KALEIDOSCOPE – “What Does Jewish Look Like?”

We sat down with Israel Bitton, an actor in the upcoming show KALEIDOSCOPE taking place July 15-19 2015 in The Theater here at the 14th Street Y. Kaleidoscope asks and answers the question, What does Jewish look like? Effectively exploring and validating diversity with the Jewish community.
Actor Brian Britton
Actor Israel Bitton

How did you get involved in KALEIDOSCOPE? 

Several years back I stumbled upon HBO’s Def Jam Poetry when Vanessa Hidary appeared and so passionately delivered a great performance of her piece “The Hebrew Mamita.” It struck a chord. I was proud that she was ‘representin’ us, and at the same time it occurred to me that one day I’d love to do the same. Then I saw her post this project, and it was just an obvious and immediate entry point for me.
What has the creative process been like?
Challenging. Rewarding. Vanessa and Kendell, through the workshop portion of this project, have helped each cast member reach into our personal histories so that we can craft monologues that are both deeply personal and still entertaining for audiences.
How do you view and identify yourself?
The world would peg me as a Modern-Orthodox Sephardic American Jew, but I don’t believe nationality, culture or observance level to be an essential part of my identity. It’s only a flavoring, and therefore I simply identify myself as a Jew.
What would you say defines you as a Jewish identifying person?
My kippah. My name (Yisrael Barouch). My soul.
Can you tell us about what you will be performing at KALEIDOSCOPE?
I explore my journey from being one of the few Sephardic kids in an all-Ashkenazi school system, the trials and tribulations that come along with that experience, my attempt to invent a new identity for myself, to coming to terms with my name, and ultimately, accepting my full identity as a means for true personal growth.
What have you been most surprised about and/or learned the most about during this process?
Aside from the very practical enhancement to writing and performance skills, I’m most surprised by just how diverse our cast really is. As someone who has a unique backstory and perspective, I generally have a broad worldview that allows me to see people beyond the stereotypes. And still, I thought that there would be so many similarities between the cast members that some stories would be redundant. Not so. If you’ll see the first black Jewish cast member perform, and when the second comes up you’ll think you now know what to expect, well, you’ll be surprised at just how unique every individual is. The end lesson, even for me as a cast member, is that despite being told we’re too different, or not good enough, we’re all essentially one and the same. And though we share a common thread that essentially connects us, that connection doesn’t have to compromise our right to self-discovery and the assuming of our unique identities, backgrounds, stories and trajectories.
 In the end, people that watch these performances will certainly be challenged to broaden their conception of what constitutes the Jewish identity.

XpuKM2HM63vBbEctGntYKC1DL-k8M3xc4pKds5QGB5MThe 14th Street Y and The Hebrew Mamita Present:


Developed and Directed by Vanessa Hidary
July 15-19, 2015

Get tickets HERE.

Vivid Reflections. Boldly Diverse. Distinctly Jewish.

The World Premiere of Kaleidoscope, a multi-media project and monologue showcase sparked by a desire to highlight Jews of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and observance levels, will be presented at The Theater at the 14th Street Y, 344 E. 14th Street, on July 15th and 16th at 8pm, and on July 19 at 3pm.

Through extensively crafted, deeply personal stories, Kaleidoscope will delve into the ever-popular question “What does Jewish look like to you?” The diverse and talented cast includes performers of a wide range of ethnicities, including Moroccan, British, Jamaican, Ethiopian, Libyan, and Puerto Rican.

OPEN-The New Jewish Theater Residency







LABA: The National Laboratory for New Jewish Culture at the 14th Street Y, (344 E. 14th St., NYC) and the Jewish Plays Project are proud to announce the new program OPEN, which is seeking five collaborative teams of theater artists for a three-week pilot residency program. The residency is designed to give selected artists time, space and support to create vibrant new work that extends the Jewish conversation through cutting-edge theater forms and techniques. The Residency runs from June 11 – July 1, 2012. Proposals are due by March 15th, 2012 at 6 pm. The announcement of the artists selected will be made on April 16th, 2012.


The contest is open to artists of all backgrounds, denominations, faiths, creeds, religions and other ideals.   For information on how to submit a proposal visit http://www.jewishplaysproject.org/laba/ or see the attached information sheet.


OPEN is a key pilot program in the Jewish Plays Project’s mission to engage Jewish audiences in the future of Jewish theater. Each project must have at least 3 artists already committed to the work in significant ways. LABA and the Jewish Plays Project are not interested in single playwrights submitting work, actor’s with a vanity piece, or director’s with a single-minded concept. The goal is to gather thriving teams of multidisciplinary artists committed to their projects and to each other who are excited about coming together with like-minded artists to seek a new, contemporary, cutting-edge direction for Jewish theater in New York City


Each selected project will receive:

  • 20 hours of rehearsal space per week over 3 weeks including time in the theater.
  • A production stipend to cover minimal physical production elements.
  • Production, stage management and intern support.
  • Artistic and dramaturgical input as requested and needed.
  • Substantial marketing and PR support
  • At least one public performance of a selection of the resulting work.
  • Prominent place in the Project’s ongoing advocacy towards production.


Selected artists will also participate in the LABA’s Beit Midrash program, learning how ancient texts can inspire and inform their artistry. Under the guidance of master teachers Basmat Hazan Arnoff and Ruby Namdar, this part of the residency will introduce new ideas, sources and techniques that will serve as a resource for your work for years to come.



OPEN seeks to discover and develop a new generation of theater that reflects the 21st Century Jewish experience, and strives to engage a broad audience in a discussion of what that experience may be. Each project will be reviewed by a Community Panel of up to 30 lay leaders involved in the New York City Jewish Community who will score projects on the clarity, importance and personal connection of its Jewish ideas. A separate Artistic Panel of actors, directors, writers and academics will evaluate projects for their aesthetic value, structural and stylistic innovation, understanding of their target audience and production feasibility. 


ABOUT LABA: LABA: House of Study is a beit midrash for culture-makers at the 14th Street Y in New York City. Every year the LABA staff selects a group of 10 fellows — a mix of artists, writers, dancers, musicians, actors and others — to partake in a yearlong study of classical Jewish texts centered around a theme. The fellows then interpret these texts in their work which is featured in the bi-monthly online journal and annual year-end festival. A central focus of LABA is to present Judaism’s rich literary and intellectual traditions in a non-denominational, non-religious setting, so that these writings may serve as inspiration for the fellows’ art.



ABOUT THE JEWISH PLAYS PROJECT: The Jewish Plays Project is a development house for 21st Century Jewish theater. We seek to ignite an explosive engagement between cutting-edge theater artists and Jewish audiences by developing and advocating for a new generation of plays and musicals that embrace and investigate the intersection of Jewish identity and secular self.




David Winitsky                                                 Becky Skoff

Director, Jewish Plays Project                Manager, LABA, and the Theater at the 14th Street Y

david@jewishplaysproject.org                          becky_skoff@14streety.org

347.878.5771                                                              646.395.4322


OPEN has received generous support from the UJA-New York Committee on Jewish Identity and Renewal’s Gen I Task Force, the Louis T. Roth Foundation, and a host of individual donors.