As San Diego savored the 20th century's greatest military success, little Elaine Lipinsky was looking for company. It was the late 1940s, and local Jews were virtually invisible in World War II's aftermath. But by the 1970s, Lipinsky notes, that community had eclipsed the 50,000 mark, growing by nearly 10,000 each decade since.
"[After the war] I really don't think you encountered as much anti-Semitism [here] as in other parts of the country,? Lipinsky explains of the faction's growth. "And Judaism puts a lot of emphasis on education. Jews had a lot of opportunity to be accepted in San Diego['s educational circles].?
What's gone around has come around in the latter regard, and San Diego's arts community is the better for the experience. The Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival, for example, was founded with a generosity as formidable as the length of its name. Bernard Lipinsky, Elaine's father and founder of the Lipinsky Institute for Judaic Studies at San Diego State University (his alma mater), widely supported the festival's aims. The Lipinsky Family Foundation endowed it with a significant five-year grant in 2001, the year of his death. On June 2, the 10th annual event will open amid Lipinsky's fond hope for the city's well-being?awareness through cultural exchange.
Begun in 1994 under the auspices of the San Diego Repertory Theatre, the festival is the byproduct of a Jewish population that has come into its own in the last decade. But Todd Salovey, festival coordinator and The Rep's associate artistic director, notes the elder Lipinsky's contribution to the event in the last three years of his life. It was he, Salovey says, who forged much of the festival's commitment.
"Dr. Lipinsky,? Salovey explains, "was a one-of-a-kind supporter of the Jewish community, of Jewish education and social services and of the... arts [in downtown San Diego]. He made the connection at the San Diego Rep as a place where people of all cultures could come together and learn about other cultures and celebrate other cultures.
"There's a huge palate to play with when you're programming Jewish work. What's so exciting to me is that the festival draws so broadly from across the communities."
If the salsa-klezmer music or the play about a Mexican-Jewish immigrant don't bear out Salovey's observation, maybe Soulfarm will. The New York-based musical trio, known for its brand of folk with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern subtexts, has garnered a large following among Jewish youth.
"Some people call it Jewish music," Soulfarm vocalist C Lanzbom explains, "but that's not a phrase that we've coined. We don't use the word ?Jewish' to describe our sound, but a lot of people do."
Like Lanzbom, Elaine Lipinsky wonders what's in a name. For her, the festival is a vital element in the city's overall ethnic health. At the same time, she says, it's an important educational tool.
Organizers, Lipinsky explains, "want to make people more aware of their Jewish heritage. They're trying to present it in a way that's more accessible to them. Judaism is a religion that doesn't rely on dogma. It's a celebration of life. And the festival is a [cultural] slice of how Jews survived and came out better because of their trials and tribulations." ©
The series of visual and performance events is scheduled at three Lyceum Theatre venues and at Solana Beach's North Coast Repertory Theatre through June 18.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
June 2: Soulfarm with local acts Zeji Ozeri and Ohr Shalom. Lyceum Stage, 7 p.m.
June 12: World-premiere reading from A Fiddler's Travels, a Yale Strom play with music based on true stories discovered in Eastern European city archives. Lyceum Space, 7:30 p.m.
June 14: Teatro Punto y Coma, San Diego's Spanish-speaking Jewish theater company, presents El Casa R, about a young man and his tongue-in-cheek bout with hypochondria. Lyceum Space, 9 p.m.
June 16: Esther Jungreis, author of The Committed Life, speaks on marriage and building a life based on the precepts of the Bible. Lyceum Stage, 7:30 p.m.
June 17: "The Klezmer Summit." Performances of new and traditional Middle Eastern, Indian and Latin music and jazz by the groups Klazzj and Hollywood Klezmer. Lyceum Stage, 7:30 p.m. Program will be repeated at Solana Beach's North Coast Repertory Theatre June 18 at 7 p.m.
Ongoing: Exhibit of original art from Jerusalem's Israel Museum. Five collections include 400 paintings, lithographs photos and prints for sale. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Israel Trauma Center at Herzog Hospital in Jerusalem. Lyceum Theatre Gallery.