Newsletter — Summer 2021

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                            Power of Music and Art, Resiliency of the Human Spirit, Will to Survive

 

Dear Friends,

The Jüdische Kulturbund Project’s message of resiliency of the human spirit seems more appropriate than ever.  It feels like a daily exercise required to withstand stressful issues in our personal, community, and global experiences.

Afghanistan is on our minds.  We wish safety and strength to those seeking rescue and refuge.  We are grateful to those on the front lines and behind the scenes working tirelessly to aid those seeking assistance.

We recognize this relentless pandemic requires all of us to endure and find ways to stay safe and healthy.

This  newsletter issue shares a sampling of our efforts since the winter, which have helped ease our thoughts and fed our spirits.  Please enjoy.

Feel free to reach out to us for more information on the Project or any of its specific initiatives. We love talking about what we are doing and welcome your interest and support.

L'Shana Tova.  Wishing all who celebrate Rosh Hashana, a sweet, good new year.

—Gail Prensky, creator, executive producer, director
The Jüdische Kulturbund Project

 

ONGOING EFFORTS

 

Kultur Stories

We did it!  KULTUR STORIES completed its second digital story-telling pilot!

 

In 12 weeks, three groups of young scholars from Juba (South Sudan), Karlstad, (Sweden), and Baltimore (MD/USA) came together over Zoom and WhatsApp to connect across three continents.  These young scholars talked about COVID-19, the meaning of identity, and what it’s like to live at home during a pandemic.  Our conversations and workshop exercises culminated into three unique digital stories, which we are excited to share with you.

Click One... Two... Three... to view each story (below).







 

Juba Filmmaking Workshop

 

Ten emerging documentary filmmakers in Juba, South Sudan have nearly completed the efforts of producing powerful short documentaries during the Spring 2021 JUBA FILMMAKING WORKSHOP.   Their moving stories are about people living in South Sudan whose heroic efforts overcome challenges. All of the films from this workshop will be automatically entered and screened in the Juba Film Festival in December 2021.  The workshop is virtually led by Gail Prensky in Washington, DC and Bingo Simon in Juba, South Sudan.  This workshop is made possible by the US Embassy in Juba.

 

BULLETS TO BOOKS

Jok is Coming to America!

 

Jok standing in front of the new construction for the Bullets to Books Library at Promised Land Secondary School in Juba, South Sudan.

 

August 2nd was the expected date for Jok’s arrival, but his visa approval is delayed. Once he is here, we will host him for three months. 

If you are interested in hosting a get together while Jok is here, please let us know.  We are looking forward to meeting with people and organizations, leading presentations and workshops to promote BULLETS TO BOOKS and raising awareness and support for continued construction of Jok’s Promised Land Secondary School.  We also are looking forward to having fun while we host Jok here in America!

 

 

VOICES OF EXCHANGE

 

Jok and Gail were invited to share our stories in a 2-part podcast called VOICES OF EXCHANGE.  We embrace the ongoing support and encouragement provided to us by the US State department.

VOICES OF EXCHANGE delivers unforgettable first-person stories from people transformed by international exchange. This podcast is brought to you by the Office of Alumni Affairs in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).  Gail Prensky and Jok Abraham Thon share their stories in episodes 3 and 4.

Gail Prensky — Episode 3: Jumping Out of the Water

What happens when you’re an artist living in a tyrannical state: do you risk your life to fight tyranny, or do you escape your country because your gifts are valuable to the entire world?

Join us as we meet Gail Prensky, a U.S. arts envoy exchange alumna and documentary filmmaker, who is working to shed light on the plight of artists living under continued oppression. Hoping to advance peace and unity across the world, Gail and her team are currently working with a Mandela Washington Fellow alumnus to shift the focus from bullets to books in South Sudan. This is the story of “Bullets to Books,” and Gail’s journey as a storyteller and envoy.  (Wed, 28 Apr 2021)

Jok Abraham Thon — Episode 4: From Bullets to Books

In the latest episode of VOICES OF EXCHANGE, we sit down with Jok Abraham Thon, founder and director of Promised Land Secondary School in South Sudan, to hear how he is advancing peace and resiliency in the region. Jok's story is connected to our last episode, featuring U.S. Arts Envoy Gail Prensky, who documented Jok's fight to save the soul of his country, one book at a time. (Wed, 12 May 2021)

 

NEW INITIATIVES

 

3 FRAMES / BY ME

 

The Jüdische Kulturbund Project welcomes playwright Tom MInter and director Jasmine Mitchell to the team.  Tom and Jasmine along with a stellar production and cast team, brought 3 FRAMES / BY ME, a digital workshop, hosted by the Phillips Collection to the virtual space, July 29-30, 2021. 3 FRAMES / BY ME is the last segment of a three-frame Zoom series. Each Frame is crafted as a one-hour presentation of performance, with opportunities for audience participation built into sequences of Q&A. The first frame was workshopped in May and the third frame will appear in September.

