In celebration of the sixth annual Russian Heritage Festival, internationally acclaimed photographer Joan Roth will present her most recent body of work at Citigroup Center, June 2 through June 30, 2008: a 2007 photo essay portraying women in the Commonwealth of Independent States of the Former Soviet Union (CIS) who are engaging in social activism through the work of Project Kesher. Roth's photographs capture ordinary women who are creating extraordinary change in their own lives and in the lives of their communities. Laura Kruger, Curator of the HUC-JIR Museum in New York, produced the exhibition, which debuted in 2007 at HUC-JIR.
This exhibition grows out of 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. In 2006, she returned during a worldwide campaign against domestic violence that Project Kesherleaders implemented throughout CIS. 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.
"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."
Founded in 1989, Project Kesher is one of the fastest-growing women's advocacy and human rights organizations in the region. There are 160 Project Kesher Jewish Women's Groups and 88 multi-faith/multi-ethnic coalitions established by Project Kesher in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, and Kazakhstan, spanning 9 time zones. This unique network has recently expanded to include Russian-speaking women who have relocated to Israel.
The organization provides innovative leadership training programs for women and girls; job training at ORT/Keshernet Computer Centers; Jewish educational programs; and supports social advocacy initiatives tackling health and social ills that affect the larger society, including breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, human trafficking, anti-semitism and other forms of ethnic intolerance.
Joan Roth's photographs bring to life the incredible transformation that is taking place among Project Kesher women and their communities.
This exhibition is free and open to the public and will be on view at Citigroup Center (formerly Citicorp Center) at 153 East 53rd Street, between Lexington & Third Avenues, NYC, during the month of June. The Daily News, the Russian American Foundation, the City of NY, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg continue to join forces in sponsoring the 6th Annual Russian Heritage Festival - the only event of its kind in the U.S. - attracting over 200,000 people.