Can the Arts Foster Serious Jewish Learning?

Mar. 03, 2011

Source: HaYidion, Winter, 2011


Bradley Solmsen and Rachel Happel describe how BIMA: the Brandeis Institute for Music and Art creates an environment where artistic exploration and Jewish exploration can and should be one and the same.


They suggest a number of directions which day schools could adopt to move in this direction.

They suggest the following:

"Professional artists who happen to be Jewish can be found in every community. Consider inviting professional artists into your school to work with your students, and provide the appropriate setting and materials to create an environment for high level artistic work. We have found this to be fundamentally different from the experience students have with art teachers or Jewish educators who use the arts as a tool.


When you treat and relate to students as serious emerging artists themselves, this increased level of intensity can spill over into the entire learning environment of the school.


Consider a broader definition of “text” for your school’s beit midrash or other study opportunities. Bring works of art as texts to be studied or as commentaries on traditional texts. Music, visual arts and literature, for example, can often engage students in ways that traditional texts cannot. Consider creating opportunities for students to respond to texts sing an artistic process in addition to more traditional chevruta approaches.


Create arts-infused learning opportunities for your faculty. Adding the arts to professional development can provide faculty with new ways to be engaged and consider subject matter, pedagogy, and the school’s Jewish community from new perspectives.


If you have artists on your faculty, allow them opportunities to present their own work and to serve as models of people who are engaged— seriously—in both arts and Jewish life.

We believe that the arts can serve as a portal to unlock creative expression within students far beyond the range of artistic forms. Artistic expression can inspire the creative reading of text and creative approaches to ritual, belief and commitment. In short, the arts can endow students with the creativity, confidence and flexibility to engage with Judaism with their hearts and souls."

See the full article at HaYidion.

Updated: May. 13, 2012