I’d like to dedicate this article to the The Sarasota Jewish Theatre (SJT) – a professional theatre company in Sarasota, Florida that produces plays and musicals celebrating the Jewish experience and culture.
Having attended two wonderful performances at SJT this season, I believe it’s important to highlight the significance of this growing organization (now in its 4th year) noting the contributions of Carolyn Michel and Howard Millman, two founding members of SJT and also major contributors to the illustrious development of the Asolo Repertory Theatre (1995 – 2006) in his role as Producing Artistic Director. Carolyn is an award – winning stage actor, performing on Broadway and other major theatres across the country. For 24 years in Sarasota, she performed at Asolo Rep ad also the Florida Studio Theatre and the Westcoast Black Theatre Troup, three other outstanding theatre groups in Sarasota.
Before delving more into SJT, I want to share some facts about the Jewish population in Sarasota and Manatee Counties, as this population contributes greatly to our melting pot demographics of which Sarasota is noted.

Yes, Sarasota has a large and growing Jewish population. Since 2001, the number of Jewish individuals living in Sarasota-Manatee has increased by 86%, which is more than twice the regional population growth rate. Approximately 3.6% of the residents in Sarasota-Manatee are Jewish, compared to approximately 2.2% of the population of the United States. The Sarasota-Manatee Jewish community is the second largest in Florida outside of South Florida, with the Tampa Bay area being the largest.
Some key points about the Sarasota Jewish Theatre:
It was co-founded and is led by Artistic Director Carole Kleinberg, who is dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion in the local arts community.

Carolyn Michel and Howard Millman, two founding members of SJT with Carole Kleinberg, Artistic Director, at a recent luncheon in their honor.

One of my favorite shows I saw this season was Lynn Bernfield’s one-woman show, “Bashert—Some Things Are Meant to Be” performed at the Player’s Club in late 2023. This musical, written and performed by Bernfield is about the surprising events that occur in our lives: the ironic way two lovers meet, the implausible way a performer’s career gets started, and how sometimes, against all odds, a dream or wish comes true. FYI, “Bashert” is a Yiddish word that means “destiny” or “fate.” In Jewish tradition, it refers to the belief that each person has a predestined soulmate or life partner that is divinely ordained. The concept of Bashert suggests that there is a cosmic, spiritual connection between two individuals who are meant to be together.
Bernfield is a member of SJT’s board, and a multi-talented octogenarian whose energy defies age. In addition to her stage performances, she is also a book author, with her most recent book, Mahjongg & Murder, a murder mystery set in the Catskills in the late 50’s.

SJT Board member, actor, psychotherapist and book author Lynn Bernfield.

SJT Artistic Director  Carol Kleinberg is another key figure in SJT’s success, having enjoyed a long career as a professional in many facets of the theatre.  Before moving to Sarasota, she was a Professor of Theater at Oakton Community College on Chicago’s North Shore, and lead maintage director. She met the Millmans and they decided there was a need for a  positive Jewish voice in the arts in the Sarasota community, and hence SJT was spawned. “The four year trajectory for SJT has been astonishing. Clearly it was the right idea at the right time,” she concludes.

(l-r) Scott George (Sarasota Rising Board member) with Jeffery Kin, Exec. Director of Sarasota Rising, the former artistic director, Players Theatre, and a big supporter of SJT.

Mark your calendars for the 2024-25 season. Tickets sell out quickly, so don’t hesitate to reserve your seats for a truly remarkable experience. Visit here for more info.
~ Andrea Martone

Andrea Mastrocinque-Martone is Sarasota Event Calendar’s Chief Editor. She is the former A & E Editor for Sarasota Observer Newspapers and is currently a public relations consultant. www.Insightfulpr.com