Amita, the creator of “A SACRED PIECE OF HOME” spent many years in various roles at the Sackler and Freer Galleries of Asian Art at the Smithsonian which were a sort of “sacred space” for her, a shrine to the memory of India, her lost homeland. She researched and published Indian tribal bronzes and jewelry in their collections and coordinated an exhibition on Hindu imagery. After lecturing on tours to India and coordinating lecture series and symposia on India for the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program, she went on to teaching Indian art and architecture at the University of Maryland. She also created and taught a course titled “Sacred Architecture East and West: Churches, Temples, Stupas and Mosques” at the University of Maryland. She fervently believes that cross-cultural education on religions and traditions is essential to prepare for today’s world and that film is the most effective didactic medium.
Filmmaker & Producer
Thomas R. Bloom is a certified member of the US Press Association with over 14 years of film experience spanning multiple genres from feature film making, to journalism, to social media content creation. He is an award winning artist, writer, producer, director, and director of photography having produced films around the world including Japan, Australia, Germany, and more. His technical background as an aviation electrician and physicist have led him to design custom video production equipment with product lines of commercially available camera equipment.
Bloom is a Marine Veteran, having deployed eight times over 5 of years of active duty. He is a proud Eagle Scout and UC Berkeley alumni with degrees in Math, Physics, and Chemistry. He is the co-founder of the Veterans Resource Center SDCC San Diego and co-owner of the film company DrakeWise Productions.
Ori Z. Soltes
Ori Z. Soltes, Ph.D. teaches at Georgetown University, Washington D.C. across a range of disciplines. He is the former Director of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum. In that capacity he has curated over 80 exhibitions domestically and internationally. Soltes has authored or edited 24 books and scores of articles and exhibition catalogue essays. Recent volumes include Our Sacred Signs: How Jewish, Christian and Muslim Art Draw from the Same Source; The Ashen Rainbow: Essays on the Arts and the Holocaust; Mysticism in Judaism. Christianity and Islam: Searching for Oneness; Tradition and Transformation: Three Millennia of Jewish art and Architecture; Magic and Religion in the Greco-Roman World: The Beginnings of Judaism and Christianity; and God and the Goalposts: A Brief History of Sports, Religion, Politics, War, and Art.
Marian J. Barber
Scholar & Co-Producer
Marian J. Barber, Ph.D., is a historian of race and ethnicity in the United States, specializing in the Southwestern borderlands. She is currently assistant director of the British Studies program at the University of Texas at Austin where she received her master’s degrees in public affairs and U.S. history and a doctorate in U.S. history. Her manuscript “Borderlands Crucible: How the Irish, Germans, and Czechs Became Anglo” is currently under review by Oxford University Press. She has taught courses at the University of Texas at Austin and at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas and has given numerous presentations on the roles of race and ethnicity in the culture, politics, and economy of Texas and the Southwest. She has served as associate director of the National History Center of the American Historical Association and director of the Catholic Archives of Texas.
She lived in the D.C. area for several years where she trained in historical documentary filmmaking at George Washington University. She interned on Judith Hallet’s award-winning PBS film Turning Back the Clock and American Buffalo: Spirit of a Nation. She also worked on Down Freedom’s Main Line, on the Freedom Rides of 1961.
She is currently researching sites in Texas for another film in “A Sacred Piece of Home” series.
Michael J. Crosbie, Ph.D., FAIA, studied architecture at The Catholic University of America and is currently Professor of Architecture at the University of Hartford. He is editor of Faith & Form: The Interfaith Journal on Religion, Art, and Architecture. Dr. Crosbie is the sole author, editor, or contributor to more than 70 books on architecture (including six on religious architecture). The author of hundreds of articles on architecture, design, and practice, he lectures throughout the US and abroad. He is the recipient of the Edward S. Frey Memorial Award, “in Recognition of the Contributions Made to Religion, Art, and Architecture,” bestowed by the American Institute of Architects. Dr. Crosbie served as the Walton Visiting Critic at The Catholic University of America in 2015.
