What's In Your Fridge: Dana Camil Hewitt of the JCC Jewish Book Festival
Want to get our stories Straight to your inbox (see what we did there)? Sign up for our newsletter here.
What’s In Your Fridge is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about their life-changing concerts, favourite albums, and, most importantly, what’s sitting beside the Heinz ketchup in their custom-made Big Chill Retropolitan 20.6-cubic-foot refrigerators.
On the grill
Dana Camil Hewitt
Who are you?
I am the director of the JCC Jewish Book Festival and this is my eighth exciting festival (including two fully virtual ones from the COVID years). I am also the director of the Dena Wosk School of Performing Arts at the JCC and therein lie both my big passions: literature and the performing arts. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to manifest both, not necessarily as a creator, but as someone who makes art happen, hopefully in the best possible way.
I’m in full creative mode when a beautiful, thought-provoking, stimulating and author-supporting programme emerges from the cloud of many submissions to coalesce into a meaningful festival. Like the upcoming 2023 one, February 11-16 (check it out here! It’s full of major themes: a focus on mental health and psychology; the incredible diversity within the Jewish communities in Canada and around the world; the increased relevance of political reality in literature; new waves of generational fiction; unpacking some parallels between the Jewish and the Indigenous experience; and especially the treasure trove of authors we have here in B.C. And—what’s not to like?—we thrive on the interdisciplinary, with performance and visual arts connected to literature featured prominently.
I came to Vancouver from Israel 24 years ago—there I was fully immersed in the classical music scene (my training and degrees are in Musicology). I worked for the renowned Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, coordinating repertoire and writing programme notes and toured with them throughout the world. I’d say that a huge number of life-changing concerts occurred during that time! So the connection of music and literature has always played a major role my whole life.
Unsurprisingly after what I told you before, my first concert was a classical one, when I was 6 or 7, in the beautiful symphony concert hall in Bucharest, Romania where I grew up. It featured legendary violinist Yehudi Menuhin playing the Beethoven concerto. My parents made sure I was imbued with the “legendary” aspect. My parents were film people, it was a very exciting milieu to be in, all artsy and cultural—our home was always full of actors, directors, writers and painters. And they were classical music aficionados, so the only concerts I’d ever really experienced were classical ones and opera.
Oh, where do I start? Still in Bucharest, hearing Bach’s Double Violin Concerto live when I was about 12 and realizing that I always want to live within that kind of beauty. And then at 16, while in specialized music high school, attending open rehearsals with legendary conductor Sergiu Celibidache, where I learned more about understanding music than in almost all my formal studies! And then again, the thunderous, gut-wrenching experience of Mahler’s 9th Symphony with Leonard Bernstein conducting the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s great to have many life-changing concerts—keeps hitting “refresh” on many things.
Top three records
Various Artists Mahler The Symphonies / Das Lied von der Erde Mahler’s 9 Symphonies with Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic and Israel Philharmonic. Detect a pattern? Any time, full emotional meltdown for me….all the turn-of-the-(20th)-century European angst, beauty, sensuality and neurosis in one spectacular bunch of massive, immersive orchestral works—just what the good doctor (Freud) ordered.
Various Artists Verdi:Requiem With Carlo-Maria Giulini—its visceral power and operatic glory blasting through the house just like my kids used to blast their own (very different) music when they were still at home. Always evoking memories of another life-changing concert with this piece at the Arena di Verona, with Zubin Mehta, the IPO and the Prague Philharmonic Choir.
I am grateful to my son Tamir and my husband David for opening the door and educating me some more in classic rock and (slightly) newer music. So I’m always in awe of anything Leonard Cohen, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and quite a few more spectacular pieces of great music that float my boat as much as classical and opera do.
All-time favourite video
No MTV videos in this girl’s history—quite literally none. However, intense film passion by osmosis from my filmmaker parents. Grew up on movie sets and dissecting various film techniques (mostly) with my dad, while hanging out with the local movie stars of the day, to my schoolmates’ intense jealousy. I could not possibly choose a favourite movie, just the thought makes me cry out “favouritism” amongst celluloid children… However, two movies that deeply fed into my music life: Ken Russel’s psychedelic Mahler (surprise surprise) and Bob Fosse’s mind-blowing All That Jazz.
What’s in your fridge
An endless array of condiments, sauces and dressings. My kids think this is a boomer generation feature and send me memes about it. Most of those bottles are possibly already expired. Just can’t resist a good-looking concoction (or maybe its label) that sounds yummy. Always feels like that will be our next big thing in the kitchen. And then, ironically, I end up mostly whipping up a dressing or a sauce from scratch… Go figure…
White wine. Do I need to elaborate? Will it be considered bad propaganda and lead to me being canceled? Perhaps… But you can’t beat a refreshing Pinot Grigio with your fish and more. Or the Malbec that, of course, should never make it even near the fridge…
Salad greens. My husband rolls his eyes every time I suggest salad because, let’s face it, I suggest it almost 3 times per day. I absolutely adore salads and could eat them non-stop. He, not so much… That’s not to say that I only eat healthy food– perish the thought! But I’m really grateful that there is one type of healthy food that I truly love and never feel too lazy to make. From Chopped Israeli salad to more elaborate complex concoctions, count me in, especially for the eating part!
The JCC Jewish Book Festival runs February 11 to 16. For more information, including tickets and scheduling, go here.