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The Dance Film -

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Sh’ma: A Story of Survival, a moving and innovative dance film, chronicles the journey of the director’s mother from school days to deportation, concentration camp to liberation, and finally immigration to the U.S.  Sh’ma features a remarkable ensemble of 15 virtuoso performers, a haunting original score, stunning choreography, and timeless design.

The Sh'ma Project, original production
The Sh'ma Project, original production

The History of Sh’ma


Dr. Suki John, Texas Christian University Professor of Classical & Contemporary Dance, has transformed her choreodrama, Sh’ma, from a stage production into a narrative dance film, Sh’ma: A Story of Survival. The production originally premiered in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia in 1990. In 1999, Suki revived it for performances in New York City at the 92nds St. Y, Washington Irving High School, and YIVO. 

The term Sh’ma means "listen." It comes from a central prayer in the Jewish liturgy, and can also be translated as the imperative to "hear, heed, or do." The Sh’ma Project: Move Against Hate was inspired by Suki’s mother, who refused to adopt a victim mentality after gaining her freedom from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Instead, she hopefully insisted upon treating every day as an opportunity and remained a tireless advocate for civil rights, diversity, and non-violence. By telling her story through the emotive languages of dance, music, and film, The Sh’ma Project focuses on individual experiences, opening a window to empathy, tolerance, and inclusion.

Samantha Pille, Kira Rai, Adam Phillips

Photo by M. Alimanov Photography

Carl Coomer, Insekt, The Sh'ma Project

Photo by M. Alimanov Photography

Viewing Sh’ma

By partnering with Texas Christian University and the Jewish Federation of Tarrant County and Fort Worth, Sh’ma reaches audiences from film festivals to places of worship to educational facilities. Sh’ma: A Story of Survival is available as a full-length, 71-minute film as well as a 40-minute educational version. 


The Sh’ma film serves as the anchor for the artistic and educational initiative of The Sh’ma Project: Move Against Hate.  Students view the 40-minute film, and participate in Upstander Workshops. Using an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates movement, drawing, writing, and discussion, young people are empowered to creatively process information about the Holocaust and Human Rights. Students are encouraged to interpret the difficult content in empowering, creative ways, to contextualize history and make contemporary connections. The Project provides educators with free Open Educational Resources through The Holocaust: Remembrance, Respect, Resilience. In an effort to resist the repetition of history, The Sh’ma Project provides ways to recognize Othering and exclusion, to build empathy and deter conflict.


For more information on hosting a screening of Sh’ma: A Story of Survival and/or a presentation of the educational workshops, please contact our team at

Kira Rai, Nightmare, The Sh'ma Project

Photos by M. Alimanov Photography

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Photo by M. Alimanov Photography

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