Six ‘women of valor’ saluted at Jewish Arts Festival
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO–Young playwrights Ali Viterbi, Leah Salovey and Sarah Price-Keating–saluted six San Diego “women of valor” in a Lipinsky Family Jewish Arts Festival production on Sunday in which they and other talented actresses portrayed the women in six successive 10-minute segments.
The composite sketch of female Jewry of San Diego celebrated spirituality, reaching out to others, and triumph over adversity, among other valorous virtues.
Celebrated were 18-year-old Emma Tuttleman-Kriegler, played by Viterbi who was a fellow student at San Diego Jewish Academy; Emma’s mother Jan Tuttleman, the incoming chair of the Jewish Federation of San Diego, portrayed by Sherri Allen; Torah High School teacher Penina Fox (Salovey); anti-hungeractivist Joan Kutner (Linda Libby); violinist Eileen Wingard (Sarah Price-Keating) and Holocaust survivvor Fanny Krasner-Lebovitz (Rosina Reynolds).
In her portrayal of Wingard, Price-Keating played a Vivaldi duet with Myla Wingard, Eileen’s real-life daughter. Additionally, Daniel Myers beautifully sang in Hebrew “Aishet Chayil,” a passage taken from Proverbs about the qualities of a “woman of valor”
“Far beyond pearls is her value. Her husband’s heart relies on her and he shall lack no fortune. She seeks out wool and linen, and her hands work willingly…”
Four of the subjects overcame adversity. Tuttleman had to raise two young daughters alone after her husband, Michael Kriegler died battling cancer. Her daughter Tuttleman-Kriegler fought off a would-be rapist while walking home from party while a junior high school student, and has become an advocate for helping people materially less fortunate than herself, both in San Diego and in Ghana. Fox was shot in the leg by a patient of her psychologist father. Krasner-Lebovitz, who was sent from her home in Latvia to a Nazi concentration camp, used to dream of sleeping again on clean sheets. She has been a leader of Hadassah in San Diego.
Fox, who rebelled as a youth against her Orthodox Judaism, eventually found herself relishing its spirituality– especially after a meaningful school trip to Israel during which she was invited home by a rebbe’s daughter to observe first hand the frumme lifestyle that Fox ultimately embraced.
Wingard,a retired San Diego Symphony violinist who now writes a column for San Diego Jewish World, found meaning in transmitting Jewish values and the great music of the world through her family and through her works.
Kutner, who founded the program at Congregation Beth Israel to collect food and feed the hungry in conjunction with St. Vincent de Paul, was celebrated for her outreach efforts.
In one story about her experiences, she shocked a homeless man by calling him “sir.” He inquired why she called him that, when everyone else thought of him as a bum. She replied that in the area where they were, he always had acted like a gentleman–and therefore deserved to be treated as such. Students who accompanied Kutner later told her that short conversation was more powerful to them than any sermon.
A European woman who also volunteered to feed the homeless studiously avoided Kutner. When she asked why, the lady said she was afraid of her because she was a Jew. She explained that she had been taught that Jews wanted to harm Christian people. Kutner suggested that the woman run her hand over Kutner’s head so as to discern for herself that Jews don’t have horns. Later, she invited the woman to visit Congregation Beth Israel. When Rabbi Michael Sternfield removed the Torah from the Ark for her to see personlly, the woman broke into tears, realizing that what she had believed were lies.
Directed and co-written by Todd Salovey, who is Leah’s father as well as the producer of the Lipinksy Family Jewish Arts Festival, “Women of Valor” was presented in The Space, an intimate U-shaped area of the Lyceum Theatre, with seats rising up from the stage below.
Proceeds from the production were earmarked for the support of Torah High School, SCY High and San Diego Jewish Academy.
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World