The Beginning

Genesis at the Crossroads (GATC) created its bylaws and formed its first Board of Directors in May of 1999.  In August of 1999, GATC became incorporated and in May 2000, became a government-approved 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. Their Executive, Advisory and developing Youth Boards assist with governance, community outreach and fundraising.

Since 1999, Genesis at the Crossroads has created and produced over 100 award-winning programs embraced by thousands of multi-ethnic audiences worldwide. GATC’s work has garnered international acclaim by The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Rotary International, and the Kingdom of Morocco, as well as the US Department of State.

The Birth of HAMSA-Fest

GATC made history by creating Chicago’s first cross-cultural Middle Eastern-North African (ME-NA) performing arts program in 2000, 2001 and 2003 followed by Chicago’s (and the US’s) first cross-cultural ME-NA outdoor festival (HAMSA-Fest) in 2004, 2005 and 2007.  In 2004 & 2005 GATC took their cross-cultural Moroccan – Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian Gesher-Jisr Building Bridges performances, respectively to The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., New York City and Los Angeles.

In recognition of GATC’s unique brand of arts diplomacy TM, the latter performance was showcased at the United Nation’s 60th Anniversary.

Additionally, GATC received the Illinois Arts Council Governor’s International Arts Exchange ProgramGrants in 2006, 2007 and 2008 to support their ARTSLINK arts-exchange programs with the Casablanca Conservatory of Music as well as their Genesis World Music Ensemble, Saffron Caravan.  Founded in 2007, Saffron Caravan, unites musicians from Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba, Morocco, Israel, India and the United States for cross-cultural collaborative performance and educational programs.  In 2009 they recorded their first CD, Saffron Caravan Unfolding and performed to diverse audiences in DC and Chicago.  Their multi-city tour of Israel in September 2011 included five performances and over 1500 student-hours of music education, including the Bedouin youth in the Negev.  During that tour, they creating the nucleus of the first Junior Saffron Caravan Ensemble.Saffron Caravan was honored as the 2011 International Freedom to Create Prize Nominee.

The Human Component… Reaching the World

Arm Them with Instruments, GATC’s current humanitarian initiative brings gently used instruments to children living through conflict and pairs them with local conservatories/musicians for subsidized music education. GATC has forged local Chicagoland and international community partnerships with over 35 schools, museums, institutions and conservatories in Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, South Africa, Latin America and the United States.

Genesis organizers and artists participated in the US State Department’s worldwide online webchat, exploring their work building bridges with music, reaching youth in over 27 countries. In an effort to share their message with millions more, Genesis engaged media partners 98.7 WFMT and prestigious international documentary film outfits (Israeli /American) for broadcast and documentary film product.

The Classroom

GATC’s ongoing array of Art of Peace programs benefitting Chicago Public School students and others in the US include Magic Carpet, a year-long, musical-theater diversity education program exploring personal and cultural identity through narration, script writing and performance. (Nine metrics were tracked with 100% success rates.)

Choice and Consequence engaged CPS students in re-writing the soliloquies of King Lear and exploring how differing character choices alter ultimate outcomes.

Tapestry of Story & Sound, a GATC creation commissioned by the Chicago Children’s Humanities Festival, paired ethnic storytelling and music to promote cultural understanding. Their Children’s humanitarian peace quilt workshops/exhibition enabled over 400 American children from ethnically diverse backgrounds to create expressions for world peace on fabric and to write about their thoughts; professionals sewed together squares for individual quilts benefiting children living through conflict abroad. (Exhibited at Chicago Children’s Museum and re-created in Los Angeles.)

The Legacy Piece… and Beyond the Classroom

The Genesis Peace Hub institutionalizes our cross-cultural collaborative model and consolidates all of Genesis’ work under one roof.

In the face of COVID’s staggering impact and our work helping to evacuate people from Afghanistan*, what has emerged is the need for a re-imagined Genesis Peace Hub writ large.

Our current strategic plan will engage multiple continents in fulfilling our expanded vision. We are excited to maximize worldwide technologies to see this to fruition.

* This included our 2016 Genesis Academy Summer Institute graduate and others.


The Illinois Arts Council’s Ethnic and Folk Arts division awarded GATC grants in the last 14 consecutive years.  They received grants from the US Department of State’s Performing Arts Initiative Fund for their Genesis World Music Ensemble Saffron Caravan’s performance in Casablanca, under the auspices of His Majesty the King of Morocco andmulti-city tour of Israel in 2011.  Other Co-sponsors have included The United Nations, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, The Chicago Children’s Museum, Nuveen Investments, Devon Bank, Hilton, Microsoft, Hohner, The Fry Foundation, 98.7 WFMT, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Alliance for Peacebuilding, The People’s Peace Fund,  Rotary International on multiple continents and other individuals and foundations.

GATC and its Founder have been featured on NPR, the BBC, Al Jazeera, Israeliand UN Radio and appeared as a guest on CBS, ABC 7, Channel 5, and Australian Broadcasting Company.  Sternberg and GATC have been the subject of articles worldwide from The Chicago Tribune to Newsweek’s blog and The Bangkok Post.   GATC’s ED was featured as one of the 10 Jewish Chicagoans of the Year.  Rotary International selectedher as one of 22 global leaders from 18 countries to participate in the Peace and Conflict Studies Fellowship at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand in 2009.  Sternberg is a participant in both the Clinton Global Initiative and the Kellogg Innovation Network (KIN) Global Community.  She was a 2011 Charles Bronfman Prize Nominee and was a 2014 Salzburg Global Seminar Fellow.  In 2014, she was named Founding Director of the Division of Peace-building at the UCSD School of Medicine Center for Mindfulness.


For more details, view the Genesis at the Crossroads timeline.