Transforming Jewish Education by integrating creativity and the arts
into classrooms to strengthen engagement,
spiritual growth, and connection.
Torah Arts includes our Parsha through the Arts pilot outreach program at Yeshiva Girl’s Elementary and Middle Schools of Pittsburgh. Since 2015, Tzohar Seminary students have been leading creative experiences that deepen student understanding and appreciation of Jewish concepts and life lessons. Based on this pilot program, Torah Arts is developing a replicable Parsha through the Arts™ curriculum for Hebrew Schools and Day Schools of all Jewish denominations across North America. Torah Arts is also embarking on a collaboration with Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh to integrate the arts in a school-wide Torah curriculum with the purpose of reaching and engaging more students. This program includes a teacher training element.
The pedagogical method of Torah Arts is arts integration, a robust approach to teaching and learning. This approach involves the creation of an art product and the creative process where the artistic experience itself has educational value. The creative learning experience unites three core elements: Torah, Arts, and Student. Authentic integration consists of an intrinsic connection between a Torah lesson and an Art form that is relevant and meaningful to the student, or group of students. Students gain knowledge in Torah as well as in Dance, Media Arts, Literary Arts, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts, and through their creative experience, connect more deeply to themselves and ultimately to G-d.
Why Torah Arts?
What do our students need? To enliven and personalize their learning and to bring emotional and social growth to the forefront of the classroom along with intellectual growth and knowledge of the material. To bring school from a place of work also back to a place of play, where joyful growth and connection to Torah and HaShem happen daily in school, and where children can’t wait to return every day.
Arts integration involves the whole student. The arts are deeply personal, and at the same time, offer inspiration and common ground to students of different perspectives and backgrounds. In addition to building healthy social connections, the process of creating supports emotional well-being by enabling self-awareness, constructive expression of feelings, and strong self-esteem. To boot, it helps educators understand the emotional landscape of each student. Last but certainly not least, the arts refine the intellect by challenging learners to reflect on their own understanding. Through grasping, synthesizing, and articulating essential concepts, students can then decide how best to bring those ideas to life in physical form and communicate their ideas to others.
Artistic expression makes visible the unseen, unites spiritual and physical by translating concepts and values into concrete form. This creative process enables students to internalize and personalize their understanding in Torah, provides teachers with a tool to assess student knowledge and growth, and elevates creative expression to ‘kedusha’ (holiness) in a way of ‘b’chol deracheha deihu’ – fulfilling the potential of everything in this world to be used for a good purpose.
How Did Torah Arts Evolve?
In 2015, a core group of Tzohar Seminary madrichot interested in changing Jewish education developed this program with us. The students at Yeshiva Girls Schools of Pittsburgh looked forward all week to their creative parsha classes. These classes -- featuring a core lesson from the Parsha experienced through an art form -- helped the students learn away from desks, engaging socially and emotionally, and developing their creative and artistic selves. The integration of arts and creativity in their Jewish learning opened up pathways of understanding for all kinds of learners, and helped students realize their unique talents and what they could offer their peers.
During the 2017-18 school year, six students who comprised a second year cohort within Tzohar Seminary to study Torah and Education, continued to facilitate Parsha through the Arts experiences in Grades 2 through 8 at Yeshiva Girls School of Pittsburgh. On a weekly basis, these students studied, planned, and led creative art experiences, deepening their student’s understanding and appreciation of key Jewish concepts and life lessons. This was the next step toward the development of a replicable curriculum for schools of all Jewish denominations across North America.
What we have discovered has the potential to be a game changer for Jewish education. Torah Arts is currently developing a Parsha through the Arts™ curriculum for Hebrew Schools and Day Schools of all Jewish denominations across North America. Torah Arts is concurrently developing a model for how creativity and the arts can be integrated into school-wide Torah curricula with the purpose of reaching and engaging more students. Coupled with Jewish education in history, textual sources, and traditions, the creative arts nurture a love for Judaism and provide an internalizing experience for why each student’s voice matters and how each student can contribute to the Jewish community and the larger world.
For more information about purchasing our Parsha through the Arts™ curriculum for your school, or to learn more about the possibility of integrating creativity and the arts into Kodesh studies, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 412-521-1197.
Watch a panel discussing the origins of Parsha through the Arts at Tzohar Seminary.