Life of Jewish Art

Comments and discussion about the role of Jewish visual arts in Jewish civilization.

Students Connect Jewish Art and Sacred Texts

RAVSAK, a national Jewish community day school network, has always sought to identify unique opportunities to build stronger connections to Jewish art and sacred texts and enhance the creative potential of our students. 

Three years ago, in support of that mission, we launched the RAVSAK Judaic Art Contest for elementary, middle and high schools. This year, students from 20 schools studied a text-rich and thought-provoking curriculum, discuss the material in class and arrive at their own understanding of the subject. Students then translated their interpretations into artwork as photography, sculpture and visual arts.FirstPlaceSculpture HighSchool TalyAkermanAmericanHebrewAcademy This year's theme, "Creating Together," was taken from the 2013 curriculum produced by our partner, the Global Day of Jewish Learning. Winners are concentrated in categories reflecting their school year and format and arranged as clickable galleries online.

The RAVSAK Judaic Art Contest counts schools of all sizes among its participants. Especially for small schools in isolated communities, the art contest serves as a bridge, connecting students with the wider day school field by equalizing their contributions and adding their voice to the conversation. The only program of its kind, the contest's growing popularity is a direct result of the value and learning it brings to day schools nationwide.

This year, our students work was judged by renowned and distinguished individuals including, Jason Hutt, a digital media artist and film director; Tirtzah Bassel visual artist and a member of the visual arts faculty at the Brandeis Institute for Music and Art; and Dr. Judah Cohen, associate professor of musicology and professor of Jewish Culture at Indiana University. Winners have their works highlighted on the RAVSAK website and in our prestigious journal HaYidion.

We invite you to browse the 2014 winners of the RAVSAK Judaic Art Contest and read the artist's artistic statements. Additional galleries of all 400+ entries are available on RAVSAK's Flickr page, linked from the RAVSAK art contest website above. 

"The RAVSAK Judaic Art Contest not only helps students develop their artistic expression, but reinforces the links between creativity and Jewish tradition. By interpreting texts and creating visually stunning works that relate the words and narratives to their own experience and understanding, participants gain a meaningful appreciation for Judaism and develop a deeper sense of Jewish literacy," said Dr. Marc N. Kramer, Executive Director of RAVSAK. 

"What an amazing opportunity you created for our students; RAVSAK's compilation of extraordinary talent in the arts is so inspiring! Our students learned as a community, and then an amazing thing happened: sixth-grade students studied creation with first graders. Children talked about their understandings of BIG topics like God, and love, and creativity. I had the clear experience that our children were truly partnering in the work of creation. Thank you for allowing our children's creativity to roam, and for highlighting those students whose self-expression lived through the arts. We LOVED being part of this project," said Alina Gerlovin Spaulding, Head of School at The Akiva School in Nashville, Tennessee.

"This amazing opportunity gives our students an exciting platform to bring together two passions: the arts and Jewish text. RAVSAK's Judaic Art Contest encourages participants to artistically express themselves in creative enriching ways through their interpretations of Torah. We are excited to be a part of this project." Karen Feller, Head of School at Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton, Florida.

We are honored to bring the RAVSAK Judaic Art Contest to students across the country and look forward to expanding the program next year to include even more schools.

Learn more about RAVSAK online at www.ravsak.org. We also invite you to Like us on Facebook (Facebook.com/ravsak) and follow us on Twitter (@RAVSAK).

 

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Being an Artist of Life

In 2010, Rabbi Daniel moved to Philadelphia to start a Chabad House for the various visual and performing arts colleges in the city, founding The Kugel Collaborative, a Jewish student art gallery in February, 2012:

Every artist must have a muse. Every piece of art must have a source of inspiration. An artist is essentially a specialized mystic, their work serving as the gateway into subtler realms of reality. The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes the following to an artist in March of 1951:

“…the primary talent of an artist is his ability to step away from the externalities of the thing and, disregarding its outer form, gaze into its innerness and perceive its essence, and to be able to convey this in his painting. Thus the object is revealed as it has never before been seen, since its inner content was obscured by secondary things. The artist exposes the essence of the thing he portrays, causing the one who looks at the painting to perceive it in another, truer light, and to realize that his prior perception was deficient.”

A Jew is charged with the task of being an artist of life. Our canvas is the thin (sometimes thick) veil that is draped over existence, creating a perceived sense of plurality and separateness from G-d.

Our brushes and instruments are the mitzvos. The muse is our study of Torah. When we employ our latent abilities, we can remove this veil that obscures our own eyes, but more importantly we remove it for others. The world does not declare one an artist if their work is never exUntitled by Jeremy Terner, University of the Artsperienced by another, and one cannot live up to the name of being a Jew, if they do not help others experience G-dliness in their own lives.

This is the atmosphere and sense of connection that we try to create among young, developing Jewish artists in Philadelphia. Our gallery connects pieces originally made with no apparent connection to Judaism at all. However, we always tell our students, that if they made it, it must be a Jewish piece! The Jewish soul longs to be expressed in every facet of life, and art serves as that conduit.

Sometimes it just takes another person to point out to the artist how deeply their subconscious is connected to Torah and how it is manifest in their work. The Kugel Collaborative serves to forge that connection and bring it out of the subconscious realm, so that our students can actively learn about, meditate upon, and question how their Judaism informs their art, and how their artwork expresses their Jewish identity.

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