Warren Hellman puts Judaism on his sleeves at music festival

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When Rabbi Moshe Levin wandered over to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass on Shabbat, he thought he’d spotted Jewish Texas country singer Kinky Friedman, one of the 90 or so performers at this year’s three-day festival.

There, among the thousands in Golden Gate Park, stood a man clad in an ornate denim jacket, its sleeves embellished with rhinestone Jewish stars and Hebrew letters across its back.

But it wasn’t Friedman. Levin, rabbi of Congregation Ner Tamid in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset, had spotted philanthropist Warren Hellman, who in 2001, started Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and continues to sponsor the popular free festival year after year.

Hellman also is chair of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Endowment Fund.

In honor of the festival’s 10th anniversary, Hellman donned the coat — with the word “asiri,” which translates as “tenth” — made by his granddaughter, Laurel Hellman. 

Laurel apparently swiped a few jackets from Hellman’s closet to get the measurements right. She, along with her father Mick Hellman and aunt Tricia Hellman-Gibbs, presented the jacket before Hellman’s set with his band, The Wronglers, on Oct. 2.