The Covenant Grants

Jewish Wisdom for Civic Playmaking

Organization: The inHEIRitance Project, New York, NY

Grant Year: 2023

Project Director: Jon Adam Ross

Type of Grant: Signature

Grant Amount: $150,000 (3 years)


Arts and Culture
Curriculum Development and Training

Inheritance Theater Project – To expand and enhance the Jewish learning components of its collaborative theater-making process by producing a codified textual methodology and training additional educators and facilitators in this approach.

What inspired you to create ITP?

I wanted to co-create art and co-create community. I got involved with Storahtelling, a ritual Jewish theater company founded by Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, which gave me the gift of feeling agency with inherited texts. I had an idea that there could be a participatory playmaking process that leveraged inherited texts as tools for building community. [Former Covenant Foundation Executive Director] Harlene Winnick Appelman (z’l) and [Covenant Foundation Executive Director] Joni Blinderman cultivated that idea and offered me the most magnificent sandbox to start building the castle that became ITP.

How has ITP helped to build community around the country?

Since 2015, we have applied our participatory playmaking process to cultivate relationships across silos, employing 245 paid artists to engage 11,000+ participants and facilitate playmaking with communities all across the United States and internationally in Rwanda. Though our efforts have been national/global, our work has been intentionally hyperlocal. Our process navigates a trajectory from “your space” to “brave space” in which we put folks in rooms with people whose lived experiences might differ from their own. This is where the community building work happens on an individual level. As an example, in Kansas City, there was a synagogue and a mosque on the same street, one mile apart. The clergy had been in their respective pulpits for over a decade but didn’t know each other. Now they do and they communicate regularly.

Which city or community has been your favorite to visit so far, and why?

All of the communities are my favorites! But I’ll choose this moment to share a story from our project in Hampton Roads, Virginia (you can watch a PBS documentary about that project here). We begin the playmaking process in each community with a series of generative conversations we call ‘salons.’ In this particular project, a salon brought together about two dozen community leaders, including the Vice Mayor of Virginia Beach, the Virginia Beach Chief of Police, the director of Social Studies for the Norfolk Public Schools, the principal of the Jewish day school in Virginia Beach, and many more. They were all sitting in a circle inside the sukkah (!) in the backyard of the JCC in Virginia Beach. Seeing those adults sitting around that circle, fully engaging in the process, was quite an experience. Even better was the moment when the police chief told me it was the first time in his three decades as a police officer that he was invited to make art as part of his job. And though he was skeptical, he loved it. And I did, too.