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Teaching Jewish Values through Art


Participants visiting the Second Temple model in Jerusalem. Participants visiting the Second Temple  model in Jerusalem.

The Center for Jewish Art, in cooperation with the Jewish University in St. Petersburg and the Society for Jewish Art, conducted a three week intensive seminar in Jerusalem, on Teaching Jewish Values through Jewish Art in August, 1997. Twenty Jewish art teachers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and ten Israeli art teachers, new immigrants from the CIS, participated in this exciting and successful seminar.

A major goal of the seminar was to give the participants a broad and basic knowledge in the field of Jewish art and tradition. Seminar organizers also sought to help the teachers use this material as an integral part of their art instruction in the schools in Israel and the CIS, where there are presently three hundred Hebrew schools operating. An additional objective was to establish a dialogue between Jewish teachers and artists in the CIS and in Israel, and to strengthen the connection of the younger generation in the CIS and of new immigrants in Israel to Jewish tradition and Zionism.

The seminar examined the visual sources of Jewish culture from biblical times to contemporary times, and included lectures on Jewish culture and art, workshops, study tours in museums and Jewish sites, and meetings with Israeli artists. The lectures covered such themes as: Heroes of the Bible; the Kabbalah and Hassidism in Jewish tradition; Iconography in the Bible; Jewish Holidays and their Symbols; Jewish Life Cycles and more. All lectures were translated into Russian. Professional staff from the Hebrew University, the Jewish University in St. Petersburg, and other educational institutions presented lectures.

During the workshops, teachers discussed problems in teaching art to children, particularly the problems of teaching Jewish art, and they shared their solutions with one another. In a special session, one of the teachers from the CIS demonstrated a computer program for teaching Jewish art to children and examined ways in which an Internet program might be developed.

The participants of the course were very pleased by the high level of the lectures, and most importantly, they felt that they were well prepared for integrating the material into their own teaching. This intensive and unique seminar gave the Russian and Israeli participants the opportunity to deepen their own connection to Jewish art, tradition and values. With this greater understanding, it is hoped that the teachers in the CIS and Israel will be able to nurture the Jewish visual tradition in future artists and Jewish leaders.

On the basis of this seminar, a teacher's manual is being prepared in Hebrew and Russian for the use of teachers throughout Israel and Russia (about two hundred teachers in Russia and a similar number in Israel). Due to the great success of the course, another course for the summer of 1999 is being planned.

Moses parting the Red Sea
Moses parting the Red Sea as drawn by a pupil of one of the teachers who participated in the Center's teachers' course on Jewish Art.

This seminar was sponsored by the Joint Program for Jewish Education of the State of Israel—Ministry of Education and Culture, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the World Zionist Organization. It was also assisted by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). <




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