The Center for Jewish Art is currently developing educational programs on a variety of different subjects, utilizing its vast wealth of documentation of Jewish art carried out throughout the world over the past 18 years. The basic philosophy of these programs is that Jewish art is a stimulating and effective medium for presenting a wide range of subjects such as Jewish history, literature, tradition and philosophy.
This year the Center is presenting a year long course, a series of ten lectures in Jerusalem for kindergarten teachers on Jewish Art in Life and Year cycles. The program on Life Cycles deals with the rites of passage: Brit Milah, Bar Mitzvah, Wedding, and Death, and the varying customs and visual expressions of the different communities relating to these significant events. The Year Cycle educational program focuses on the holidays and how they are celebrated in different communities. Examining the different uses of objects, the participants explore the varying customs and their sources of influence.
In May 1997, the Center conducted a four day seminar in Beer Sheva which was attended by teachers and educators from all over the country. The seminar covered many different subjects from synagogue decoration in Eastern Europe to Ashkenazi illuminated prayer books from the 13th to 15th centuries. There were also lectures on synagogue design in Israel and a tour of synagogues in Jerusalem.
A third series of lectures in which the Center participated, was run by the Hebrew University's Institute of Jewish Studies for high-school teachers. The aim of this course was to improve the teaching of Jewish Studies in Israeli schools and the Center's involvement conveyed that Jewish art is an itegral part of Jewish Studies. Professor Bezalel Narkiss spoke about Jewish Identity in art, the adaptation of motifs and imbuing them with a Jewish essence. Ruth Jacoby lectured on the second Temple period, while Ariella Amar compared Jewish and Islamic traditions. Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin lectured on the inter-relationships between Jewish and Christian Art and their representations of the 'Sacrifice of Isaac.'
In keeping with the Department of Education's choice of Zionism as a central theme for study in the schools this year, the Center is creating a two-year educational program on Zionism in Art. The first year will cover the beginning of the Zionist period through the 1920's. Next year, when Israel celebrates its 50th anniversary, the material will cover the period from the 1920's to the present.
Teacher's kits prepared for the course include a booklet with background material on art, a slide presentation of 40 slides, and 10 reproductions which will be used for student activities. Individualized learning programs have been customized for every age group, from pre-school through the high school level. The programs are very experiential and written in conjunction with experienced education professionals. This program will be translated into English for use in schools abroad.
Employing this model of Zionism in Art as a pilot project, we are in the process of creating other educational programs including: the Shtetl, The Sacrifice of Isaac, the Symbolism of Temple Implements, Biblical stories, the Jewish Life Cycle, and the Jewish Yearly Cycle.
The Center now plans to develop interactive, multi-media programs for CD-ROMs and Internet, using the Jerusalem Index of Jewish Art as a primary resource. These electronic educational programs are a perfect way to utilize Jewish art - and all its visual, religious and historic components - to bring alive Judaism, and also enable us to recreate Jewish communities which no longer exist. These programs can be developed for different users: educators, students and scholars.