September 22, 2019

Seeking a Home

For the past six years, the mission of Los Angeles’ West Coast Jewish Theater (WCJT) has been the use of the stage to express Jewish faith and culture. Despite repeated success, the company still lacks a space to call its own.

“Jewish theater is not a luxury but a necessity to Jewish survival in America. We need to recognize the value of artistic expression and be serious about our ‘continuity’ crisis,” said Naomi Karz Jacobs, executive director and founder of the WCJT.

The WCJT has produced 38 shows, the most recent of which, “Der Onshtel Makher,” was performed at Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Skirball-Kenis Theater during this year’s Yiddishkayt Festival. The company continues to operate at venues all over L.A., although what it really wants is a permanent address.”A center for Jewish theater is essential,” Jacobs says. “Our productions leave an important impact on its participants and its audiences alike. Jewish theater connects us to our ethnicity.”

Before the creation of the WCJT, Los Angeles lacked an ongoing Jewish theater company. The company is hoping that it will join the other 40 Jewish theaters across the U.S. and Canada who have their own spaces. L.A.’s elusive downtown and pricey real estate are obstacles, and despite the fact that numerous entertainment industry machers are Jewish, Jacobs hasn’t been able to find one interested in backing a Jewish theater.

“All other ethnic groups have their own theater,” she said. “We as Jews support everybody else, and we need to start supporting our own.”

The WCJT currently has over 200 affiliated actors in addition to many producers and directors. By getting involved with the WCJT, they also become more involved in their own heritage. If funding were available, says Jacobs, workshops for actors and contests for playwrights would be possible.

Jacobs’ final pitch: “We would name the building after the donor, and it would be a wonderful legacy to L.A. Jewish theater in Los Angeles is the future. Let’s give it our respect and support.”