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Jews Of Color Arts Fellowship 'THE WORKSHOP' Launches


The lead sponsor of The Workshop is The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and its Hendel Center for Ethics and Justice.

Jews Of Color Arts Fellowship 'THE WORKSHOP' Launches

THE WORKSHOP today announced its inaugural cohort of 2021-22 fellows for the first-of-its-kind arts fellowship to support, nurture and develop professional artists and culture-makers who identify as JOCISM (Jews of Color, Jews of Indigenous backgrounds, and Jews of Sephardic and/or Mizrahi heritage). The four main components of the arts fellowship program are creative process (including presentation of works-in-progress/final works), leadership, Jewish text study, and one-on-one mentorship with industry professionals in theater, television, film, dance, music, and visual arts.

The lead sponsor of The Workshop is The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) and its Hendel Center for Ethics and Justice, which is generously supported by Broadway/theater producers, Ruth and Stephen Hendel. (Ruth Hendel, a JTS trustee, is currently represented on Broadway with Ain't Too Proud and the upcoming revival of Beetlejuice.)

In a joint statement, Ruth and Stephen Hendel said "The Workshop is bringing the stories and talents of Indigenous, Sephardi, Mizrahi, and Jews of Color to life. As theater producers, we are eager to embrace and be inspired by these often under-represented voices. We are grateful to JTS's Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay (executive director of the JTS Hendel Center), Kendell Pinkney, and supporters for initiating this innovative arts program. We're very much looking forward to the creativity and inspiration that emerges from our cohort of artists in the months ahead."

The Workshop's founder, Kendell Pinkney, is a professional theater artist, creative producer, and the first Black rabbinical student to attend JTS. "These are extremely talented, accomplished artists who happen to belong to racial and ethnic groups that have been marginalized or overlooked in the larger Jewish community," Pinkney explains. "We want to put their stories and their work front and center, to support them in multiple ways so they can interrogate, expand, and revitalize notions of Jewish art and identity."

The Workshop's seven inaugural fellows are:

  • Avi Amon (Discipline: Music; Theatre) is a Turkish-American composer, sound artist, and educator.

  • Nemuna Ceesay (Discipline: Theatre) is an actor, producer and MFA graduate of American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T. of San Francisco).

  • William DeMeritt (Discipline: Theatre; Film) is an actor, writer, voiceover artist, and a graduate of the Yale School of Drama.

  • Rebecca S'manga Frank (Discipline: Theatre) is an actor, writer, filmmaker, educator, and activist.

  • Benji Kahn (Discipline: Theatre; Film) is a Black/Biracial queer non-binary New York-based playwright and screenwriter who draws upon their own experiences as a total outsider growing up with a white family in some very small towns.

  • Lilach Orenstein (Discipline: Dance) is a choreographer, performer, and producer best known for combining diverse types of arts from multiple disciplines into poetical synergies.

  • Daniel Terna (Discipline: Visual Art; Photography) is a Brooklyn-based photographer and filmmaker whose work focuses on family history and inherited trauma, as well as diverse subjects related to public and private boundaries.

Now underway, The Workshop artists receive a participation stipend; a production/presentation stipend; and free access to performance space and workspace. The Workshop artists will have regular opportunities throughout 2022 to strategize about creative and professional challenges and present works-in-progress, and final works, to the public. [Editor note: the first public "salon" performance is currently slated for Monday, January 24 at 7 PM at JTS (3080 Broadway, NYC 10027.]

In addition to a monthly Jewish text study led by Pinkney, each artist will be paired with a mentor through a program created by Reboot, a Jewish arts and culture organization with a network of leading industry professionals in a range of areas, including theater, television, film, dance, music, visual arts, media and technology. Additional partner support for The Workshop is provided by Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts (Long Island) and the Jewish Community Center of Harlem.

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