SWAMPSCOTT — Deborah Nathan, of Swampscott, founder of Artsbridge, a non profit organization dedicated to building bridges between Palestinian, Israeli and American students through art and dialogue, is the 2014 recipient of the Boston Jewish Film Festival’s 2nd Annual Community Leadership Award for her “passionate commitment to social justice and to improving society.”
Since 2008, Nathan, an art therapist, Mental Health Counselor and professional artist, has trained 200 15-17 year-olds in conflict mitigation. “Our model is learning from each other’s narrative and then moving forward together with respect,” Nathan explained.
2014 was particularly challenging. Students arrived two days before the Gaza war erupted. Many were afraid for their family and friends and also felt guilty about being safe in the U.S. while their loved ones were in danger. “I was very relieved for the therapeutic component of the program,” Nathan shared, adding that what might have been a destructive situation ended being profound and powerful.
Amy Geller, BJFF artistic director, wanted to honor Nathan and her work. “Like Debbie, I believe in the power of the visual arts to change the world and build bridges. To see her apply that philosophy in a very direct way was incredibly inspiring to me.”
Nathan was surprised to learn she had been selected. “People have very mixed feelings about the work I do, so it’s nice to be recognized,” she said. She will receive her award on November 9 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. “Dove’s Cry,” an Israeli film about a young, religious Muslim woman who teaches Arabic in Israel, and “Of Many,” a documentary about an Orthodox rabbi and an imam who are both university chaplains, will screen with a post-film panel discussion. “This rich program will offer some important tools for doing interfaith work,” Geller said.
Visit artsbridgeinstitute.org .