First of Four Winners Unveiled as Part of Music & Animation Project; Short Film Offers Moving Interpretation of Psalm 1
San Francisco, CA — The first of four winners of the “Psalms Project” was unveiled today by G-dcast, a San Francisco-based nonprofit focused on Jewish literacy. The Psalms Project spotlights up-and-coming artists and brings Jewish text to life through novel storytelling and animation.
The Psalms Project is part of G-dcast’s efforts to transform how Jewish and broader communities engage with and interpret Psalms. The four-part series of shorts matches original poetry and music created by young Jewish artists with compelling visuals. The top winning entry, a poem that parallels the structure and themes of Psalm 90, was penned by San Francisco poet Rachel Lopez Rosenberg, 27, and brings the text to life through an emotional description of wrestling with cancer treatment.
“It can be challenging for young people to connect spiritually in any religious tradition – The Psalms Project is a new kind of entry point that’s centered on the arts. It’s a way into the richness of Jewish tradition for people who are visually and musically inclined,” said Sarah Lefton, G-dcast’s Executive Director.
G-dcast is releasing the first two-minute short today, featuring a song written and performed by New York-based Elijah Aaron, 26. The three other films will be released over the next few weeks.
Psalm 1 opens with the verse, “Happy is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful.”
Elijah Aaron took this text as his jumping off point for his entry. Aaron is a Berklee College of Music graduate who grew up in a Conservative Jewish household. As he grew older, Aaron criticized his Jewish learning opportunities as lacking in substance; music allowed him to reconnect with the sacred text.
“This project was the first time I really felt spiritual while composing,” said Aaron. “I actually read over a ton of Psalms for inspiration. The very first line of the very first Psalm really hit me. There is something so powerful about the deepest roots of Judaism.”
The Psalms Project was made possible with generous support from The Koret Foundation as part of their Initiative on Jewish Peoplehood, which seeks to increase Jewish identity and involvement.
The project kicked off in January with a live web seminar about the history, context and interpretation of the book of Psalms. G-dcast then opened a web-based competition in which artists could submit their own interpretation of the Psalm of their choice. When the contest closed in March, G-dcast had received high-quality entries from professional musicians, rabbis, amateur songwriters, and seasoned slam poetry circuit competitors. G-dcast awarded cash prizes to four artists, and brought their interpretations into cinematic expression with four unique visual animators.
“We were impressed not only by the number of entries but also by the quality of the submissions,” Lefton said. “Making the final selections was very hard for our judges.”
In the next two months, G-dcast will unveil three more short films as part of the Psalms Project. The organization is also building a database to make all of the Project’s submissions searchable and to allow for ongoing additions to the Project — the goal is to inspire anyone to try their hand at modern day Biblical interpretation and to provide a deep well of creative resources for teachers and students of verse everywhere.
“All of our work — from apps to films to teaching guides — focuses on making Jewish literacy accessible,” added Lefton. “The Psalms Project shows us that people can engage creatively with Jewish text in contemporary ways, and we can facilitate that using new media.”
To view the first Psalms Project short, please visit: http://www.g-dcast.com/psalm1.
To view more of Elijah Aaron’s work, please visit: www.elijahaaron.com .
About G-dcast: G-dcast.com is a San Francisco-based nonprofit that makes Jewish text come alive through animated short films, apps and tools for guided conversations. The organization is dedicated to helping make Jewish literacy attainable for as many people as possible by seamlessly combining timeless storytelling techniques with 21st century learning tools. To learn more about G-dcast, visit www.g-dcast.com.