Art and Artists on Being Black and Jewish

  • December 2, 2020 5:00PM December 2, 2020 7:00PM EST

A dynamic group of Canadian and U.S. artists who identify as Black and Jewish come together for an unparalleled conversation on art and identity hosted by theatre artist and Rabbi-to-be, Kendell Pinkney. See and hear the compelling artistic work of Ella Cooper, Rebecca S’manga Frank, Sara Yacobi-Harris and Anthony Russell. As a jumping off point for a lively dialogue, each artist will share projects that explore the intersection of Jewishness and Blackness through film, photography, music and performance. A not-to-be-missed evening of multi-disciplinary art and wide-ranging discussion!

This online event is inspired by the current exhibition in Toronto’s FENTSTER window gallery, Witness by Ella Cooper. The program has been developed by Kendell Pinkney and FENTSTER curator, Evelyn Tauben.

Presented together by FENTSTER, KlezKanada, Museum of Jewish Montreal, The Jewish Theological Seminary, Asylum Arts, Reboot, Miles Nadal JCC, No Silence on Race and Jews of Colour Canada.

This event was made possible through the ROI Community Grassroots Events program and participating partners.


Ella Cooper is an award-winning cultural leader, producer, facilitator, photo-video artist, educator and programmer based in Toronto. She has worked in the arts and culture sector for almost 20 years. Her creative work explores the diaspora, the creation of positive representations of the Black body in Canada, equity and arts for social change, community storytelling, contemporary dance and hybrid identity. Cooper is also the founder of Black Women Film! Canada, a collective and leadership initiative supporting the development of Black women filmmakers. She designs and facilitates transformative leadership, anti-oppression and arts empowerment programs for diverse communities, youth and non-profit organizations across Canada and internationally. She continues to be a featured speaker and facilitator for national and international conferences. In 2019, Cooper was nominated for a Mayor’s Arts Cultural Leadership Award, and in 2017 was a Fellow in the Toronto Arts Council’s Leaders Lab. Cooper’s work has been presented in galleries, public spaces and festivals in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Amsterdam and Berlin.

Rebecca S’manga Frank is an actor, writer, director, and passionate developer of new work. Her credits include projects with the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab in Morocco, the Humana New Play Festival at Actors Theater of Louisville, Berkeley Rep, California Shakespeare Company, New York Theatre Workshop, and she is a member of Society,  a joint stock theatre company based out of New York. Her TV credits include Prodigal Son (FOX), Elementary (CBS), and an upcoming release on Apple TV+. Most recently, she was featured in Paula Vogel’s INDECENT at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Rebecca holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Mills College and an MFA from NYU’s Graduate Acting program at the Tisch School of the Arts. This summer Rebecca was commissioned by Hillel International to pen “A Psalm for Racial Justice” for the Days of Awe. Rebecca proudly creates work from a deep love of her Swazi and Jewish roots, and is committed to using her work as a force to advocate for the dignity of Black lives.

Sara Yacobi-Harris is the founder of No Silence on Race. She is a community organizer, educator, writer and filmmaker. Her current work focuses on equity, inclusion and anti-racism strategy and policy implementation. She also leads BIPOC focused community outreach, mentorship and festival partnerships. Sara has worked on several TV and digital productions at the CBC in the Unscripted department and has written for the CBC. Previously, she worked at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). She is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Social Justice Education at the University of Toronto.

Kendell Pinkney is a Brooklyn based theatre-maker, Jewish-life consultant, and rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary. While he was most recently featured in Saturday Night Seder and on the Crooked podcast Unholier than Thou, his collaborative works have been presented at venues such as 54 Below, Joe’s Pub, the 14th St. Y, and Two River Theatre, to name a few. Kendell’s broader interest in racial and ethnic diversity among Jews led him to team up with spoken-word artist, Vanessa Hidary, to produce Kaleidoscope, a monologue showcase that foregrounds the stories of Jews of Color, and Jews from Sephardic and Mizrachi backgrounds. In addition to his creative arts work, he is the Rabbinic Fellow for the Jewish arts and culture organizations Reboot and LABA, and the Spiritual Director of Ammud: The Jews of Color Torah Academy.

Anthony Russell is a vocalist, composer and arranger specializing in music in the Yiddish language. This work has brought him to  Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, New York, Toronto, Montreal, London, Berlin, Copenhagen, Warsaw, Krakòw, Tel Aviv, Symphony Space in New York City and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Anthony’s work with klezmer trio Veretski Pass resulted in Convergence, an EP exploring a century of African American and Ashkenazi Jewish music. He also performs in a Yiddish songwriting duo, Tsvey Brider, with SF Bay Area accordionist and keyboardist Dmitri Gaskin. Anthony lives in Massachusetts with his husband, Rabbi Michael Rothbaum.