About Ronda SpinakThis author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Ronda Spinak has created 12 blog entries.
We are not hiding in a barn.
We are not living in a basement
or behind a bookshelf in Amsterdam.
Stop asking when it will end
Stop asking why it is happening & instead
harness the resiliency of our DNA
and execute “the how.”
Jewish people always have something to worry about. I am 90 and am a master of the art. This is a period when one worry flops over another. I prioritize. I look for the least thing of concern and worry about that. I suspect that keeps me in the right mental zone.
My friends, relatives and neighbors worry for me… mainly about food. Am I eating? Do I need anything from the market? Do I have enough water? I am fine and I am lucky enough to be able to have groceries delivered. I cannot wait for it to arrive. Not because of the food but because of the surprises. I never know what will show up.
My last order contained a big bag of Pupperoni. Big sticks of dog chew. I didn’t order it but it came… also in the same order smoked Gouda cheese… well that was… I assume… a free gift for my patronage. Missing from the order were about 10 items I did want. I assume a dog somewhere is unhappy and a cheese connoisseur is miffed.
A friend decided I probably needed water and potato chips. I had no idea how many plastic containers can be hooked together. I also did not know that you can get chips in single size… family size and convention size. The bag brought was humongous. Easily enough chips to last the life of the new long lasting light bulbs that hang around for 30 years.
My plan is to weather the pandemic mourn for its tragedy but find a smile somewhere within. I think in that way I will make it to 91… potato chips and all.
The female body awakens, and rises. A quiet joy exists, as does a hopeful world.
A cool breeze outside the kitchen window is freckled with bird song.
If only this miracle of sunshine could wipe away the virus, and free this cocooned humanity.
It is my husband’s birthday. As if not a care existed, I whip up his favorite: Buckwheat Pancakes.
As he pours his syrup atop the steaming crispy edged cakes (the way he likes them)
I watch him in secret gratitude.
The cocoon has within it a facile Butterfly.
Within a Quarantine, we witness beautiful little movements of living:
the gift of another day.
Amazing how every challenge and new technology offers incredible opps for good…
baking honey cakes for homebound seniors in our neighborhood…
through Nextdoor app, we younger neighbors deliver them….
and all of us connect with love….!
People are in such a state right now. Went to Gelson’s this morning and the place was mad. Not a piece of chicken to be found. No TP either. Or cereal. A fancy Palisades woman in a mask with her basket piled with peanut butter and cans nearly plowed into me. It was as crowded as the day before Thanksgiving but with a decided air of panic everywhere.
I push my cart towards the longest checkout line I’ve ever seen at this market, and I wonder how little it takes to pierce the thin skin of civilization, and allow our fears to let chaos loose in the world.
We hope to see you at one of our stops on our tour of the South! Each venue has it’s own RSVP/Registration/Ticketing process so see below for instructions if you would like to attend a particular performance!
Hear about the tour on the JWT Podcast!
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN
Sun. Nov. 10 – Columbus, Georgia
The Art of Forgiveness @ 7:00pm
Location: Temple Israel, 1617 Wildwood Ave., Columbus, GA 31906
To attend, please contact Debbie Anderson by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mon. Nov. 11 – Tallahassee, Florida
Matzo Ball Diaries @ 7:00pm
Location: Temple Israel, 2215 Mahan Dr, Tallahassee, FL 32308
To attend, click here or email email@example.com
Tue. Nov. 12 – Pensacola, Florida
Matzo Ball Diaries @ 7:00pm
Location: Temple Beth-El, 800 N Palafox St., Pensacola, Fl, 32501
To attend, payment will be accepted at the door. For questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Wed. Nov. 13 – Mobile, Alabama
The Art of Forgiveness @ 7:00pm
Location: Ahavas Chesed Synagogue, 705 Regents Way, Mobile, AL, 36609
To attend, please call the synagogue office at 251-343-6010
Thu. Nov. 14 – Metairie, Louisiana
Matzo Ball Diaries @ 7:30pm
Location: Shir Chadash, 3737 West Esplanade Ave., Metairie, LA, 70002
To attend, please call the synagogue office at 504-889-1144
Fri. Nov. 15 – Jackson, Mississippi
Matzo Ball Diaries @ 6:15pm (abbreviated Shabbat service, followed by dinner and performance)
Location: Beth Israel Congregation, 5315 Old Canton Rd, Jackson, MS 39211
To attend, please email email@example.com
Sat. Nov. 16 – Memphis, Tennessee
Matzo Ball Diaries @ 8:00pm
Location: Memphis Jewish Community Center, 6560 Poplar Ave, Memphis, TN 38138
To attend, please click here or contact Marcy Stagner, Program Director of Cultural Arts and Adult Services at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sun. Nov. 17 – Knoxville, Tennessee
Matzo Ball Diaries @ 6:30pm
Location: Heska Amuna Synagogue, 3811 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919
To attend, please email email@example.com
JWT thanks The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation for helping to fund this tour, bringing Jewish culture to the small towns of the South! We also thank The Institute of Southern Jewish Life for helping us to realize this awesome undertaking!
