The JK Project Newsletter-Winter 2021

Dear Friends,

We hope that all is well and healthy with you and your loved ones during this life-changing pandemic. 

Since the pandemic struck us in early 2020, The Jüdische Kulturbund Project has been harnessing its creativity, shifting plans, and starting new initiatives.  We are adapting, inventing, and re-defining our goals. Throughout COVID-19, the Project has embraced digital technology to stay connected to communities around the world.  We’ve been sharing stories about the ways the pandemic has affected us as a global oppressor; building our education and cultural exchange programs; and planning ongoing and new initiatives that we are excited to share with you.  

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. 

—Gail Prensky, creator, executive producer, director

The Jüdische Kulturbund Project

WHAT'S NEW?

STUDENT INTERNS

We are delighted to introduce you to The Jüdische Kulturbund Project interns for the winter-spring 2021 semester.  Studying at University of Baltimore County (UMBC) and Montgomery College we hope their experience working with us, will provide them with valuable experience while they assist our education team and guest artists with Zoom management, social media and outreach, design and copywriting, and administrative tasks.  

Liz Morgan is a senior at UMBC majoring in Media and Communications. Music and theater are two huge passions of hers, and she is excited to share her talents with The Jüdische Kulturbund Project. She has taken 10 years of piano lessons and has acted in four musicals so far! Liz is the Associate Editor for the newsletter and she will help out with the teaching pods as time goes on. Liz loves people and hearing their stories so she knows this is the right place for her!Shekinah Faith Davis (she/her/hers) was born in Portland, Oregon and raised in the Dominican Republic. Ms. Davis is currently a peaceworker with The Shrivers Center for Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation at UMBC, where she is also pursuing a Master's in Intercultural Communication and Diversity Training. An extrovert at heart, Shekinah enjoys long hugs, poetry slams, long bike rides, and extra spicy food. Shekinah is excited to be working with Kultur Stories as a teaching assistant, where she will be acting as a source of support for the teaching artists and lead facilitators.

Nida Khan is a student at Montgomery College majoring in General Studies with a focus on STEM and Behavioral Social Science. She is passionate about connection and community building, which is what drew her to Kultur Stories and her role as Zoom Manager. Being a part of such a dynamic and hardworking group of people is an honor and she is excited for all to come!

Devon Bearden attends Montgomery College studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Her favorite expression of art is through writing. She often writes poetry and short stories inspired by real life situations. Her role in this project is as a teachers aid, assisting in discussions and brainstorming. She’s excited to learn more about everyone through their unique ideas and approaches. Joyce Koo is a freshman at UMBC majoring in Visual Arts with a Graphic Design concentration. She is passionate about using her talents as a Design Intern for The Jüdische Project to build a community of and provide a platform for artists and creatives around the world. Joyce will be working on social and digital media outreach as well as creating visuals as she helps with the teaching pods for the Kultur Stories program. 


SINGER

In collaboration with producing partner Harry Winer and writer Graham Townsley, we are pleased to announce the completion of SINGER —  a feature length screenplay about the Berlin Jüdischer Kulturbund.  SINGER  takes us  to the 1930s as the Nazis efforts to extinguish Jewish culture is stymied by the power art and the resiliency of the human spirit.  

We welcome interest in the screenplay so that we may begin production and realize this magnificent film.


SHARED STORIES

We are honored to include two American artists' stories to The Jüdische Kulturbund Project's Shared Stories Collection

Stephanie Mercedes (above left), a DC-based artist and art fellow at University of Maryland-College Park melts bullet casings and guns into works of art to transcend acts of violence into peace and beauty.  Mercedes leads workshops to teach her practice and help heal others who have experienced suffering resulting from gun violence.  

Emerson Eads (above right), currently lives in Minot, North Dakota, Emerson serves as Director of Choral Activities at Minot State University.  He is also a composer and conductor committed to creating music that is focused on social justice.  He wrote MASS FOR THE OPPRESSED as a tribute to the Fairbanks Four, Alaska Natives persecuted and imprisoned for 18 years for a murder they did not commit.


COVID-19: THE OPPRESSOR

COVID-19: The Oppressor is one of the newest initiatives of The Jüdische Kulturbund Project.  In March, it was clear that Covid-19 became a global oppressor and was relevant to our mission: to connect people through common experiences; inspire cultural response to persecution; and encourage freedom of expression and culture. We want to show humanity's collective voice and the healing power of music and art in response to Covid-19.

To date, the COVID-19:  The Oppressor Facebook group has collected over 800 pieces exhibiting artists’ response to the oppressor which is the virus,  The pieces include murals, paintings, performances, videos and much more. 

Please join the COVID-19: The Oppressor Facebook group.  Share your music and art, or other’s  (performance, visual, multimedia, literature, comedy). Be sure to include the date, location, artist statement/relevant description about the music/art's response to the Covid-19 pandemic and name of artist. 

Over the last year, the BULLETS TO BOOKS short documentary has been on the film festival circuit, winning awards.  The music video joined the festival circuit in early 2021.  Please visit BULLETS TO BOOKS Awards and Festivals to learn more.


