City of Neighborhoods: Melding and Reclaiming Ethnic Identity

Sunday, December 4 at 5pm
City of Neighborhoods: Melding and Reclaiming Ethnic Identity
Sunday, December 4 at 5pm
The 2pm performance is sold out, but you can still attend the Spotlight Symposium by emailing!

Barbara Grossman, PhD, Professor, Tufts University department of dance and drama
Barnet Kessel, Executive Director, Vilna Shul
Berj Chekijian, Director, Armenian Museum of America
Luis Cotto, Executive Director of Egleston Square Main Street

Barbara Grossman is a theater historian, voice specialist, director and author whose publications include Funny Woman: The Life and Times of Fanny Brice and A Spectacle of Suffering: Clara Morris on the American Stage. A presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts (1994-1999) and the United States Holocaust Memorial Council (2000-2005), she has been Vice Chair of the Massachusetts Cultural Council since 2007 and recently completed her term of service on the Leadership Council for Boston Creates, a community-wide effort to build a shared vision for Boston’s creative future. She continues her long affiliation with the American Repertory Theater as a member of its Board of Advisors and also serves on the Anti-Defamation League’s New England Regional Board, as well as on the Artistic Advisory Board for JArts (the Jewish Arts Collaborative). A founding member of IMAGe (Initiative on Mass Atrocities and Genocide) at Tufts, she chairs the Academic Awards Committee and the Graduate School of Arts and Science’s Executive Committee, and is a member of the Academic Standing and Honors Committee. Inducted into the Delta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at Tufts in 2010 in recognition of her contribution to the arts and the university community, she won the GSAS Outstanding Service Award in spring 2015.

Professor Grossman teaches a variety of courses at Tufts including The American Musical, Imagining the Holocaust on Stage and Screen, Confronting Genocide on Stage and Screen, and Voice and Speech: the Art of Confident Expression. As a director, her dramatic work has ranged from Our Country’s Good to Our Class, The Illusion to Arcadia. Musical productions have included A Little Night Music, Parade, Company, Kiss Me, Kate, and Rent. To commemorate the centennial of the Armenian genocide in 2015, she directed Daybreak by Boston-area playwright Joyce Van Dyke, based on the experience of two genocide survivors. She is scheduled to direct again at Tufts in fall 2017.

Luis Cotto is the Executive Director of Egleston Square Main Street (ESMS) whose mission is to build community, strengthen business districts, and revitalize public spaces through partnership with local merchants, residents and community groups. As a non-profit ESMS strives to promote, preserve, and revitalize Egleston Square, located on the border of Roxbury and Jamaica Plain in Boston. ESMS is governed by a board of directors composed of local residents, business owners, and representatives from community groups, and receives support from community partners and the City of Boston, through the Boston Main Streets Program. ESMS works to retain and expand area businesses, improve business facades and the street scape, and promote the business district. Their goal is to ensure that Egleston Square will continue to be an enjoyable community in which to live, work, visit, dine, and shop.

Berj Chekijian was born in the Old City of Jerusalem and grew up in the Armenian Convent in the Old City. He  immigrated to the United States of America in 1968 and settled in Watertown, Mass. In 1969 he was drafted into the US Army and served as Military Police. After his service he attended Northeastern University and received an engineering degree, working at Bell Labs of Lucent Technologies for 33 years. After he retired he started working for the Armenian Museum of America in Watertown where he is currently the Executive Director of the Museum.

He has been a very active member of the Armenian community in the Greater Boston area from
the first day he arrived in the United States.  He is a founding member of the Armenian Athletic General Union (Homenetmen) chapter in Boston, a founding member of Armenian International Cultural Union (Hamazkayin) chapter in Boston, a founding member of the Chaprast theatrical group of the cultural union where he has acted and directed for 30 years. He is a resident of Belmont.

Barnet Kessel brings over twenty-four years of managerial experience and exceptional leadership in the Jewish community to the Vilna Shul. Before coming to the Vilna, Barnet was  vice president of commercial products at Mantua Manufacturing Company. He has also volunteered at CJP for nearly a decade as well as for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.  Barnet currently sits on the board of directors of Jewish Community Relations Council and of the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts. He holds a B.S. from Syracuse University’s School of Management and lives in Newton with his wife Nava and two children.

This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.