Are you up for The Not That Jewish Challenge?!?
Ready to win a free 3-show subscription to our 2020 Salon Season?!?
Here’s how it works!
Step 1: Refer a friend to buy tickets to Not That Jewish either through Goldstar or our Box Office. Both are accepted for the challenge!
Step 2: Have your friend mention your name at check-in. If that friend has 2 people in their party, you get 2 points. If that friend has 3 people in their party, you get 3 points, and so on…
Step 3: WIN! Whoever has received the most referral points after the closing performance on September 12th gets a FREE 3-SHOW SUBSCRIPTION TO OUR 2020 SALON SEASON (a $125 value!)
Send a friend this link and get started today!
One of the most popular features of salon shows at Jewish Women’s Theatre actually takes place after the shows. This is when audiences get a chance to ask questions of the show’s authors, actors or production staff members. It is one thing to see a personal story on stage, but it is even more engaging and educational to be able to ask these artists questions about their motivation or methods. To this end, welcome to ActingUP at JWT! A new feature that will give audiences more insight.
Q & A about new Salon show, TRUE COLORS—a honest investigation of issues of identity among Jews of Color
Eric Greene speaks with JWT’s Maureen Rubin:
How did you hear about JWT?
I went to a performance a few years ago. A friend of mine had a piece in a show about Sephardic Jews. I went to hear that and met Ronda Spinak (JWTs Artistic Director) and shared with her that I do work with Jews of Color in LA. She expressed her interest in having more racial diversity in the programming. So that’s how it all began.
Did you keep in touch?
I do informal organizing with Jews of Color. Myself and a few others put together social events for Jews of Color to give them an opportunity to get to know each other, to build community. One of the people that I work with made a connection with JWT, as they were doing a storytelling show about Jews of Color in Los Angeles. I ended up performing in that piece because my girlfriend who wrote it had to work. So, I performed that night as an Iranian-American woman. After that, Ronda kept in touch with me and once JWT embarked upon True Colors, I told her I would join with her.
So, you’re a writer and an actor, and you also have a job at UCLA and you do Jews of Color as a sideline. You’re a very busy man!
I’m a writer and civil rights activist primarily. I used to be an actor, but I’m not a professional actor currently. My main work is as a civil rights activist. I work in the Communications Department at UCLA. I’m Associate Communications Director for Diversity Issues. I used to be the LA Director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance and was a senior policy advisor at the ACLU for several years.
What is your background?
On my father’s side, African-American and Native American—not Jewish. And on my mother’s side Russian and Polish-Jewish. I was adopted. And my mom is the daughter or Romanian Jewish immigrants.
Were you raised Jewish?
Yes, and I should also point out that my mom was the first single person in the State of California to do that. She was a single mother.
How did you get interested in getting involved with Jews of Color?
I always craved the community of others. Growing up I had basically two or three friends who were Jews of Color, but not very many. Then, when I went to college I had an African-American Jewish History professor and it was always comforting that I could pass him in late September or October and say, “Happy New Year” to him as a Black man. And he knew what I meant and would say “Happy New Year” to me too. And that was very meaningful because we’re kind of isolated. We’re spread out all over the place. It’s very rare that there’s a congregation. There is just a craving for community that I had and that others had. Over the past 15 years, online and in person, there have been more and more avenues of connection for Jews of Color to communicate with each other.