3 FRAMES is part of a larger story intended for the stage, BY ME YOU’LL NEVER KNOW.  Tom describes 3 FRAMES as a journey across perspectives of memory, through which the main character, African-American playwright Ken Johnson, is challenged to reconcile “undiscussed” issues.  This journey is an effort to disentangle conflicting frames of class, caste, and prejudices stemming from all manners of "otherness’".

3 FRAMES is conceived to present new ways of partnership, to facilitate audience dialogue, while supporting new work in theatrical processes and digital creativity.

 

 

IN THE WORKS

 

Phebean Swill's Song of Slavery

 

Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) 2021 Fellow, Sierra Leone artist/entrepreneur Phebean Swill, is working on a six-week MWF Professional Development Experience (PDE) with Gail Prensky.  Because of the pandemic, Phebean and Gail will work virtually.  By late September, Phebean will produce a short documentary film called SONG OF SLAVERY about the impact of the slave trade on Sierra Leone and America through the lens of artists incorporating interviews and performance created in Sierra Leone.  Phebean's SONG OF SLAVERY short documentary will serve as a template to expand for a longer-form video that includes more interviews and performance in America and Sierra Leone. 

 

 

Viola Sang's Writing Workshop

 

 

We met Viola Sang from Kenya during the Mandela Washington Fellowship's YALI Virtual Summit in July.  Viola wanted to learn more about The JK Project's storytelling workshops and find a way for us to collaborate.

Viola's mission is to raise up thousands of girls in rural Kenya who have little access to formal education and technology. While they face extreme poverty, early childhood pregnancies, and violence, Viola recognizes the value of storytelling and cultural exchange as vehicles for them to bring about social change and peace to communities.

Relying on WhatsApp, we will develop a pilot program for girls and young women, ages 13 to 25, who live in Kenya, South Sudan, and the United States.  The workshop will encourage participants to write creative stories about themselves and the communities where they live to increase their self worth and encourage them to become strong leaders for social change and peace.

 

Singer

 

Efforts to raise financing and production interests are underway to transform the SINGER screenplay into a dramatic feature film.  

SINGER brings 1930s Berlin to life when the Nazi regime are in power, systematically quashing freedom and cultural expression for the Jews.  Jewish artists defy the Nazi attempts to send them into the shadows by creating Jüdischer Kulturbund (The Jewish Cultural Association).  SINGER brings to life the artistic director Kurt Singer; soprano Paula Lindberg; doctor Albert Salomon and his daughter, artist Charlotte; conductor Rudolf Schwarz; and actor Ernst Lenart as they experience havens of Berlin's Kulturbund theatre and cabarets.

 

 

Hannah's Dance

 

 

In the coming months we will plan efforts to re-create "Die Entführungthe", the last dance of the Kulturbund, The last dance will be part of HANNAH'S DANCE, a story of young choreographer and dancer Hannah Kroner and the Kulturbund's efforts to save nine dancers from being sent to the Nazi's labor camp.

 

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

 

October 28, 2021, 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm

As part of his peace education course, Michael Gibbons, Scholar in Residence at American University's School of Education, will host a virtual panel discussion about non-formal education and social justice practices.   The panel will include Gail Prensky, Jok Abraham Thon, retired Ambassador Tom Hushek, and DC-artist Stephanie Mercedes in a discussion about the Bullets to Books initiative; the value of education, cultural exchange, and soft diplomacy; and the power of arts and music in seeking peace and unity.

We will provide details and a link to this discussion when available.

 

IN MEMORIAM

 

We extend loving sympathy to our friends in South Sudan for the loss of their friends, two young and talented musicians, Trish C and Mantani, both members of I AM PEACE and the prominent entertainment community.  Mantani was also a participant in the making of the BULLETS TO BOOKS theme song.

Trisha C. and Mantani died months apart, each from fatal motorcycle accidents.  We are holding our Juba friends close and recognize the loss you feel every day.  Their music lives on and will inspire listeners to continue their efforts for peace and unity.

Your encouragement keeps us going! 

Please contact us at judischekulturbund@gmail.com to connect with us directly. We are happy to schedule a time to chat with you on the phone or on Skype about our project and interest in any of our initiatives.

Please consider supporting our efforts by making a tax-deductible contribution through our fiscal sponsor, The International Documentary Association, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, or hosting an event to raise interests from others. 

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2019 Meteopa Productions LLC/The Jüdische Kulturbund Project, All rights reserved.

 

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