces requiring proof of vaccination and/or masking, and some not. Check the rules before you purchase tickets or plan to attend free events, so you know what’s required and whether it’s the right option for you. Keep in mind that health rules can change (through local or venue rules) if COVID-19 or flu cases rise, or if they fall.
Plays this fall at Theater J at the Edlavitch JCC include “Intimate Apparel” about an African-American seamstress secretly in love with an Orthodox Jewish fabric salesman (Oct. 19 to Nov. 13) and “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” (Dec. 6-18), the story of Lisa Jura, a young Jewish pianist whose concert debut was canceled by the onset of World War II. Jura is played by her real-life daughter, Mona Golabek, and the music selections include Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninoff.
And if you’re ready to venture a little farther north, some Jewish themed plays on and off Broadway include “Leopoldstadt,” Tom Stoppard’s play about a family in the Vienna Jewish community during the first half of the 20th century; “Funny Girl” (now starring “Glee’s” Lea Michelle). about Jewish comedienne Fanny Brice; and the return of the Yiddish production of “Fiddler on the Roof” on Broadway (Nov. 13-Jan. 1).
Through Oct. 20, the Pozez JCC of Northern Virginia is featuring “Paper Jewels” by artist Julia Tova Malakoff. Malakoff’s senses of smell and taste were changed by a case of COVID-19 in 2020, so she imagined those senses and the works include a garden with herbs and fruit. Malakoff works in mixed media incorporating photography, painting drawing and collage to create visual stories, often drawing on recyclable materials. On Oct. 13 at 11 a.m., Malakoff will teach a class in “upcycle” art to make accordion books that can be used as journals. Admission is free. Register by emailing [email protected].
There was much ado about the return of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass” to the Kennedy Center this fall, but Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3 “Kaddish” deserves the same attention. The symphony, with narration by family members of a Holocaust survivor, will be performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra on Friday, Oct. 7, and Sunday, Oct. 9 at Strathmore. Kaddish, the prayer said by Jews to commemorate those who have died, premiered at the Kennedy Center in 1963, weeks after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Seth Kibel & Friends
In the before times (i.e., pre-pandemic) Klezmer master Seth Kibel played clarinet during kosher Sunday brunches at the Edlavitch DCJCC.. On Nov. 6, Kibel, together with jazz and swing musicians, will perform from the Irving Berlin songbook. Expect songs such as “Blue Skies,” “Always,” “Cheek to Cheek” and “How Deep Is the Ocean.” https://www.edcjcc.org/event/seth-kibel-friends-salute-to-irving-berlin/
Concerts at the Bender JCC
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Bender Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington’s Polinger concert series which feature rising and established musicians during Sunday evening concerts. For tickets, $50 per person per concert, go to: https://www.benderjccgw.org/arts-ideas/concerts/.
On Oct. 16, the Bender JCC will present two free concerts by the Mount Vernon Virtuosi, one at 11 a.m. introducing children under 8 to music and instruments, and a chamber concert for adults at 2 p.m.. Three more child/adult concerts will be held during the year.
Register for free tickets here: https://community.benderjccgw.org/s/registration
The Sixth & I Synagogue has reopened its doors for music and lectures and events this year include Jewish singer Matisyahu (Saturday night Oct. 22), who was the very first performer at the space when it opened. Esther Safran Foer, former executive director of Sixth & I says the majesty of the space was renewed each time a speaker or performer stepped onto the bimah. Singer Idina Menzel was so moved by her surroundings she began her concert by chanting her bat mitzvah haftarah.
Other upcoming performers include Patti Smith (Nov. 17), Phil Rosenthal (“Somebody Feed Phil”) in conversation with Jeffrey Goldberg (Oct. 20), guitarist Julian Lage (Nov. 30) and Jon Meacham speaking about his new Lincoln biography (Oct. 27).
In partnership with the Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies, the Museum of the Bible has an exhibit through Jan. 1, 2023, on the Samaritans, a micro community living in Israel who trace their history back to the ancient Kingdom of Israel.
The exhibit showcases the life, culture and history of the Samaritans including videos about such life experiences as their Passover sacrifices, weddings and a Sukkah. The exhibit includes paintings, manuscripts, books, photography, ritual objects and archaeological discoveries from Greece, Italy and Israel. The exhibit is free with admission.
The Capital Jewish Museum will be holding an outdoor Jewish Food Festival on Sunday, Oct. 9, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Vendors include a company called “Prescription Chicken,” which lists on its website a “spicy hangover chicken soup.” Cookbook author Joan Nathan will give opening remarks, and speakers include James Beard Foundation winner Michael Twitty, author of “Koshersoul,” a new cookbook. Chef and journalist Vered Guttman, who frequently prepares authentic Israeli meals for the Sixth & I Synagogue, will have a live cooking demonstration. (Read about Guttman and find some of her recipes here. )
Kosher vendors include Sunflower Bakery, a bakery training program for young adults with disabilities. Start hoping they bring their pumpkin pecan muffins and lemon bars. Buy “tasting tickets” online or day of. https://capitaljewishmuseum.org/cjff2022/
The Washington Jewish Film Festival is now a multidisciplinary arts fest that is year-round, though films remain a big part of the program. Find a full list of programs here.
Upcoming films include “A Tree of Life,” about the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and “Til Kingdom Come,” about the influence of American evangelicals on U.S. foreign policy toward Israel.
After you see the Tree of Life film, visit Philadelphia’s Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History which recently added two items from the hostage crisis last year at Colleyville, Texas’, Beth Israel Synagogue. A man who would later take hostages at the synagogue, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, was welcomed with a cup of tea — the cup is one of the items on display.
And 11 hours later, to end the siege, Rabbi Cytron-Walker threw a chair at the terrorist, enabling himself and the remaining hostages to leave. At the museum and online, watch a video of Professor Jonathan Sarna, chief historian at The Weitzman, and Dr. Josh Perelman, chief curator and director of exhibitions and interpretation at the museum, interview the rabbi and other hostages. https://theweitzman.org/colleyville-artifacts/.
Sneak Peak at the Winter Arts Calendar
ReelAbilities, the largest film festival in the United States, is dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with disabilities. In our region the 10th annual ReelAbilities Film Festival will be held in Northern Virginia Feb. 2- March 5, 2023, both remotely and in venues throughout the region, including closing night at the Kennedy Center. The 2023 films will be announced in November.