That is one of the themes of True Colors. There are many Jews of Color who need community or who never felt completely accepted by anybody. How did you feel growing up? Is that a fair description?
I was aware that there was diversity in the Jewish community. I was aware that there were European Jews, and there were Iranian Jews, and there were Black Jews and Jews who looked like me. I was forever being told that I did not look Jewish. I’ll go speak at a synagogue wearing a yarmulke and someone will come up and ask, “Are you Jewish?” It’s really absurd. And almost every Jew of Color has a version of that story. So, finding community with those people who are African-American or Latino or Asian is a natural, obvious thing for a person of color who is Jewish. For whom it’s not an oddity.
One thing that struck me about our stories and with what you just said is that I don’t sense any resentment about not being welcomed. Why didn’t you resent it?
I think there are certainly misgivings. And I think there is certainly frustration. The reason you don’t hear a lot of resentment is that the ones who resent are the ones who leave the community. The thing that a lot of people need to understand is that because the Jewish community is not fully cognizant of its own diversity and because it’s not fully embracing of its own diversity, there are people who just up and left the Jewish community. It’s just too frustrating. It’s just too difficult. It’s just too alienating. And they leave. And they can. We’re losing as a result of that. So, the ones who are still involved in the Jewish community, in some way, are the ones have been willing to put their frustrations in the context of the many ways they are fed and nourished by Judaism. But for some people, it’s just too difficult. It’s just too stressful. And they opt to take themselves out of the community because they don’t want to deal with the racial biases there. It’s a serious problem.
What do you think of the show? Do you think the stories are good representations of Jews of Color?
I think they show a variety of ways that people of color in the community have expressed themselves, have connected with their Jewish identity, have connected with other parts of their ethnic heritage. And it’s important to get those stories out, to recognize that those are not oddities, they are part of the Jewish community, to recognize that not every Jew looks like Woody Allen.
What makes the Woody Allen Jews (the Ashkenazi Jews) so unwelcoming?
I think inherently people are suspicious of things that are different. They are made uncomfortable by difference. And I think that the Jewish community has forgotten its ethnic diversity; it’s forgotten its own history. The Talmud was written in Iraq and ancient Israel. None of the people who were writing the Talmud looked like Jerry Seinfeld. These would have been brown-skinned Jews. And the community has forgotten its own diversity and I think that that is very unfortunate and very much to our detriment. And there are a lot of people who have equated Jews with looking a certain way and that is very much to the detriment of the community.
Growing up as an Ashkenazi Jew, I thought Jews can come from Russia or Europe. No one ever taught us anything else. Do you think our Hebrew schools and religious instruction should teach more about the complexity of Jewish heritage?
The variety of that heritage. That we are a mixed multitude. That we are an international people and that our roots are in the Middle East, in ancient Israel, and that they extend back farther than Germany and Russia.
After they see the show, what would you like members of the True Colors audience to leave with?
I would like the Jews of Color to know that there are versions of their experience that others have shared and they can feel a little less alone. And I would like the Ashkenazi Jews who come to have a greater understanding of the diversity and beauty and complexity of the Jewish community. To understand that Jews of Color are part of the community and that they can take their rightful place in the community alongside everyone else.
Maria Ramos-Chertok dialogues with JWT’s Maureen Rubin.
Maria, how did you learn about JWT?
I live in Marin County and my synagogue hosted something from JWT several years ago. I went and just fell in love with way that the stories were presented and the stories themselves. Over the years, I saw three shows at three different venues and all of them were equally as powerful.
What did you first write for JWT and how did you hear about how to submit your story?
I went online and looked into it. I saw the submission notice for True Colors, and I thought I also identify as a Jew of Color, so I put my story together and submitted it.
What about the theme excited you?
