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Creative Explorations of Jewish Studies Themes


With partners ranging from Columbia University’s Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies to the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Citizen Film is collaborating with leading Jewish Scholars and their students to make imaginative use of ubiquitous digital storytelling tools. From multimedia essays about 20th Century New York photographers and their legacies, to digital stories about Jewish life in the Pacific Northwest, this initiative engages students as well as general audiences. Projects incubated through the initiative aim to make sense of archival materials, creatively explore Jewish themes and expand the audience for Jewish Studies scholarship, inventing new modes of storytelling and scholarship in the process.


Hidden in Plain Sight is a website, an Instagram feed, and a physical multimedia installation co-created by professor Ari Y. Kelman, documentarian Sam Ball and a team of designers, mediamakers and scholars, including eight grad students at Stanford University. The students received training in a course lab Kelman and Ball guided, to utilize various digital storytelling and design techniques and prototype the public exhibition on Tumblr. Included in the exhibition is a participatory element: the #ethnicteeshirts Instagram feed invites visitors to contribute their own t-shirts and reflections to the exhibition.


This dialogueless digital story is part of a multimedia installation created collaboratively by Citizen Film, the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM), the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, and the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco in celebration of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The installation was featured in the atrium of the JCC, and elements from that installation were also projected on the walls of the CJM and disseminated on Facebook. 175 students contributed their own creative digital work inspired by Sukkot. In total, the multimedia exhibitions engaged more than 5,000 visitors over a two-week period.


This trailer for a digital story to be included in Potsdam Revisited: Overture to the Cold War, a Hoover Institution/Stanford University multimedia archive to be promoted through a series of live multimedia events throughout 2016, has already garnered more than 6,000 views.


This collaboration between Citizen Film, Columbia Jewish Studies professor Jeremy Dauber and the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival yielded dozens of digital stories viewed by more than 5,000 people at the Festival – the world’s largest and most prestigious event of its kind. 12 students explored Jewish heritage, with research assignments guided by Dauber to inform multimedia assignments guided by Citizen Film. The program ultimately received more than 80,000 views, according to Google Analytics and other data collected by Festival staff. Marketing by the SFJFF staff supplemented social media outreach conducted by the students themselves. A project example: documentarian Sam Ball and professor Dauber coached UC Berkeley student Zoe Pollak to design a series of YouTube videos comparing and contrasting Jewish conceptions of time. The philosophers covered in Zoe’s project range from Maimonides to contemporary string theorists.


The Liberating Lens initiative is a course at the University of Michigan’s Frankel Center for Jewish Studies, and a website inviting students and the general public to create their own media exploring the legacy of Jewish photographers and their transformative visions of modernity. Several elements from The Liberating Lens have been presented by the Contemporary Jewish Museum San Francisco online, and on an iPad-based platform at the museum.


Balancing Acts was the centerpiece film in the Jewish Museum New York and Contemporary Jewish Museum San Francisco multimedia exhibition Chagall and the Artists of Russian-Jewish Theatre 1919-1949. In addition to producing the centerpiece documentary, Citizen Film researched and curated clips of archival footage in multimedia stations throughout the exhibition. This work will be featured again as part of Paris’ new Musée de la Musique exhibition Marc Chagall and Music, October 13, 2015–January 30, 2016.