BIMA is a summer institute at Brandeis University that brings together talented high school artists, musicians, actors, and writers with professional artists to pursue serious artistic growth in a diverse Jewish setting. Its mission is to guide participants as they develop their artistic faculties and explore the dynamic encounter between artistic expression and Jewish life. Participants come to BIMA from all over North America and Israel, from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds and experiences. BIMA was founded in 2003 by Rabbi Daniel Lehmann, former headmaster of Gann Academy in Waltham, Massachusetts, and took place at Williams College for its first three summers before relocating to Brandeis University in 2007.
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
The Arts in Jewish Education
With innovation recognized as a premium for all education, the arts need to be taken more seriously, plumbed for pedagogy and curriculum, and integrated into the classroom across the curriculum. The arts represent distinct disciplines with their own histories and methods. For Jewish studies, they offer a vehicle for student interpretation, a different entry point into Jewish text and tradition.
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Bibliodrama, as the name implies, makes drama out of Bible, and does so by the use of unrehearsed role-playing in which participants give voice to biblical characters (or objects) in a facilitated and structured process. Bibliodrama is a recognized form of contemporary experiential midrash first developed at the Jewish Theological Seminary 25 years ago and now widely employed in classrooms and pulpits and taken up in a variety of emerging pedagogies. (For more background information, go to www.bibliodrama.com.)
I’ve been working in a museum for twenty years, so I confess I’m biased, but I’ve often thought that a perfect shidduch is one between museums and schools. Schools provide the basic framework for learning, but a museum can offer a component that is simply beyond the scope of the classroom.
We are pleased to introduce a new column starting this issue. Bookcase will feature books, articles, and websites pertaining to the theme of the current issue of HaYidion for readers who wish to investigate the topic in greater depth.
The Talmud asks the question, מי חכם? “Who is wise?” and answers: “The person who can see into the future.” But who among us is a seer? Who can foretell what tomorrow will bring?
Judaism and the arts have always had a complicated relationship. Whether it be an avoidance of drama because of ecclesiastical connotations, a rejection of vocal music if it included kol isha, the voice of a woman, or the absence of figurative representations in art due to the prohibition of graven images, the arts have historically received shorter shrift in Jewish pedagogy than other subjects.
In 1951, there were around 450,000 Jews in the United Kingdom; now there are fewer than 300,000. Over the past twenty years, the community has introduced numerous projects designed to reverse this decline, in particular, investing heavily in Jewish day schools. From fewer than 25% of eligible Jewish children attending Jewish day schools in 1985, that figure has risen to around 60% today, with 39 state-funded Jewish schools and more than 50 small private Jewish schools now open across the UK, the vast majority in London.
With an international collection spanning four centuries, educators at the American Folk Art Museum often teach from objects deriving from religious groups—such as Shaker furniture, Amish quilts, and Decalogues—through discussion-based explorations in the galleries. The recent exhibition “Gilded Lions and Jeweled Horses: The Synagogue to the Carousel” allowed us to explore sacred and secular objects created by Jewish artisans with a wide range of audiences. Tracing the woodcarving traditions that Jewish immigrants brought with them to the United States from Europe from the late nineteenth through the first half of the twentieth centuries, this groundbreaking exhibition charted the valuable contributions these artisans made to the flourishing American carousel industry. At the same time, it uncovered a trove of examples from authentic Jewish folk arts whose practitioners continue to work today.
♦ Interview with Daniel Saks, aka Shank Bone Mystic
[HaYidion asked Daniel Saks, a rising young Jewish musician, to reflect upon the impact that his community day school education had upon him and his musical identity. Here are his candid replies.]
As a product of the Jewish day school system in the 1970s and 80s and as a Jewish day school music educator for the past fifteen years, I have experienced and observed music education both as a product and a producer. In general, day schools still have a long way to go to reach the level of music education found in a decent public school or a comparable prep school. While there have been some efforts to raise the profile of music in our schools, particularly in the younger years, music education remains all too often a marginal priority in the day school world.
Photography has a profound ability to speak to students and to empower them because of the accessibility of the medium. Students are used to seeing hundreds of photographic images everyday; they feel a high level of comfort with photography, which enables them to discuss photographic images without reserve or intimidation. Likewise, they are accustomed to taking photographs or digital images from a young age. Even if they have never thought of photography as an art per se, they have developed an innate sense for what makes a picture good and interesting.
Enter a seventh-grade Hebrew class at the Toronto Heschel School, taught in an art studio. The students, wearing aprons, are sitting around large tables covered with plastic, kneading, rolling, piercing, and shaping clay. They are learning vocabulary pertaining to sculpture in Hebrew and at the same time learning the basics of sculpture. The students are busy working the clay while simultaneously describing their activities in Hebrew. As they knead, they run through a verb conjugation in present tense: Ani lashah chomer, Tovah lashah chomer (I knead the clay, Tovah kneads the clay).