February 19, 2020

Vicki Juditz’s Journey to Judaism

Vicki Juditz has performed her original stories at theaters and festivals across the country. In Los Angeles, she regularly performs at spoken-word events. Her story “Swing Dancing” aired on “The Moth Radio Hour” podcast, and her story “Boca” was featured on National Public Radio station KCRW’s “UnFictional.”

Juditz has written, produced and toured with a number of original one-woman shows, including “Teshuvah, Return” and is currently performing her latest show, “Sacred Resistance” for the Jewish Women’s Theatre, at The Braid, in Santa Monica.

More coverage here: One Woman’s Journey to Sacred Resistance

Jewish Journal: What motivated you to pursue storytelling?
Vicki Juditz: I lost my job. I’d been acting in TV commercials in New York, playing housewives whose lives were saved by discovering the perfect nonstick pan. When I moved to L.A., I struggled to get work and to figure out the Thomas Guide. I could barely remember how to drive. A friend took me to a storytelling group. [I] loved it.

As a storyteller, the story I am most proud of is about my journey to Judaism, and I am thrilled that Ronda Spinak and Susan Morgenstern of Jewish Women’s Theatre encouraged me to adapt that story and share it with their audiences as “Sacred Resistance.”

JJ: Do you have role models in the storytelling world?
VJ: Spalding Gray. A man who could hold an audience with his wit and words. A wonder.

Pullquote: “For years I wanted to be arrested. As an activist, arrest is a badge of honor.” — Vicki Juditz

JJ: What prompted your political activism and which causes are near and dear to your heart?
VJ: The concept of tikkun olam. My main cause is saving the planet. I’ve committed to reducing my carbon footprint and more importantly to advocating for legislation to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and for getting green candidates elected. I am proud to serve on the Sustainable Burbank Commission.

JJ: What do you do to live a “green” life?
VJ: What haven’t I done? I’ve taken out my lawn, become a vegetarian. I flush my toilet with bathwater, but as one activist told me, “The meaning of life is sitting in a storefront in a dingy strip mall and making calls to get your local green candidate elected.” So I volunteer for campaigns to help get people in office who can make a difference.

JJ: Have you ever been arrested for your activism?
VJ: For years I wanted to be arrested. As an activist, arrest is a badge of honor. But I was always a hands-on mom for my only child. I just didn’t feel I could take the time to be incarcerated. So I waited until my daughter left for college. I am proud to say I was arrested in 2017, protesting unfair deportations.

JJ: In light of recent celebrity suicides, do you have any insights given that your husband also took his own life?
VJ: There is so much the public and the professionals do not understand about suicide and depression. Depression is an illness, not a choice. More needs to be done to treat it and to counteract the stigma. A person who says Kate Spade was selfish for ending her life because she had a young daughter does not understand that depressed people can’t think rationally. I am sure Ms. Spade thought she was acting in the best interests of her child.

JJ: How did you deal with the challenges of solo parenting?
VJ: After my husband’s death, I focused 24/7 on my daughter’s well-being. She was fortunate to have a good therapist, especially to deal with the guilt all survivors feel. Most likely, my having to focus on my daughter kept me strong and proactive, instead of being overwhelmed, constantly thinking about what I might have done differently in caring for my husband.

JJ: Is there romance after widowhood?
VJ: Well, there are some good stories. An old boyfriend asked me out to lunch. But instead of rekindling the romance, he wanted to tell me how he’d gotten his young yoga instructor girlfriend on Tinder and to suggest that I try the app. I pulled out my flip phone … and deleted his number.

JJ: What’s next for you?
VJ: Later this year, I will perform at the Sierra Storytelling Festival in Northern California, and Storytelling Arts of Indiana. Also, I will be a teller-in-residence for “Storytelling Live!” at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tenn.

JJ: Do you have a philosophy for life?
VJ: Accept every invitation. It might be awful! Great! You’ve got a story.

Mark Miller is a humorist and stand-up comic and has written for various sitcoms.