Ain’t No Back to a Merry-Go-Round directed by Ilana Trachtman
Ain’t No Back to a Merry-Go-Round directed by Ilana Trachtman

19 documentary films have been awarded grants totaling $490,000 from Jewish Story Partners (JSP), a Los Angeles-based non-profit film funding organization. JSP, which launched in April 2021 with support from Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation, has an ambitious vision to stimulate and support the highest caliber independent films that expand the Jewish story.

JSP responds to the critical gap in funding for independent films telling Jewish stories, as well as the paucity of and pressing need for films that reflect the full spectrum of Jewish experiences, cultures, and encounters. In addition to supporting projects financially, JSP offers a continuum of support—providing filmmakers with advisory services at critical points in their process.

This work also comes at an auspicious time when, during Jewish American Heritage Month, the White House administration of President Joe Biden is developing a national strategy to counter antisemitism to “address increasing awareness and understanding of both antisemitism and Jewish American heritage.”

“JSP is a dream come true,” stated JSP Co-Executive Directors Roberta Grossman and Caroline Libresco, “Funding documentary films has always been an uphill climb. Funding for independent and diverse Jewish documentary films an even steeper ascent. From this challenging reality was born the now realized vision of creating a source of support for a wide array of fiercely independent Jewish documentary films. We couldn’t be prouder of the excellent films that have come to life with the support of JSP.”

The new slate of JSP grants include powerful documentaries from award-winning producers, directors, and artists including David France, Aviva Kempner, Jennie Livingston, Hilla Medalia, Yael Melamede, Yoav Potash, David Shapiro, and Elizabeth Wolff.

The jury released the following statement: “Constant questioning is a fundamental Jewish practice, and one that is also embedded in the very nature of documentary filmmaking. Encompassing a diversity of artistic approaches, contexts, perspectives, and communities, the films we selected demonstrate that there is no singular Jewish experience. Each, instead, reminds us of our individual and collective struggle to find our common humanity.”

Among the excellent projects supported in past JSP funding cycles are films from such highly respected filmmakers and artists as Kate Amend (Judy Chicago Untitled), Abner Benaim and Daniel Junge (Paraiso Tropical), Sandi DuBowski (Rabbi), Paula Eiselt (Under G-d), Amber Fares and Rachel Leah Jones (Coexistence My Ass!), Luke Lorentzen (A Still Small Voice), Marilyn Ness (Post Mortem), Pratibha Parmar (My Name is Andrea), Maxim Pozdorovkin (The Conspiracy), Petter Ringbom and Marquise Stillwell (This World is Not My Own), Joey Soloway (South Commons), Regina Spektor (Sam Marder Project Untitled), and Dan Sturman (Four Winters, The Liegnitz Plot).

Additionally, JSP announced that an open call for entries for its next funding round has opened for feature-length documentaries by U.S.-based producers and/or directors. Applications are due July 14, 2023. JSP accepts submissions via two open calls per year, with juried decisions made in spring and fall.


Film descriptions provided by grantees.

Ain’t No Back to a Merry-Go-Round
Director and Producer Ilana Trachtman
Trailblazing Black students, lefty Jewish suburbanites, and a carousel: Ain’t No Back to a Merry-Go-Round shares the untold story of the first organized inter-racial civil rights protest in America.

Alliance of Shame
Director and Producer Jeremy Borison
When Yeshiva University’s Pride Alliance sued the institution for denying an LGBTQ group on campus, the university rushed the case to the Supreme Court claiming an attack on their religious freedom. Now the subject of national attention, the students, faculty, and alumni of YU have become a symbol for LGBTQ issues in the Orthodox community.

Angels of Amsterdam
Director Eric J. Adams, Executive Producers Mitch Albom, Ulrika Grünwald Citron, and Eric Leemon
Chronicling the experiences of those who risked their lives to save 600 Dutch Jewish children from the Nazis, Angels of Amsterdam reveals a little known, true story of brave defiance during the Holocaust.

At the Barricades
Director and Producer David France, Producer Paul McGuire, Executive Producer Soledad O’Brien
With a record onslaught of violent rightwing extremism and antisemitic violence posing an existential threat to democracy, At the Barricades embeds with frontline activists from the Southern Poverty Law Center as they unmask domestic terrorist groups and lead a desperate campaign for the soul of America.

Carlebach Project Untitled
Director Simon Mendes, Producer Heidi Reinberg
Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, ‘the Singing Rabbi,’ ignited the spiritual landscape for legions of Jews in a post-Holocaust world. Soon after his death, he is accused of sexual abuse. 30 years later, with intimate access to his family, inner circle, and his survivors, Carlebach Project Untitled grapples with a complicated legacy and how – or whether – to separate the art from the artist.

