The nice Jewish boy from Broomall holds one of the keys to the future of Philadelphia’s Jewish arts scene. Warren Hoffman’s love for and knowledge of Jewish culture runs deep. He is an adjunct faculty member of Temple University’s Jewish Studies program, received a Foundation for Jewish Culture theater grant and authored the book The Passing Game: Queering Jewish American Culture.
But it’s at the Gershman Y that the 36-year-old Hoffman has made his biggest mark. He has created and initiated fun, inclusive events that appeal to a wide range of age groups, like the “Fiddler On The Roof” sing-along, Latkapalooza, the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival and intimate performances from Bebe Neuwirth, Klea Blackhurst and others.
“In four years, Warren Hoffman has transformed and invigorated the Gershman Y’s programming,” says Sherry Rubin, executive director of the Gershman Y. “He uses his own passion for Judaism and the arts to infuse excitement and vitality into our offerings. His open view of Judaism in its many permutations opens our doors to all Jews and encourages people of different ethnicities and faiths to feel welcome. Hoffman spices the programs with his academic background and theatrical roots, bringing both performing arts to The Y and depth to our explorations of Judaism.”
That spice may be savory, but it is also risky. Hoffman has embraced that risk and shunned the safe, staid path. “If we are to live on and grow, we have to change and try new things,” he says. “By being innovative and risk-taking, my aim is to create programs that speak to new audiences, particularly younger people, and put the Gershman Y on the forefront of cultural programming.”
Hoffman has big plans for the Y’s future. “We’re trying to bring a Jewish music festival to the city, and a new cabaret series, as well as commission a new musical and theatrical works that would premiere here and then travel to other Jewish institutions,” he says. “All of this requires community engagement and funding and so we’re always looking for new supporters to help make this possible.”