Jewish Education and the Arts: Realizing the Potential

Sep. 08, 2010

Source: JESNA


To help Jewish education fully take advantage of the power and potential of arts, Avoda Arts , the Foundation for Jewish Culture , and JESNA’s Lippman Kanfer Institute joined forces in 2009, with support from the Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation, to explore potential strategies for expanding and enhancing the role of the arts in K-12 Jewish education. This report summarizes their findings as of September 2010.

Over a period of several months, professionals and lay leaders from the three agencies guided a multi-dimensional research and planning process aimed at illuminating the current state of the field and identifying needs and ways of meeting these.

The planning process included three major elements:

  1. A set of preliminary meetings with a small group of artists, educators, and funders to clarify the scope and objectives of the project;
  2. Research, including a literature review on the case for the arts, a preliminary mapping of the field and of model programs, and interviews with more than two dozen Jewish educators and artists about their perceptions of needs and opportunities;
  3. A two-day convening involving three dozen activists in arts and education, including experts from beyond the Jewish community, to consider current “best practices” and to make recommendations for specific initiatives to strengthen the use of the arts in Jewish education in four areas: advocacy, professional development, curricular enhancement, and field-building.

This report summarizes the research conducted over the course of this planning process and the deliberations and recommendations made at the convening. The conveners will use these recommendations to develop proposals that can launch a new wave of projects and activities that will enable Jewish education to move decisively into the 21st century in its creative and widespread use of the arts to enrich the learning experience of Jewish students!


Summary of recommendations:

Four primary recommendations emerged from the March 2010 convening and the research undertaken prior to the event:

  1. Convene a group of nationally known activists and philanthropists to help fund an advocacy campaign to promote the rethinking and restructuring of educating through the arts within Jewish education.
  2. Conduct research:
    a. to assess what exists and what new ideas can be implemented
    b. to begin to identify and measure what constitutes “success”in this domain.
  3. Create high quality professional development opportunities for artists and educators
    a. Identify institutions (e.g., in higher education) that would commit to offering a professional development track for Jewish arts educators, cultivating existing artists’ and educators’ skills and aesthetic capacity.
    b. Create a program to train artists in residence, e.g., a “Lincoln Center Jewish Summer Institute”
    c. Develop continuing education programs for artist educators, e.g., a low-residency MFA program or an artist’s Beit Midrash
    d. Develop an in-service approach to professional development that leverages and supports programs and individuals who are already engaged in this work.
  4. Create a web-based “portal” and resource for the field that would include:
    a. listings of events, trainings and conferences,
    b. a database of artists available for educational programs,
    c. accessible curricular materials and resources,
    d. models of successful programs and community practices,
    e. Jewish resources relating to the arts,
    f. community-building tools for artists and educators
Updated: Jan. 11, 2011