Digital Storytelling and Jewish Identity

February 13, 2010

Source: Jewpoint0


David Frank, photographer and educator, writes a beautiful blogpost about helping to create Jewish identity by digitally recording the important moments of the Jewish Life Cycle and cherishing them thus allowing us to "translate our busy, sometimes chaotic lives into the illustrated narratives that, upon reflection, help us understand who we are, where we fit and what we mean."


Frank writes:

"Here is a small example of what I am getting at. I have spent about an equal number of years in my life working as a Jewish educator and as a photographer. Recently, I have begun to photograph bar/bat mitzvahs – but with what I believe is an interesting twist that incorporates the sensibilities of both.


It is not just about a party. And it is certainly not about lining up the family and at my prompt encouraging them to, “Say cheese.” In fact, I do as little directing as possible. Just like you can with your cell cameras at the ready, I am after stories from real life. I begin months before photographing the child studying, working with the rabbi and cantor, documenting the mitzvah project, the party planning, the suit/dress shopping, anything related to any aspect of what is involved in a 21st Century bar/bat mitzvah – taking pictures that ultimately give me the raw material to tell a much bigger story. Now a trusted confidant, I interview the child exploring what they make of all the attention being heaped upon them, their Torah reading, their expectations, and their fears. I talk to the parents about their child, their aims for the event, their Jewish identities and what they hope to pass on to their children. Then I weave a narrative – words and pictures – and I put them in a book – a personal history book that can play an important role in helping a family define and express the meaning of the experience….


You have the tools. You have the digital means to enter the rush of ones and zeros and use it to stop time, to write histories, to interpret the present in service of the future, to fill the histories of those around you with the memories of Jewish moments. And these moments make meaning. They illustrate the narratives through which we come to know who we are."

Updated: Feb. 18, 2010