Lineup For SJCC’s SeaJAM Announced

Lineup For SJCC’s SeaJAM Announced

Debra Messing, chef Joel Gamoran & the Maccabeats to highlight 2019 SeaJAM festival celebrating the SJCC’s 50th anniversary.

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. — The Stroum Jewish Community Center (SJCC) is thrilled to announce the entertainment lineup for the 2019 Seattle Jewish Arts & Music Festival (SeaJAM), celebrating the 50th anniversary of the SJCC on Mercer Island and 70th in greater Seattle.

Highlighting this year’s Festival will be Will & Grace star Debra Messing, Sur La Table’s national chef Joel Gamoran and Jewish a capella group the Maccabeats. The SeaJAM Festival will run from Sept. 13-15 and will be centered around celebrating the J’s anniversary year.

“We are very excited about this year’s line-up at our second annual SeaJAM,” said SJCC CEO Amy Lavin. “It will bring excitement, delight and, most importantly, community celebration to this milestone year when we celebrate our 50th anniversary on Mercer Island and 70th in greater Seattle. The SJCC remains a place where friendships form, traditions thrive, and community strengthens and in this anniversary year, we recommit to creating experiences that unify us, celebrate Jewish values, and assure that we all feel connected in and around the SJCC. This year’s SeaJAM lineup does just that.”

Here is the entertainment line-up for SeaJAM 2019:

Saturday, September 14 (at Benaroya Hall, Seattle)
Debra Messing: conversation with the Emmy-winning star of Will & Grace.

Sunday, September 15 (at SJCC Auditorium, Mercer Island)
Chef Joel Gamoran: brunch + talk with Sur La Table’s national chef and host of A&E’s hit series Scraps.

The Maccabeats: family concert from a capella stars combining Jewish music and playful pop parodies.

The SeaJAM Festival will begin on Friday, September 13 with a special anniversary Shabbat with the J event and will end with the Maccabeats concert on Sunday, September 15.

Presale for SeaJAM 2019 tickets to J members and Arts+Ideas followers will begin Wednesday, July 17. Public ticket sales begin Wednesday, July 24. For ticket pricing, times and more information about SeaJAM 2019 or how to become a member/follower, visit

About Stroum Jewish Community Center: The Stroum Jewish Community Center inspires connections to build community and ensure Jewish continuity. Together we create outstanding programs, partnerships and spaces that welcome everyone to learn, grow and celebrate Jewish life and culture. Learn more at

About SJCC Arts + Ideas: The 2018/19 SJCC Arts + Ideas season includes five series (Global Sound International Concerts, Words to the Wise talks, Fable to Table culinary programs and chef talks, Jest Fest comedy shows, theater and year-round film). In all, over 40 programs annually, plus the annual 11-day Seattle Jewish Film Festival in the spring and SeaJAM (Seattle’s Jewish Arts + Music Festival) in the fall. Tickets and Info:


Media contact: John Shaffer, Director of Marketing & Public Relations | 206-232-7117 | Cell: 310-780-6149

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SNL Comic Chris Kattan at the J

SNL Comic Chris Kattan Presents his New Memoir, “Baby Don’t Hurt Me” at the SJCC Arts+Ideas Stage on July 9
MERCER ISLAND, Wash. — The Stroum Jewish Community Center (SJCC) is thrilled to announce an author talk with veteran Saturday Night Live comic Chris Kattan at the SJCC auditorium on Tuesday, July 9 at 7:30 pm. 

Moderated by cultural conversationalist Warren Etheredge of The Warren Report, Kattan will discuss his new tell-all memoir, “Baby Don’t Hurt Me.” He’ll share stories from his unconventional childhood (filled with unusual characters like Zen monks and countercultural heroes Carlos Castaneda and poet Leonard Cohen), growing up on Bainbridge Island, his eight seasons performing with friends and future legends like Will Ferrell and Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live and subsequent falling out with Lorne Michaels, and the near-death fall on live TV that led to years-long struggles with addiction.  

The event includes books sale and signing as well after the show. Talk-only and book-bundle tickets are available. 

A former member of The Groundlings sketch comedy troupe in LA, Kattan is best known for the incomparable style of physical comedy he brought to such memorable SNL characters as Mango, Mr. Peepers, and one-half of the trademark head-bopping, nightclubbing Butabi brothers alongside fellow SNL cast member Will Ferrell in the 1998 film A Night at the Roxbury. Now, for the first time ever, Kattan opens up about his years on Saturday Night Live, sharing never-before told stories, provocative and personal, goofy and heartwrenching. 

This celebrity author talk closes out the SJCC’s 2018-19 Arts+Ideas performing arts season and its “Words to the Wise” Speaker Series (A free, outdoor screening of the “The Producers” and beer garden takes place on August 10). The 2019-20 season, featuring a full lineup of music from around the world, renowned chefs, local authors, headlining comedians, and more will be announced in August. 