Growing up, there was not a lot of talk about identity politics. Now, I think people are much more fluid and they talk about intersectionalities and ways that you can be part of both worlds, but really belong to neither. I think there is much more conversation about identity today. But when I was growing up, that wasn’t the case. My grandmother was raised under Communism in Russia, so she was not religious, although she very much identified as a Jewish person. I was raised culturally Jewish but with no Jewish training. My mother grew up as an only child. She ran away from home, converted to Catholicism and married my father, a Cuban immigrant. So, when I saw the theme Jews of Color, I thought this was a perfect fit. I had done a lot of work with The SELAH Leadership program, and the Jews of Color cohort so I have a whole network of Jews of Color that I connected with, and feel a part of. My story shows how I found people that I connect with.
Your story is called Both/And. Can you explain that title?
The title isn’t actually mine. In the world of multicultural training, I used to do a lot of work on racial equity training. The first time you ever go to any racial equity training, one of the things they teach you in the first hour is that you’re going to want to dichotomize into either good or bad; people are right or they are wrong; or things are true or not true, or people are smart of stupid. Your stretch, or your learning edge in this multicultural work is to cull the both/and. So, it’s a concept that comes from the field of anti-oppression training. So, it’s not mine, I never could take credit for it.
In addition to your story Both/And for JWT, you have also written a Book called The Butterfly Theory and you are working on a novel. Can you tell us about them?
The Butterfly Theory came out of a writing and creative arts workshop for women who want to explore what comes next in life. This is a companion book that has 52 weeks of inquiries for transformation. It’s ins-body-spirit book. I am also just finishing a novel entitled Rosie’s Blues. it’s the story of a woman who is homeless and despondent because she’s lost her two children. And her path crosses with a Bohemian feminist who runs a shelter for battered women. And as a result of an intervention, Rosie is sent to do community service at this woman’s shelter and it’s the story of their friendship and the journey that unfolds.
And your mother actually ran a shelter for homeless women and children in your home?
She still does. But when I was growing up in the 70’s she opened our family home as a shelter for battered women and their children. And she ultimately was the first shelter in the country to get Federal funding. And then, she now has seven properties that house over 150 women. She’s 77. She’s been going strong.
That part of your life is fascinating, but let’s return for a bit to the story that will be part of True Colors. I don’t want to spoil it for our audience, but can you give us one anecdote about growing up between two worlds that isn’t in your story?
My father did not speak to us in Spanish because my mother’s a Jewish-European American and he didn’t want us to have an accent because he immigrated from Cuba to America before the revolution and for him, English is a second language. And he also had dark skin, brown skin and experienced a great deal of discrimination as a brown-skinned man with an accent. And he didn’t want his children to have an accent so he didn’t speak to us in Spanish. However, his community (my parents got divorced when I was nine) his entire community was Spanish speaking. He got remarried. His second wife was Columbian and she didn’t speak any English. And many of his relatives from Cuba were ultimately brought over by him and I would be sitting with my family members and not understand what they were saying. So, they were my family, but I couldn’t talk to them when I was younger. But over time, I learned Spanish. Now I’m fluent and my two boys are. But it was really hard. I have a lot of friends who also are Latino. So, I felt that I was part of them, but not really because I can’t speak your language. And I’m not the first person who experienced that. It’s common for first-generation to lose the language so I felt that I was part of their world but not really.
Where did you learn Spanish?
It was a combination of things. I was around it. My father’s second wife spoke only Spanish. My first boyfriend’s mother was Colombian and she didn’t speak English. Also, in my school, they started teaching English in third grade. And so, I started then, but by twelfth grade, I was conversational. Then I went to law school and was $60,000 in debt. I worked at a private law firm for a year, but I hated it. I made enough money to almost pay off my student debt, but I went to live in Spain for a year to decompress and teach English. And that’s when I really perfected it. But I was not more comfortable in Spain than in America. A lot of people were still living under dictator Franco’s shadow. So, a lot of folks, particularly those who were elder, were mistrustful of foreigners. I lived in a province in the north and I was an anomaly. I was in my 30’s and not married and so I didn’t quite fit to that culture either. There was a lot of drinking and smoking and I don’t drink or smoke. Som coming from a state that was different in many ways, I felt like an outsider.
Let’s talk about religion. Your mother ran away from home and converted to Catholicism. Did she raise you as a Catholic?
