SALT LAKE CITY — Rita Skolnick thinks there might be approximately 6,000 Jewish people in the Salt Lake area. As for the exact number, she said it depends on who you ask.
At Salt Lake City’s I.J. & Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center, Skolnick oversees community special events. That includes this weekend’s Jewish Arts Festival, which the local Jewish community has been hosting for more than 20 years.
“We try to bring in the best of Jewish arts and culture for the whole community, not just the Jewish population. Everyone is welcome to come,” Skolnick said. “And we want people to get an idea of what modern Judaism is like. A lot of times, people just think of the really, really orthodox people, but there’s many different facets, a very big variety. So we just try to bring in different elements from all parts of Judaism.”
As for what comprises Jewish art, Skolnick said it’s as varied as any other kind of art — Judaism has been around for a long time, and its communities cover the world. (She’s partial to Jewish cinema.) This year’s festival includes “Belly Laugh: Comedy that Cooks,” a 70-minute show featuring Jewish standup comedian Joel Chasnoff and New York City-based chef Lior Lev Sercarz.
Skolnick said she’s also excited for the festival’s Hanukkah Market, happening Sunday, which features vendors, Jewish food and live entertainment and has been going for more than 30 years.
Additionally, the festival is hosting a special Shabbat dinner this year. This will include live music from Tribeca Ensemble, an accomplished local chamber music group.
Jewish communities in major American cities have been in the spotlight lately, following an Oct. 27 shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11. Skolnick said the shooting has absolutely affected Salt Lake City’s Jewish community.Comment on this story
“We’re all just trying to wrap our heads around it still, as everyone else in the nation is,” she said. “It’s very traumatic. But, then again, you have to pick yourself up and move on because we are still a community. We’re not going to go hide anywhere. We want to have the biggest impact that we can on our community members, and also the general population, the community of Salt Lake City, in a positive way. And the only way to do that is to keep going, keep providing the positive programming that we’re providing for people, for families, for seniors, for everyone that comes to the JCC.
“Personally, it’s devastating,” she continued. “But all of us are pretty committed to just continuing on.”
If you go …
What: Jewish Arts Festival and Hanukkah Market
When: Nov. 8-11
Where: I.J. & Jeanné Wagner Jewish Community Center, 2 N. Medical Drive
How much: $18-$115, depending on age and event