Chutzpah and Salsa looks at Latina Jews

The Jewish Women’s Theatre turns its attention to women from Cuba, Chile and Argentina in its next production at the Oshman Family JCC, “Chutzpah and Salsa.”

The third in a series of plays exploring the lives of Jewish women, the May 30 show promises “funny, poignant and pivotal moments” in stories that share “what it means to have a Latina heart and a Jewish soul.” Tales in the show are set in Latin America and the United States.

“Many of the stories begin not unlike the stories of many American Jews, with persecution and fleeing — from Eastern Europe, from Syria, North Africa — but while our grandparents and great-grandparents came to the United States, theirs had to go somewhere else. Then they left there for this country,” said Ronda Spinak, a founder of the Los Angeles-based theater troupe. Today, there are 200,000 Latino Jews in the U.S., she said.

“I think it’s important to tell the stories on stage of Jews of all backgrounds, ethnic origins, cultural heritages and religious observances because it tells the whole story of the Jewish journey,” Spinak said.

While most Jews may read from the Torah in Hebrew and try to make sense of the meaning of the world, she said, “where we come from culturally impacts how we live our lives as Jews and as people.

“When we understand each other’s Jewish stories, we understand our own story and can find compassion for those who are not just different, but the same at heart.”

Earlier this year, the JCC presented “Temptation” and “Jacob’s Dilemma” about Jewish women from diverse communities.

Founded in 2007 by Spinak, Ellen Sandler and Deena Novak, Jewish Women’s Theatre seeks out stories from Jewish women, incorporates them into a theatrical style and produces them in a salon format, in intimate settings.

“Chutzpah and Salsa” will be staged at 7:30 p.m. in the JCC’s Freidenrich Conference Center, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. Tickets are $20 to $30. For more information, see — patricia corrigan