Instagram Your Jewish Identity

June 23, 2016

Source: Dream Lab


When I asked my class to tell me about their Jewish Identity on day one, I got the answers you would expect. "I'm Jewish because my parents are Jewish," "I don't have any feelings about it. I'm just Jewish," and the dreaded, "I don't know what to say about it." That first day we talked about how it's okay not to know. I told them I wasn't looking for the "right answer." I let them know we would be spending 7 weeks asking the question and that all of our answers would be different. I was more interested in the process than I was in the product and my students were intrigued by that.

All but one of my students used the camera in their phone to take photographs. At first I was concerned that this wouldn't be a real photography class if we weren't using traditional cameras. What I discovered very quickly was that by allowing them to use their phones, I was letting them express themselves using a tool that they are already extremely comfortable with. Their phones are already such a huge part of their lives that it made the most sense to have that be their instrument of exploration. I was calling the class, "Instagram Your Jewish Identity" after all. Although, we weren't actually creating Instagram accounts, this title was a shorthand for what I was asking them to accomplish during our time together.

Over the next several weeks there were assignments, such as photographing their Jewish home and taking pictures around the synagogue that you feel represent your feelings about God. I would have them text me their favorite images, upload them to an online gallery and then show them to the class on my ipad. Each student lit up when it was time to talk about their photos and they became more and more confident with their work each week. By the 6th class they had all selecting a single image that they felt best expressed how they feel about their Jewish Identity. Then, they wrote a paragraph explaining why.

During our last class together, they framed their enlarged images and wrote the final drafts of the descriptions that would accompany their photographs at the end of the year exhibition. When asked to talk about their Jewish identity, they now found the words. And, they were uniquely their own. They spoke them with confidence and without apology. They all seemed to say, "Look at this photograph. This is who I am. I am Jewish. I am here. I am me."

Read the entire post and see some of the students' photographs on the Dream Lab Blog.

Updated: Aug. 10, 2016