Vicki Juditz (pronounced YOOD-itz) did not know, till she was in her 20s, that in German her name meant “Jew.” An actor, writer, voice-over artist and activist, she was a lapsed Lutheran who became a Presbyterian, and her spectacular one-woman show “Sacred Resistance,” produced by Jewish Women’s Theatre at The Braid Performance and Art Space, shares her journey of conversion to Judaism – successfully on her second attempt.

The first time was for “Steven,” the “perfect guy” whom she wanted to convince to marry her. When he said, “But you’re not Jewish,” she began a course of study to convert, then talked him into letting her meet his parents. Learning the traditional Four Questions in Hebrew, by the end of their Passover Seder, they considered her perfect daughter-in-law material. Steven felt otherwise. “I don’t want to settle,” he said, coldly crushing her dreams.

Vicki had also met a very tiny old lady, Doris Kessler, with whom she experiences her first Sabbath dinner. Doris spoke of being in the fashion business with her sister, then told the heart wrenching story of how they were the only two survivors of the Holocaust in her large family. In Doris’ apartment, Vicki examined photographs of everyone who perished in the gas chambers.

 

GERMANS AND JEWS

But with Steven out of the picture, Vicki’s attendance in Judaism classes began falling off. On both sides of her family, Vicki’s heritage was German. Her American-raised uncle was in Germany when he met his wife, Magda, the quintessential tall, blond Aryan. The timing was right for Vicki to accept an invitation to visit them in their very small, very German village.

Magda shared another side of the story, about how being poor and struggling, “Hitler gave us hope.” Their village was carpet bombed by American forces, their POWs rounded up into barbed wire fenced areas, with no shelter but the trenches they dug for themselves.

Now Vicki had to consider that the issues of good and evil and responsibility were not black and white and began to question, what can one person do to make the world a better place?

Vicki Juditz comes back from Germany to “take moral responsibility” and to complete her conversion to Judaism. As the play opens, and as it ends, she is with a circle of protesters who will soon be threatened with arrest for blocking an ICE office. Vicki’s days are filled with “sacred resistance” to injustice in all its forms.

There’s more in this short, touching, funny, poignant and completely satisfying one-woman show for you to be inspired by. Watch a performance of “Sacred Resistance,” then view Laurie Katz Yehia’s accompanying art exhibition, “Artwork Evoking Transformation and Self Reflection.”

Works in mixed media range from interpretations of “The Song of Songs,” through 14th century texts, to our present day in the form of switch plates and light switches. She examines “fragmentation and reunification with the Divine,” hoping to inspire people to “flip the switch” to advance human rights and dignity. Yehia will be present on July 7 for an Artist’s Talk and reception.

The Jewish Women’s Theatre makes its home at The Braid Performance and Art Space, located at 2912 Colorado Ave., #102 in Santa Monica; performances run through July 29. https://www.jewishwomenstheatre.org/

 

SACRED NATURE

A funny thing happened on my way to JPL/NASA. I arrived at 11 a.m. for a public tour that didn’t start till 1 p.m. Fortunately, Descanso Gardens is less than 10 minutes away, so I took a mini-day-cation. Walking into this urban oasis filled with mature trees, flower gardens, succulents and more, the quiet will calm your mind.

I was about to contemplate man’s venture into outer space. But before leaving the planet behind, I took time to appreciate what we have here on Earth.

Because I had very little time, I opted to walk up the less challenging path (the other is known cardio hill) to the Sturt Haaga Gallery, where “Growing Habitat: L.A.’s Wildlife and Descanso” provides a deep look into the amazing creatures who co-habit with us – or depending on how you look at it, who we are pushing out of their natural habitats.

There’s a gorgeous video in one gallery with images from wildlife photographers Denis Callet and Johanna Turner. Trail cameras capture what we never see in the busy city surroundings where we live. Coyotes, bobcats, foxes, bears and of course mountain lions are magnificently showcased; Turner calls them “charismatic and gorgeous.”

There’s an enormous geographical floor map, marked with numbered regions; match the numbers to the pictures on the wall to see what lives there. The gallery with the video also highlights local wildlife heroes, doing everything from citizen science to habitat repair and more.

There’s something in bloom in all seasons, and there are summer concerts, winter light shows (Enchanted Forest of Lights – you MUST go!), children’s activities, a café, a restaurant and the pleasure of standing in the shade of tall trees on a hot summer’s day.

Visit Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge; if you go in August, they’re open late on Thursdays (till 8 pm). https://www.descansogardens.org/about/contact/

 

Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.

 

Vicki Juditz in her one-woman show, “Sacred Resistance” at The Braid Performance and Art Space (courtesy image)

 

 

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