Music, dance and more intersect in jam-packed arts lineup

The Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life, where every aspect of the sprawling site is new, state-of-the-art and pristine, is a fitting venue for the launch of the first-ever arts and dialogue program at the Oshman Family JCC.

Idan Raichel

Throughout the year, the Albert and Janet Schultz Cultural Arts Hall will feature music, dance, theater, lectures and arts programs. In addition, it will provide a location for area communal events and celebrations, such as weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs.

Cultural arts programs at the JCC are made possible in part by support from the Herman P. and Sophia Taubman Endowment Fund for the Arts and Cultural Programs.

“We want to bring the finest of arts and culture to our community,” said Sally Oken, the JCC’s director of arts and culture. “I love every single thing we’re doing.”

On opening night Oct. 17, the JCC will partner with the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival for a screening of the Argentinean film “Letters for Jenny,” in the cultural arts hall’s Koshland Theatre. In keeping with the theme of the night, a presentation about Argentina and a demonstration of the Argentinean tango will precede the film.

To celebrate National Jewish Book Month, the JCC will host an evening with Martin Fletcher, NBC’s longtime news bureau chief in Tel Aviv, at 7 p.m. Nov. 2.

Internationally renowned Israeli author Meir Shalev is lined up to speak: He will give a talk in Hebrew at 8 p.m. Nov. 17 in the Cubberley Campus Theatre in Palo Alto. The event is co-sponsored by the Taube Center for Jewish Studies at Stanford University and the Israel Center of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation.

“We’re trying to collaborate with other organizations to bring diverse cultural programming,” Oken said, “as well as offerings for our Israeli and Russian communities.” 

Other highlights of the arts and dialogue series include a concert featuring Zalmon Mlotek, an internationally recognized pianist and expert on Yiddish music. In 1995, Mlotek envisioned the first All-Star Klezmer Extravaganza at New York City’s Lincoln Center, which was filmed by PBS and later released on CD and video with violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman.

Mlotek is slated to perform in February, followed by the Idan Raichel Project a month later. The popular Raichel fuses Israeli pop with Middle Eastern, African, Indian and other global sounds to create rich melodies and vocal performances.

Sally Oken

The 350-seat Koshland Theatre, which doubles as a multipurpose room and boasts a state-of-the-art sound system, offers a great venue, Oken noted: “Not a bad seat in the house.”

Arts programming will be conducted in the lobby, which can hold up to roughly 130 people.

Outdoor concerts are planned for the Jessica Lynn Saal Town Square, and the Harvey and Phyllis Koch Art Gallery (also in the Cultural Arts Hall) is installing its first exhibit, “Work on Iron,” just in time for the Taube Koret Campus grand opening.

Oken called the hall “absolutely magnificent,” and said she is excited about the Emerging Artists program, a showcase for younger artists developing their talents and audience exposure, and the Arts Café, a series of contemporary music concerts for young adults on the first Thursday of every month, beginning Dec. 3.

Twenty years ago, Oken, a native New Yorker, started the cultural arts program at Levis Jewish Community Center in Boca Raton, Fla. She relocated to the Bay Area from Florida in September 2008 to be closer to family, and began work at the JCC in January.

Though she doesn’t have an arts or theater background, Oken is ready to prove that she can put on a good show.  

“I get to be the pioneer on this campus to bring the finest of arts and culture to our families, community and partnerships,” she said. “It’s going to be such an enhancement and enrichment of what we’ve been offering.”