The Mitzvah Project Teaching Artist Program (TMP-TAP)
The Mitzvah Project-Teaching Artist Program (TMP-TAP) is a new venture to expand the reach and impact of The Mitzvah Project, an internationally recognized Holocaust/social justice-themed, theatrical-educational program for teens and young adults.
Conceived and presented (since 2014) by actor, playwright and lecturer, Roger Grunwald, The Mitzvah Project is a dynamic learning program combining performance, history and conversation in a powerful one-hour presentation. Since its inception, Grunwald, a classically-trained actor and proud son of an Auschwitz survivor, has presented The Mitzvah Project to over 18,000 people at 180 institutions in 26 states and four countries.
By the summer of 2022, TMP-TAP will begin a talent search to identify and recruit four performing artists (ranging in age from their late teens to their late 30’s) to expand the program’s presenter-roster from one (Grunwald) to five. TMP-TAP will initially focus on recruiting performers descended from Holocaust survivors. Having a family connection to the Shoah will enable these artists to personalize their presentations and connect more deeply with their audiences, especially high school and college students.
Prospective teaching artists must be aligned with the The Mitzvah Project’s message of inclusion, tolerance, and equality; open to learning The Mitzvah Project’s approach; have strong communication skills, and a deep desire to reach and teach high school and college students. Candidate teaching artists will be considered irrespective of gender or sexual orientation.
For performers interested in applying for a Teaching Artist position, click here.
Over an intensive 6-8 week training program, Grunwald and award-winning stage director, Nancy Carlin will guide and train the candidate teaching artists in all aspects of the program. TMP-TAP is looking to tap into and unleash each artist’s own creativity, personal stories and ideas to enrich their presentations. At the completion of their training, the new teaching artists will become members of The Mitzvah Project’s core company.
A New Kind of Teaching Artist
TMP-TAP goes beyond the standard teaching artist model where artists are brought into schools to help educators implement lesson plans. Rather TMP-TAP will be offering high schools, colleges and community organizations uniquely skilled performing artists who can to engage their audiences emotionally and intellectually with a “living Holocaust/social justice-themed history lesson.”
“Within the next few years, once the TMP-TAP has become established, the plan is to expand the teaching artist roster to include performer/presenters who are descendants of genocides in Cambodia, Armenia, Bosnia and Rwanda and Darfur,” says Grunwald. “What will remain a constant, however, is The Mitzvah.”
The Mitzvah is the title of the short play that is both the opening and at the heart of The Mitzvah Project. Co-authored by Grunwald, The Mitzvah was inspired by his mother’s and aunt’s stories of survival (from Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen respectively) and draws on the groundbreaking research of Yale and Cambridge University scholar, Dr. Brian Mark Rigg. The play dramatically explores the nature of prejudice through the interconnected lives of a Polish-Jewish Auschwitz survivor and a half-Jewish Wehrmacht officer who cross paths during the darkest days of the Holocaust. (Click here for the video.)
The second part of the presentation is a lecture and PowerPoint. In their talks, the teaching artists will:
Share their family member's Holocaust experience • Explore the historical connection between white supremacism, anti-Semitism, and racism in America • Analyze the role that America’s Jim Crow Laws played in providing a model for the Nazis’ Nuremberg Laws • Reveal the ways in which prejudice and “othering” affects everyone • Examine how advances in human biology and genetics totally debunk racialist mythology • Expose the roots of intolerance that influenced the failed insurrection of January 6, 2021, etc.
The third part of the presentation is a live Q&A with the audience.
The three-part, 60-minute Mitzvah Project engages several critical socio-historical questions: “Who decides the meaning of culture, race and ethnicity?” “How is one’s identity determined?” “Why do we demonize ‘the other?”
A Focus on Youth
With hate crimes at their highest level in 12 years (click here to read the recent FBI report) and anti-Semitic and racist incidents on the rise in our schools, it’s clear that forces hostile to an inclusive, multicultural America are working hard to establish their social vision. In the crosshairs are the hearts and minds of America’s young people. If we are to have a just and equitable American future, today’s youth hold the key. It is for that reason, that TMP-TAP is going to continue focusing its efforts on reaching teens and young adults.
By the beginning of the 2022 fall semester, The Mitzvah Project will begin booking each of the newly trained teaching artists into public high schools, colleges and community organizations — in California and throughout the United States. The goal is to reach 1,500 – 3,000 teens and young adults by June of 2023.
The following are selected comments about The Mitzvah Project from educators and scholars who have previously hosted the program. For a more extensive collection of comments and testimonials, click here.
“The Mitzvah Project goes to the heart and complexity of current issues of prejudice, bullying, racial tension, genocide and war, presented within the historical context of The Holocaust.” — Mónica Olague-Marchán, Ph.D., Catholic Memorial High School, Waukesha, WI
“Roger Grunwald's deep concern for questions of identity touched everyone and challenged our thinking about nationality, religion and indeed culture.” — Henner Petin, President, German Society, Oxford University
“Roger Grunwald’s Mitzvah Project is a powerful and painful reminder of the snares and danger that our loss of humanity might engender. This lesson for the future, a memento mori, is at the core of Roger Grunwald’s extraordinary work.” — Professor Manuela Consonni, Director, The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
For more information, click here for the contact form.