New York and Connecticut theater reviews and news

Ethnic Theater - Jewish

"The Builder’s Daughter"
Book Review

Growing up Jewish in Los Angeles forms the focus for Naomi Karz Jacobs’ warm, open bio (“The Builder’s Daughter,” published by Seven Locks Press, Santa Ana, CA). The story begins even earlier as Jacobs traces the arrival of her immigrant parents and their parents. It depicts her father’s decision to open an electrical and plumbing business in Los Angeles, followed by the construction business. Jacobs is fortunate to have a good memory and considerable documentation of the family’s early years. Hers was a family which apparently shared its stories.

The title for her book, “The Builder’s Daughter,” is appropriate. As Jacobs herself summarizes, “My father was a builder in concrete terms, and I am the builder’s daughter in every sense of the word. Despite occasional earthquakes and the storms of life, my father’s buildings and I are both still standing, and we are part of its history in different ways.”

Jacobs’ sometimes stormy, often gratifying, life is laid open to the reader. Her life journey took her far from the West Coast--to Philadelphia, Arizona, Baltimore, and family connections in the Ukraine (among many other journeys). Along the way she weathered two marriages and two divorces, and acquired children, grandchildren, and ultimately great-grandchildren. (Jacobs, a tall, stunning blonde, hardly fits the image of a grandmother, let alone great-grandmother.)

In work she experienced both the academic and business worlds before finally turning to the love of her life—theater. In 1993 she became the co-founder (founded with Skip Usen) of the West Coast Jewish Theatre in Los Angeles. It would become, she acknowledges, “the hardest task of my life,” but she was undeterred. Jacobs would serve as the company’s executive director for twelve years.

The theater would go from success to success, involving many noted show business personalities, both as performers and board members. Its programs would include musicals, stand-up comic evenings, and noted plays as well as new plays—but always with a Jewish emphasis.

Jacobs writes in a conversational style, which makes for an easy read. She grabs us and takes us along through one Jewish American woman’s life journey—in some ways typical, in other ways uniquely that of Naomi Karz Jacobs.

-- Irene Backalenick
Apr. 17, 2007

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