John DeFerrari was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and has worked for many years for the federal government. He enjoys digging up little-known facts about the cultural history of the nation’s capital. In addition to penning the popular Streets of Washington blog, DeFerrari is also a trustee of the D.C. Preservation League and serves as Review Editor of Washington History, the magazine of the D.C. History Center. He is the author of three books: Lost Washington, D.C. (2011), Historic Restaurants of Washington, D.C.: Capital Eats (2013), and Capital Streetcars: Early Mass Transit in Washington, D.C. (2015), all published by History Press. He is also co-author with Peter Sefton of the forthcoming Sixteenth Street NW: Washington, DC's Avenue of Ambitions, to be published by Georgetown University Press in 2022.
Michael M. Gick
Michael M. Gick, AIA, MRTPI is an architect and planner active in the Washington Metropolitan Region. Over his 40-year career, he has designed many sacred spaces including churches and synagogues. He also chaired the Virginia AIA’s Sacred Space Learning Community’s effort to present sacred space studies at the annual AIA-Virginia Conferences held in Richmond. His course titled “Design of Sacred Space in the Abrahamic Tradition” is taught at the graduate level at The Catholic University of America and chronicles the evolution of sacred thought and related sacred space in the Abrahamic Tradition – thus including Jewish, Christian and Islamic environments.
Professor of Religion
B.N. Hebbar, Ph.D. teaches Religions of the East and a variety of specialty courses including Indian Philosophy, Zoroastrianism, Shintoism, Doctrine and Debate in World Religions, Minor Religions of India, and South Asian Buddhism. He received the Bender Teaching Award in 2006.
He was educated in India and studied Theravada Buddhism in Sri-Lanka and Thailand. He received his bachelors and master’s degrees from George Washington University and his Ph.D. from the University of Utrecht (Netherlands). He also has a D.Litt. from the University of South Africa.
He taught at the University of Maryland Honors Program for a decade and has lectured on Eastern religions at the Virginia Theological Seminary, the Smithsonian Resident Associate Program and at the Johns Hopkins Osher Program. He has lectured on Hindu bioethics at seminars in NYU Medical school and Harvard Medical school and has co-authored articles on Hindu bioethics with a Temple University Medical School associate. He has advised the Pentagon Board of chaplains in Hindu religious matters during the First US-Iraq War. As an advisor to the International Buddhist group, he has received awards from the Cambodian and Korean Buddhist communities. He is currently the Executive Vice-President of the International Buddhist Association of America (IBAA).
Dr. Hebbar has authored articles on South Indian Vaishnavism in the Harper-Row Dictionary of Religions and in the Journal of Vaishnava Studies as well as in the Journal of Indian Philosophy & Religion in 2016 and 2017. His three books are: The Sri-krsna Temple at Udupi (Nataraj Books, 2005), Visistadvaita and Dvaita (Nataraj Books, 2005), and Who is the Supreme God: Visnu or Siva? (Nataraj Books, 2011).
Alan M. Kraut is Distinguished Professor of History at American University and a Non-Resident Fellow of the Migration Policy Institute. Specializing in immigration, ethnic history and the history of medicine in the United States, he is the award-winning author or editor of nine books and many scholarly articles. Volumes include The Huddled Masses: The Immigrant in American Society, 1880-1921 (1982, 2nd edition, 2001) and Ethnic Historians and the Mainstream: Shaping America’s Immigration Story (co-edited, 2013).
He is a past President of the Organization of American Historians and serves as the current president of the National Coalition for History and is an elected fellow of the Society of American Historians. He was also on the Academic Council of the American Jewish Society. In 2017 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Immigration and Ethnic History Society.
Active in bringing history to a broader, non-academic audience, Dr. Kraut chairs the History Advisory Committee Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island which he has served since the 1980s and has also consulted on PBS documentaries.
Joanne Punzo Waghorne
JOANNE PUNZO WAGHORNE works in contemporary theoretical directions in the study of religion, new religious movements, globalization, and transnational migration. Spatial theory, visual studies, and urban studies inform her interdisciplinary approach which she works to integrate with her roots in History of Religions and phenomenology. Her recent publications include Singapore, Spirituality, and the Space of the State: Soul of the Little Red Dot. London: Bloomsbury 2020. Place/No-Place in Urban Asian Religiosity edited volume for ARI-Springer Asian Series, 2017. The Diaspora of the Gods: Modern Hindu Temples in an Urban Middle-Class World; Oxford University Press, 2004 includes her work on the Sri Shiva Vishnu Temple in the DC area where she attended and photographed all of the installation ceremonies with her husband Dick Waghorne.