Jewish Story Partners (JSP), a new Los Angeles-based film foundation, has launched with an ambitious vision and its first round of grantees.
Jewish Story Partners stimulates and supports the highest caliber independent films that utilize fresh, nuanced perspectives to tell stories about a diverse spectrum of Jewish experiences, histories, and cultures. Led by award-winning filmmaker Roberta Grossman, who serves as Producing Director, and veteran film festival programmer, former Sundance Catalyst director, and producer Caroline Libresco, who serves as Artistic Director, Jewish Story Partners responds to a glaring gap in funding for independent Jewish films, as well as the pressing need to expand the range of stories to reflect the fact that Jews are a people of many races, ethnicities, cultures, languages, nationalities, religious convictions, political views, and sexual orientations.
“Storytelling is the core of Judaism, but the Jewish experience is vastly more diverse than the Ashkanormative narrative we are fed over and over again. Jews are an international, diasporic people of all races and intersectional identities. I’m so excited to be part of an initiative that expands the stories we tell about who we are and who we can be” said JSP board member and entertainment attorney Victoria Cook.
South Carolina-based Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at Uprise and JSP Board member Ginna Green, said, “The range of films championed by Jewish Story Partners will expand our collective awareness of what it means to be Jewish today, and in the process help build a world where we all belong, no matter our religion, where we come from, or what we look like.”
“We’re thrilled to create something that is both additive to the independent film community as well as critical to the Jewish arts and culture landscape,” said co-directors Roberta Grossman and Caroline Libresco. “Since the Foundation for Jewish Culture folded in 2014, there’s been little granting available to Jewish-themed films. Our goal is to support and stimulate a 21st Century Jewish Cultural renaissance driven by the expansive storytelling of bold, independent artists.”
In 2021, the organization will provide $500,000 in grants to U.S.-based feature length documentaries—to be selected by jury panels—establishing JSP as a leading non-profit film funder. In the coming years, JSP has ambitious plans to significantly increase its funding and expand eligibility to encompass international filmmakers and fiction projects. A call for entries for a second funding round has opened for feature-length documentaries by U.S.-based producers and/or directors, with applications due July 1st, 2021. Filmmakers may learn more at jewishstorypartners.org.
The first round of grantees announced today includes new projects from groundbreaking filmmakers including Joey Soloway (Transparent), Maxim Pozdorovkin (Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Our New President), and Luke Lorentzen (Midnight Family).
“I am so thrilled to work with Jewish Story Partners,” said writer and director Joey Soloway. “We have for so long needed untold Jewish stories to come to light and enter the larger culture. This kind of funding and support, especially for independent, risk-taking films, has been sorely missing on the funding landscape.”
Jewish Story Partners’ inaugural funding round has awarded a total of $225,000 to ten U.S. documentary projects. The selections jury included Lou Cove, founder of Jewish arts funding collaborative, CANVAS; award-winning documentary film producer Julie Goldman; and Kim Yutani, Director of Programming, Sundance Film Festival, who stated:
“We are honored to support this bold and imaginative group of filmmakers and their projects in Jewish Story Partners’ inaugural granting round. These excellent films reflect a broad range of Jewish experiences, from the spiritual and artistic to the cultural and political.”
Jewish Story Partners – Spring 2021 Grantees
The Wild One
Director Tessa Louise Salomé, Co-Producer Joslyn Barnes
The Wild One illuminates the journey of an unsung artist, Jack Garfein – Holocaust survivor, Actors Studio West co-founder, Broadway director, and Hollywood filmmaker – revealing how his experience of the concentration camps propelled his provocative explorations of violence in postwar America and shaped his vision of art as a vehicle of resilience.
Untitled Spiritual Care Documentary
Director Luke Lorentzen, Producer Kellen Quinn
Each year at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, four residents join the team of interfaith chaplains who care for the emotional and spiritual wellbeing of thousands of patients and medical staff. Over the course of their residency, we follow these chaplains-in-training as they learn what it means – and what it takes – to bear witness and bring relief to people in need.
Director Joey Soloway, Producers Matthew Perniciaro, Michael Sherman, Joey Soloway, Andrea Sperling
Joey Soloway remembers an idyllic childhood in an intentional community in the 1970s called South Commons, but in 2020 when Joey starts to reconnect with the other residents of South Commons, they find the community was not a utopia for everyone, unearthing the different realities between the Black and white residents, they come to find that the seemingly liberal community was a microcosm for racial injustice in America.
Director and Producer Sandi DuBowski
Rabbi follows Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie’s epic 18-year journey from drag queen rebel to rabbinical student to founder of Lab/Shul, an everybody-friendly, God-optional, artist-driven, pop-up experimental congregation, as he creatively and radically reinvents religion and ritual for a challenging 21st century.
Meredith Monk: Dancing Voice, Singing Body
Directors and Producers Billy Shebar, David Roberts
Executive produced by Björk, a documentary feature fusing experimental animation, interviews, and live performance to explore the life and art of Meredith Monk, acclaimed Jewish-American singer, composer, director, and choreographer.
Director Maxim Pozdorovkin, Producer Joe Bender
From the fevered imaginings of lunatics to the mainstream, The Conspiracy charts the rise of the biggest lie ever told: that a dangerous cabal of powerful Jews controls the world.
Coexistence My Ass!
Writer, Director, and Producer Amber Fares, Creative Producer Rachel Leah Jones
Coexistence My Ass! follows Noam Shuster, a bilingual Hebrew- and Arabic- speaking Israeli comedian who crafts a daring act out of the wild and wonderful identity politics she embodies. When #BLM-inspired protests reach Israel, Noam realizes it’s time to push her compatriots to unlearn their racism, one joke at a time.
Jewish Story Partners deploys discretionary grants from time to time to projects that can benefit from targeted support at a critical moment. The first round of Jewish Story Partners discretionary grants are awarded to:
Walk With Me
Director Heidi Levitt, Producers Heidi Levitt, Vanessa Perez
Walk With Me follows my husband Charlie Hess and our family’s journey over three years living with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. We will see him as the father, the creative, the husband, the patient, and his authentic self as he navigates life with a disease most people are afraid to talk about.
Co-Directors Josh Freund, Sam Radutzky, Producer Alex Spatt
Joyva, the 113-year-old, family-run candy company, a beloved household name amongst Jewish Americans that’s woven into the fabric of their traditions, is at risk of going out of business, along with its legacy and four generations of dreams, which the great-grandchildren must now fight to save.
Directors and Producers Avishai Mekonen, Shari Rothfarb Mekonen
Heroes is the untold story of a group of Ethiopian Jewish activists who fought against dictatorship, genocide, and famine in the 1970s-1990s to ensure the survival of their ancient community and today continue to fight to empower a younger generation.
Initial funding for JSP is provided by the Righteous Persons Foundation, which previously supported The Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film, housed in the now-shuttered Foundation for Jewish Culture. A matching gift was received from lead partner Maimonides Fund, with additional support provided by Jim Joseph Foundation.