Earth Camp One
Director and Producer Jennie Livingston
We often want to break away from our families, but what happens when they leave us? In Earth Camp One, filmmaker Jennie Livingston tells the story of losing five family members in a decade. Through first-person storytelling, humor, and reflection, Livingston explores queer identity, becoming an artist, and how loss and time transform us.

GPS vs. The Knowledge
Director and Producer David Shapiro
GPS vs. The Knowledge integrates three stories – a synagogue in Arizona facing demolition, an artist in New Orleans preserving lost history, and a taxi driver in Mexico called a human map – to examine the fault lines of filmmaking, representations of the Holocaust, and how technology distorts and preserves human memory.

Jews By Choice
Directors Tomer Slutzky and Justyna Gawelko, Producers Dan Shadur, Michał Szymanowicz, and Abraham Troen
In a picturesque Czech town, an alliance of ordinary citizens become inspired to renovate their local synagogue, convert to Judaism, and give birth to the first Jewish community in the region since the Holocaust. As they fight for recognition from the Jewish authorities, internal strife threatens the future of their close-knit fellowship.

Mother India, Father Israel
Director Avi Dabach, Co-Producer Ram Devineni
Their very Jewishness called into question as they arrived in the newly-formed state of Israel, a community of Indian Jewish immigrants mobilized a hunger strike in 1951 and demanded to return to India. Now, decades later, an Indian Israeli artist forges a performance piece that will reclaim the stories of women from her community and the heroism that unfolded during this little known piece of Israeli history.

Our Home is Not of This World
Director Russ Finkelstein, Producers Phil Pinto and Manuel F. Contreras
In a rural south Texas medical examiner’s office, a Jewish physician works with a tiny team to identify the growing number of anonymous migrants who perish crossing the U.S.- Mexico border. With cases surging, her office is stretched beyond capacity. Will she be able to retire after decades of service if no one is willing to replace her?

Director Hugo Macgregor, Producer John S. Friedman
Hermann Goering’s art dealer, Bruno Lohse, prospered by selling stolen art for decades after WWII, while Jewish families struggled to regain their paintings and memories. Exposing Lohse’s story along with the experiences of Jewish families whose lives he irrevocably changed, Plunderer reveals the failures of post-war justice and the continuing complicity of governments and the art trade.

A Pocketful of Miracles: A Tale of Two Siblings
Director and Producer Aviva Kempner
From their idyllic start in Poland to their new American lives, A Pocketful of Miracles: A Tale of Two Siblings chronicles Hanka and David Ciesla’s struggle to survive the Holocaust– one in a labor camp, the other in Auschwitz–and their journey to reunite.

The Trouble with Betty
Director and Producer Elizabeth Wolff, Producer Holly Meehl Chapman
How can feminism get out of its own way and achieve systemic progress? This is the question motivating The Trouble with Betty, a fully archival film that will use never-before-heard interviews to spotlight the controversial story of Betty Friedan and show the complications in change-making for women, historically and today.

Director Deem Banton, Producer Stephen Tedeschi
Through interviews, tweets, and archival footage, a Black Jewish filmmaker unflinchingly shines a light on the headline-making disconnect between Black and Jewish Americans, attempting to untangle age-old propaganda.


From time to time, Jewish Story Partners provides additional support, in the form of Reprise Grants, to previously awarded projects which have made significant progress.

Film descriptions provided by grantees.

Director Yael Melamede, Producer Hilla Medalia
Despite being one of Israel’s most important architects, Ada Karmi-Melamede remains largely unknown in the public sphere. Now her daughter – a former architect- sets out to tell the story of this most unusual role model, against the backdrop of the turbulent country Ada is rooted within.

Director and Producer Melis Birder, C0-Producers Nesra Gürbüz and Lisa Sardinas
When a Turkish filmmaker discovers her family’s ties to a 350-year-old underground sect who believe in a “Jewish Muslim Messiah,” she embarks on a dizzying odyssey to unearth truth from a blurry maze of history and memory.

Love, Murder and Miracles
Director and Producer Yoav Potash
In a small Polish town where Jews were murdered after World War II, an aging eyewitness risks imprisonment to search for the Jewish boy she loved 73 years ago. Bringing the past to life with evocative animation, Love, Murder and Miracles depicts a quest against war, hate, and time itself.

Red Herring
Director Kit Vincent, Producers Alex Lieberman and Ed Owles
When a young filmmaker is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he enlists his family on an intimate and darkly humorous journey – including Jewish conversion, cannabis farming, and shocking family revelations – that all somehow help them to come to terms with his illness.

Torah Tropical
Director Jimmy Ferguson, Co-Director Gloria Nancy Monsalve, Producers Ezra Axelrod, David Restrepo, and Heidi Paster Harf
In a tropical paradise turned dystopia by war and exclusion, a struggling Colombian family of Orthodox Jewish converts upend their lives in an attempt to make aliyah, putting their faith to the ultimate test.

Share ...

Subscribe for Blog Updates

Sign up for our latest updates.

Please follow us to get updates online.