Project Kesher: Women and Jewish Renaissance in Ukraine

HUC-JIR Museum
One West 4th Street, New York, NY

On View: September 4, 2007 - January 27, 2008
Artist's Reception: Thursday, October 11, 2007, 6:00-8:00 PM.
Vodka tasting 6:30 PM, Program 7:00 PM

Internationally acclaimed photographer Joan Roth presents her most recent body of work: her 2007 photo essay portraying Jewish women in the Commonwealth of Independent States of the Former Soviet Union (CIS) who are reclaiming their Jewish heritage and promoting social activism through the work of Project Kesher. Roth's photographs capture the empowerment of ordinary women who are creating extraordinary change in their own lives and in the lives of their communities. Through Project Kesher, these women have gained the knowledge and leadership skills to advance Jewish learning and tackle health and social ills, including breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, and human trafficking, affecting the larger society.

"I have been photographing Jewish women around the world for many years," says Joan Roth. "This experience was exceptionally moving for me because it was about women seeing themselves in a new light. This time I wasn't going back to the old world; I was seeing into a new world. Project Kesher women are enriched and empowered in ways I hadn't dreamed."

This exhibition grows out of Joan Roth's longstanding commitment to the mission and goals of Project Kesher. In 1994, she documented Project Kesher's first International Conference of Jewish Women in Kyiv, Ukraine, which was the catalyst for the creation of a women's network throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States of the former Soviet Union (CIS). In 2006, she returned during 16 Days to End Domestic Violence, a worldwide campaign that Project Kesher leaders implemented throughout the CIS, convening roundtables, organizing rallies, establishing hotlines, and spotlighting this issue in public discussions and in schoolrooms. Traveling to the cities of Rovno, Lvyv, Lutsk, Kamenets-Podolskiy, Khmelnitskiy, and Kyiv in Ukraine, Roth met with Project Kesher activists and their local partners, to capture their lives and activism on film.

Founded in 1989, Project Kesher is now the largest Jewish women's organization in the CIS and one of the fastest growing women's advocacy and human rights organizations in the region. There are Project Kesher Women's Groups in more than 155 communities spanning 8 time zones and multi-faith/multi-national women's coalitions in 87 of those communities. There are Project Kesher Women's Groups in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, and Kazakhstan. In Ukraine alone, there are groups in 61 towns and cities.

Project Kesher programs give CIS Jews the opportunity to reclaim their Jewish heritage and to discover the power of community activism. Starting with a base in the Jewish community, Project Kesher builds coalitions with people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds in an activist network to improve their society. Project Kesher provides innovative leadership training programs for women and girls; job training at ORT/Keshernet Computer Centers; Jewish educational programs; and social activist programming that combats domestic violence, human trafficking, anti-Semitism, and other forms of ethnic intolerance.

The exhibition also includes drawings by artist Susan Malloy, who participated in Project Kesher's 2007 "Summit on the Black Sea." Malloy's sketches depict highlights of the interaction between Jewish women from North America and Ukraine on behalf of education, spiritual growth, and social action.

This exhibition has been made possible through the generosity of the Reba Judith Sandler Foundation.

Museum Hours: Monday-Thursday, 9 AM - 5 PM; Friday, 9 AM - 3 PM; Selected Sundays, 10 AM - 2 PM on September 30; October 14, 28; November 11; December 2, 16; January 13, 27.

Admission: Free. Photo ID Required.

Tours/Information: Contact Elizabeth McNamara Mueller, National Public Affairs Associate at (212) 824-2205, emueller@huc.edu, or visit www.huc.edu/museums/ny