An eclectic mix of storytellers chosen for the Jewish Writers’ Initiative’s first digital media cohort

Digital Storytelling Lab

Logo of the Jewish Writers’ Initiative

13 artists from a range of media, art, film, animation and writing backgrounds were chosen from over 260 submissions

We believe in bringing together creators who do very different types of work, from different perspectives and backgrounds, and who will inspire each other.

—Sarah Lefton

NEW YORK, NY, USA, Aug. 15, 2022 / — The Jewish Writers’ Initiative’s Digital Storytellers Lab has selected thirteen digital media writers/creators for its inaugural program. A Maimonides Fund project, the Lab is an eight-month fellowship designed to kick-start the development of new digital audiovisual media exploring Jewish themes and narratives, encouraging creators to tell Jewish stories in innovative and digital ways. Fellows will receive a generous stipend, mentorship, and technical and specialist expertise to support the development of their projects.

Fellows come from a variety of professional backgrounds – including journalists, filmmakers, novelists, songwriters, game designers, and more. – and were chosen via an open call for proposals which generated more than 260 applications.

“We have been overwhelmed by the response and the strength of the applications,” said Maimonides Fund President Mark Charendoff. “It shows that there is a real thirst for talented and accomplished storytellers to explore Jewish content, and we are excited to see what will come out of this first cohort.”

The projects that fellows will develop in the lab are aimed at both young and adult audiences and span a wide range of digital formats, including fiction and non-fiction podcasts, TikTok and Instagram series, live action and animated videos, an interactive narrative game. , and a digital graphic novel. The subjects are also varied, with stories that explore Jewish history from Iran to Eastern Europe; investigate contemporary social issues and their impact on the lives of Jews; extracting and reinventing Jewish texts; and examine aspects of Jewish identity and tradition through the lens of food, fashion, music and more.

“We could have created a group that was just podcasts or animation, or work for kids or adults. We believe in bringing together creators who create a spectrum of distinct work, from different perspectives and backgrounds, and who will inspire each other,” said Sarah Lefton, who is the creative director of the lab and has created BimBam, the studio behind hundreds of animated Jewish shorts on YouTube, including the preschool series Shaboom.

“What unites all the projects is their use of highly crafted, scripted storytelling that delves deeply into the Jewish subject matter on new media platforms.”

The Digital Storytellers Lab grew out of a similar program for screenwriters launched by the Jewish Writers’ Initiative in 2019, in which fellows developed Jewish-themed screenplays for mainstream film and television. More information about the Screenwriting Fellows and their projects can be found on the Initiative’s website.

See below for the names of the 2022-23 Digital Storytellers Lab Fellows and visit for more information on each and their proposed projects.


1. Brian Ash – Project: WISE UP, animated web series for children
2. Robert Axelrod – Project: NICE JEWISH BOYS, Narrative Podcast
3. Omer Benjakob – Project: HOW TO MAKE A DEATH CAMP, Investigative Podcast
4. Josh Burstein – Project: AHEE’S KOSHER OMAKASE, family series in mixed format
5. Sam Butin – Project: NORMANDY, narration/game of your choice
6. Danielle Dardashti – Project: THE NIGHTINGALE OF IRAN, Documentary Podcast
7. Dan Goldman – Project: MONSEY BLUES, digital graphic novel
8. Sophie Greenbaum – Project: SESSIONS WITH THE MATRIARCHS, Music/Social Media
9. Yael Levy – Project: THE CHRONICLES OF SOLOMON, animated Web series between tween
10. Alex Mann – Project: ARCANA Live Social Media Episode
11. Marina Michelson – Project: VAGABOND STARS, scripted narrative podcast
12. Michael O’Konis (they/he) and Marnina Schon (she/her) – Project: DOOM SCROLL, musical web series
13. V (her) from SnappyDragon YouTube Channel – Project: THE CLOTHES ON THE BACK, YouTube Series

About the Jewish Writers Initiative:
The Jewish Writers Initiative was founded in 2019 by Maimonides Fund and Crystal City Entertainment as a year-long fellowship supporting the development of film and television scripts telling various Jewish stories, with the ultimate goal of launching these projects on the mainstream media market. With the Digital Storytellers Lab, the Initiative is expanding its reach across digital media platforms, bringing innovative Jewish stories to new audiences in new ways.

The lab is led by BimBam creator Sarah Lefton and arts educator Janine Okmin. He is guided by an advisory board including Rabbi David Wolpe, producer Jonathan Rubenstein, media acquisition and distribution expert Jennifer Monier-Williams, Corey Rosen of Tippett Studios, former Sundance chief content officer Liz Nord, Senior Producer of Sesame Workshop’s International Social Impact Estee Bardanashvili, Emmy-winning writer Jay Bushman, Director of Product Marketing for Augmented Reality at Meta Adam Berger, Jason Cosgrove, Content Partnerships Team Member of YouTube, and Jeremy Dauber, professor of Jewish literature and author, from Columbia University.

About the Maimonides Fund:
The Maimonides Fund is a private granting organization that funds in North America and Israel. The Fund is passionate about supporting projects that help Jewish people grasp their shared past and play a part in shaping their shared future.

Judah Engelmayer
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