Part of the fun of going to see Book-It Repertory Theatre’s performance, “In the Land of Rain and Salmon,” is learning about the history of Seattle’s Jewish community through stories, songs, and a wonderful collection of old photographs. Part of the fun is listening to the multiple accents (Yiddish, Polish, German, Russian, Ladino, and more!) that the play’s cast adopts to bring this history alive.
And part of the fun, this past September 22, was seeing the show at Washington Hall, itself one of the places featured in the play. Now a community center for culture and the arts, Washington Hall is also a historic preservation site at 153 14th Avenue (not far from Garfield High School). It was a center of Seattle Jewish life in the early 1900s, and High Holiday services used to take place there before Sephardic Bikur Cholim established its own synagogue in that neighborhood.
In fact, this production is part of 4Culture’s innovative Historic Site(s) Specific program, funded through King County’s Cultural Services Agency, which connects arts agencies with businesses and other local partners to help create performances and art installations in direct response to a particular place.
Besides the staging at Washington Hall, another meaningful dimension of the evening came from the screening of eight short documentaries that approach environmental issues from a range of faith perspectives (Jewish, Muslim, and Christian). The Seattle Jewish Film Festival sponsored these short films, to be projected 9/23/13-9/29/13, dusk -11 p.m., on the walls of a sukkah at this location.
“In the Land of Rain and Salmon,” sponsored by the Washington State Jewish Historical Society, is based on the book “Family of Strangers,” a history of Jewish Seattle by local authors Molly Cone, Howard Droker, and Jacqueline Williams (UW Press, 2003). Additional performances will be held at a variety of venues through the state of Washington in the coming months; the next one is at the Redmond Library, October 1st at 6 pm. For details, visit www.wsjhs.org or visit the Site Specific web site.
Naomi B. Sokoloff is a professor of Near Eastern Languages & Civilization, Comparative Literature, and Jewish Studies at UW. She recently co-edited, with Susan A. Glenn, Boundaries of Jewish Identity (UW Press). Professor Sokoloff will be a 2013-14 Faculty Digital Fellow for the Stroum Jewish Studies Program.