When I was young, I was brought to church, but I always felt like an outsider. When they would say Jesus Christ died for your sins, I remember thinking “I don’t have really any sins.” And I wondered why this person had to die for my sins. I really didn’t want him to do that. I’m sure you know that in Catholic churches there is always a statue of Jesus Christ on a cross bleeding from the stigmata. I found it really traumatic. Why is this bloody man here? I never got around that whole things. They in the 60s and 70’s the world changed so I never made communion and I escaped portions of it, but most of my friends were going to confirmation and communion. I did feel like an “other,” but I didn’t know why.
How did Judaism come into your life?
When I applied to UC Berkeley from Hackensack, New Jersey, I got into a dorm that was filled with Jewish girls from the San Fernando Valley. It was called Davidson Hall. It was called Star of David dorm. They explained to me that if your mother is Jewish, you’re Jewish. And they took me in. You’ll have to come to JWT to hear the whole story. But it was the start of my Jewish education. Then there was the start of a whole journey that took off from there.
Tell me about your family.
I had my first child at 40 and my second at 42. I had sort of given up on finding the right man when a friend of mine, who had just broken up with his girlfriend invited me to come with him to the Russian River for an event called “Jews and Canoes.” I told him I don’t canoe and I had given up on dating, but he begged me to come along because I wanted to meet somebody. He dragged me to the event. And he actually met somebody that he married a year later. At his wedding, he had a singles table and I sat at that table and that’s where I met my husband. And we got married a year and a half later. Now my sons are 14 and 16. And they speak Spanish and are men of the world.
On October 28th, one day after the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, the following dramatization of a 1790 letter from George Washington to the congregants of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, RI was performed was performed at a home in Brentwood, CA during our annual Fall Party to kick off our 11th Season. The compilation of pieces, arranged into our signature style of salon theatre, is called JEWS IN AMERICA.
The piece was adapted and written into the show months earlier…
A Letter from Washington to Hebrew Congregation
by President George Washington
FULL TEXT OF LETTER:
To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, 18 August 1790
While I received, with much satisfaction, your Address, replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport.
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and a happy people. The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Gallery at the Braid is showcasing five Jewish Latino artists: Arnold Belkin, Fanny Rabel, Gunther Gerzso, Mathias Goeritz and Pedro Friedeberg.
The artwork hails from the collection of Mixografia, a Los Angeles-based fine arts lithographer and publisher. Mixografia is known for its expansion of the realm of printmaking by incorporating dimensionality and relief into a traditionally two-dimensional medium. It is a third generation family business, originally named Taller de Grafica Mexicana, and founded by Luis and Lea Remba, Mexican-Jewish printmakers from Mexico City.
Working with several local artists, the Rembas developed a process that allows artists to print in relief while registering the artwork’s texture and fine surface detail. Their innovations required them to invent a new kind of paper and papermaking machinery. These artistic and mechanical inventions led to the creation of Mixographia and inspired the renaming of the studio. After being invited to organize an exhibition of Mixographia’s prints at UCLA, the Rembas opened an L.A. studio in the 80’s. Mixographia’s new techniques have redefined the category of “print” allowing artists greater conceptual possibilities, greater creative freedom and possibility.
Participating artists have major historical significance in Mexico and the United States. Belkin and Rabel were two of Mexico’s great muralists. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Belkin immigrated to Mexico to study and be closer to the political public art of great Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera. He produced 28 major public murals and many easel works that reflected his commitment to showing humanity’s most controversial and sometimes painful experiences. Also a muralist, Rabel was born in Poland and moved to Mexico City in 1937 when WWII began. Her murals were often characterized by the display of anguish toward oppression and inherent catastrophe that accompanied the mega-growth of her new home.
Gunther Gerzso is Mexico’s most significant 20th Century Abstractionist. His body of work incorporates Cubism, Surrealism, references to pre-Columbian art and the varied landscapes of Mexico. Another Mexican emigrant, Mathias Goeritz was originally a German painter and sculptor. He emigrated to Spanish Morocco, then Mexico and became a professor of visual education and drawing in Guadalajara. He continued to sculpt, participate in and organize prestigious group exhibitions that made him a leading figure in the development of modern art in Mexico. Friedeberg came to Mexico to escape Mussolini. He is the inventor of several styles of architecture that reflect social problems and cloud formations. His architecture, he hoped, will make people laugh.