KULTUR STORIES

In June, we created a digital storytelling pilot in collaboration with Andy’s Summer Playhouse/Digital Renaissance Project in New Hampshire and a children’s home in Juba, South Sudan.  We asked the young artists to respond creatively to the Covid-19 pandemic.  After four sessions, we produced a video story based on a poem written by an emerging poet in South Sudan. 

Beginning in February, we launched Kultur Stories, the second pilot of digital storytelling that explores issues of oppression.  Kultur Stories brings together middle- and high-school students from Juba, South Sudan; Karlstad, Sweden; and Baltimore, Maryland/USA  in virtual learning pods to form cross-cultural creative partnerships. Educators and professional artists assisted by student interns lead virtual sessions to encourage  young people to learn about other cultures, collaborate with new friends, and develop digital storytelling techniques.

Thank you to the Charlesmeade Initiative for Arts Education at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) for providing grant support for this pilot program. 

"The review committee was very impressed and excited about this project, emphasizing that this proposal enables students from Baltimore, Sweden, and South Sudan to connect and talk. The emotional toll that the pandemic is having on youth is significant, and this is one way to alleviate that stress. Additionally, this project will allow youth to reflect on the impact of the pandemic and oppression caused by it and share stories to increase their understanding of a global community and develop creative and social-emotional skills needed for future leadership. The intensive nature of this program promises to be a worldview-expanding experience for each of the youth," wrote Dr. Kimberly Moffitt, Interim Dean of UMBC’s College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

Inreceiving this award, Gail Prensky, the founder of The Jüdische Kulturbund Project said, “This grant will help us to strengthen our arts, connections, and opportunities to reach our young scholars across the different countries.  We are so thankful to have this fantastic gift so it can make the Project and Kultur Stories a strong and collaborative effort that inspires understanding and friendship among a diverse and multi-generational group of people around the world.”


JUBA DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING WORKSHOP
FOR EMERGING FILMMAKERS

On February 12th, Gail Prensky and the Juba Film Festival launched its second online 12-week documentary filmmaking workshop series for emerging filmmakers in Juba, South Sudan.  Each participant will produce a short documentary film that will automatically be entered into the Juba Film Festival in December 2021.  The filmmaking workshop series is sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in South Sudan.


BULLETS TO BOOKS

FILM FESTIVALS

Over the last year, the BULLETS TO BOOKS short documentary has been an official selection at 10 film festivals, winning several best short documentary awards.  Entering film festivals in early 2021, the music video has been an official selection to a few and received one best music video SO FAR!  Please visit BULLETS TO BOOKS Awards and Festivals to learn more.


STARS IN THE HOUSE

Thank you STARS IN THE HOUSE!  On February 18th,  Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley hosted BULLETS TO BOOKS to raise awareness and support for Jok Abraham Thon’s Promised Land Secondary School.  The hour-long program brought together the BULLETS TO BOOKS team Andy Truschinski, Sean MacLaughlin, and Gail Prensky with special guests Jessie Mueller, Augie Hass, and Barbara Baekgaad.  Not only was it fun, but we raised over $13,500 that will support the building of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg School at Promised Land Secondary School. 

You can watch the recording of the show here.

About STARS IN THE HOUSE:  In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and theatres across the world closing their curtains indefinitely, SiriusXM host Seth Rudetsky and his husband, producer James Wesley created Stars in the House, a daily live-streamed series to support The Actors Fund and its services.


VIRTUAL PROGRAMS

On March 17th, BULLETS TO BOOKSwill present a virtual program to discuss its efforts to promote peace through education and cultural exchange.  Presenters include former U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Tom Hushek; Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Jok Abraham Thon and Lupai Samuel Stephen; three Reciprocal Exchange Participants, Andy Truschinski, Cindy Oxberry, and Gail Prensky; and others.  The program will also include screenings of the initiative's short documentary film and music video and lead a talk-back discussion.  

On April 7th, UMBC will host a BULLETS TO BOOKS virtual program, introducing Gail Prensky and Jok Abraham Thon who will discuss the initiative's vision of "changing minds from bullets to books" and present the short documentary film and music video.  Following the presentation, a panel will discuss the efforts in education, art, and civil society to stem the rise in gun violence and encourage youth towards peace.  


SPECIAL THANKS

Thank you Dr. Kling and your dental practice's team in Alexandria, Virginia for donating 1,000 toothbrushes to Promised Land Secondary School.  This huge act of kindness, made a great impact on the students at Promised Land and a start of a new relationship between the school and the dental practice.  On receiving the toothbrushes, Jok said, “this donation has inspired our science class candidates.  Three students expressed an interest in becoming a dentist.”   

About Dr. John D. Kling, DDS:  Committed to Giving Back efforts, Dr. Kling has placed protective sealants on children during his years as a volunteer at the Northern Virginia Dental Clinic. He participated as the ‘Finish Line Brigade’ sponsor in the National Alzheimer’s Walk in Washington DC, donates toothbrushes to various organizations, annually donates to the FBI Agents Associated Thomas E. Duhadway Charity Golf Tournament, holds an annual ‘Patient Recognition Week’ celebration,  is an annual sponsor for the Alexandria Walk to Fight Breast Cancer and so much more.


UPCOMING EVENTS

BULLETS TO BOOKS
March 17, 2021, at 12:00 PM ET / 17:00 GMT 
on YouTube Live
Register on Eventbrite here


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