Event Details – Author Talk
Saturday Night Live Comic Chris Kattan’s New Memoir, “Baby Don’t Hurt Me”
Tuesday, July 9 | 7:30pm
Stroum Jewish Community Center, 3801 E. Mercer Way, Mercer Island WA 98040
Tickets: $15*/$20 talk only | $30*/$35 includes talk + discounted book (retails $24.95+tax) | Box office: 206-388-0833 

*Ticket discount pricing for current SJCC members, students, seniors 65+  

About Stroum Jewish Community Center:
The Stroum Jewish Community Center inspires connections to build community and ensure Jewish continuity. Together we create outstanding programs, partnerships and spaces that welcome everyone to learn, grow and celebrate Jewish life and culture. Learn more at 

About SJCC Arts + Ideas:
The 2018/19 SJCC Arts + Ideas season includes five series (Global Sound International Concerts, Words to the Wise talks, Fable to Table culinary programs and chef talks, Jest Fest comedy shows, theater and year-round film). In all, over 40 programs annually, plus the annual 11-day Seattle Jewish Film Festival in the spring and SeaJAM (Seattle’s Jewish Arts + Music Festival) in the fall. Tickets and Info: 

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The Lullaby of the Baby Whisperer 

It’s not every day you get to meet a bonafide Baby Whisperer. At the Stroum Jewish Community Center’s Early Childhood School, we’ve been lucky to have haour own Baby Whisperer on staff for the past 30 years.  

Ask any parent whose child has been in Elaine Soeun’s class, and they’ll point to her calm, soft-spoken nature and her unmatched ability to soothe and connect with the children in her care. “She truly loves each and every child as if they were her own,” said Carrie Stull, Director, Early Childhood.  

Elaine has worked with children in several of our younger age groups over the years, but she was always drawn to working with infants. “I love that you can watch them go through so many stages of development within a very short amount of time,” she said.  

Her baby whispering skills extend beyond the children in her classroom to impact their parents as well.  Jessica Duitch recalled bringing her three-month-old daughter, Charley, to the J for the first time as “the scariest thing I’ve ever done.” But the moment she entered her daughter’s classroom and met Elaine, a sense of calm washed over her—a feeling she was lucky enough to have again a few years later when her younger son was in Elaine’s class too. “Elaine was the reason I was able to drop off my kids at three months old and not worry about going back to work. I knew they’d be taken care of.”

Elaine also took care of Leigh Anne Kiviat’s three sons, and she echoed Jessica’s sentiment. “Knowing my babies were with Elaine each day made such a difference for us. They were loved, safe, hugged, and happy—no parent could ask for anything more,” she said. 

This feeling of calm is something Elaine has also helped foster in generations of ECS teachers, said Associate Director Tara Bloomer, who worked with Elaine for over 12 years. “She has been such a role model for all of us for what it looks like to have endless patience and how to remain calm even when eight infants need something at the same time,” Bloomer said. 

Just after her retirement in April, Elaine was honored with the Mercer Island Preschool Association’s 2019 Exceptional Educator Award, which is presented to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to the city’s preschool community. Her legacy continues in the lives of the hundreds of children and families she has impacted over the years

“I’ve loved getting to know so many lovely families over the span of my career,” Soeun said, and she especially loves seeing children who’ve graduated from her class—many of whom are adults now with their own children who attend ECS. “When they come up to give me a hug, some of them are taller than me now!” 

As she heads into retirement, Elaine is looking forward to spending more time with her family, catching up on TV shows, and traveling around the world. The J community has been truly enriched by having Elaine on our staff, and we’re extremely proud of the work she’s done—she’ll be missed! 

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Putting their money where their values are

So many of us start to figure out who we are and what we believe in during our teen years. We discover we have strong opinions and a voice that’s worth listening to. As the participants of the Stroum Jewish Community Center’s Giving Initiative for Teens discovered, that can be a powerful feeling.

“It’s important to use your voice,” said 17-year-old Boaz Malakoff. “You can’t be afraid to be the lone voice advocating for what you believe in.”

Malakoff, a junior at Mercer Island High School, was one of 34 high schoolers participating in the J’s new philanthropy program, the Giving Initiative for Teens (GIFT). It’s part of a national program that teaches teens about grant-making, non-profit management, fundraising, and Jewish values. It encourages engagement in the community and empowers teens to be part of the grant-making process from start to finish, as they work together to raise and allocate funds to distribute to local non-profits.

The results of the inaugural year? More than $21,000 in grants and a group of engaged and energized teens who are confident in standing up for what they believe in.

Guided by the Jewish values of “compassion” and “do not stand idly by,” the teens selected two funding priorities for the year: domestic violence and mental health.

They conducted site visits of the applicant organizations, which inspired 16-year-old Danielle Lavitt, because it brought their priorities into focus. “I don’t have to face these challenges in my daily life, so it was good to get insight into the issues that exist and what people really need,” she said.

Taking the things they learned during the site visits and making decisions that would have measurable impact was important to Matt Feldman, 16. “It’s about helping people and seeing the impact our values can have on others.”

When it came time to decide which organizations to award grants to, Malakoff said the discussions were always lively and passionate, and helped him realize his belief system can be applied outside of synagogue. “It showed me that Judaism can have a real-world impact beyond the spiritual aspect,” he said. “GIFT helped me figure out how to use Jewish values to make a difference.”

Not only did the program get the teens to explore their Jewish values, it also connected them to Jewish teens from across the community. Although the participants all come from Jewish backgrounds—attending Jewish summer camps, having a bar/bat mitzvah, or participating in youth groups—Lavitt noted that it can be hard to stay connected when they’re pulled in so many different directions. “It’s hard to get to temple as often as I used to, but my monthly GIFT meetings helped me stay connected to the community and to other Jewish teens,” she said.

The first year of GIFT wrapped up on May 22 with a Grant Ceremony to award the money they had raised to six local organizations: Eastside Legal Assistance Program, Jewish Family Service, Kent Youth and Family Services, King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, Mary’s Place, and Sound Mental Health.

Applications are now open for the 2019-20 school year. Mentors and teachers can also nominate students. Details and application forms can be found here. Application deadline is May 31.

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