About The Jewish Lens
The Jewish Lens program is a multi-session, sequential curriculum meant to be used with middle-school and high-school students, in day school, congregational school, and community settings.
The curriculum is designed to engage students actively in learning about the values that are important in their Jewish communities. It uses the arts as a means to help young people connect intellectually and emotionally with their traditions. Along the way, students develop skills in visual literacy, text study, and photography. By the end of the program, they gain competence and a sense of accomplishment in creating and displaying their own work.
These are some of the core elements of The Jewish Lens curriculum:
- Jewish Values, Community, and Peoplehood
The Jewish Lens uses the work of renowned photographer Zion Ozeri as a stimulus for an investigation of Jewish values and community. Ozeri’s photographs capture the unity and diversity of the world Jewish community—reflecting the values and traditions that have defined Jewish existence across the globe for centuries. His work is a natural springboard for student explorations into these important topics.
Through student-centered activities, participants in The Jewish Lens examine the role Jewish values play in connecting the diverse Jewish communities of the world and in defining their own communities. Students come to see photographs as rich documents of Jewish life and learn to make connections among these images, written texts, and Jewish practice. Students not only develop their skills in “reading” these photographic texts but ultimately create their own visual documents reflecting Jewish life and community.
- Visual Literacy
Every day, our students are bombarded with visual stimulation—on the Internet, on TV and movie screens, even on their phones. How do we help them make sense of the images they see? How do we enable them to become critical consumers of visual culture?
One way is by slowing down their looking—getting students to think about the images they observe; the inferences, assumptions, and interpretations they make; the context and medium of the messages; and the author’s point of view.
Like written documents, photographs (and other visual media) can be thought of as “texts” to be read. And as is the case with written texts, one must first identify the surface meaning of an image in order to get at the deeper understandings and interpretations. This is similar to the difference between p’shat and drash in the study of traditional Jewish texts. The p’shat is the simple meaning of a text; drash refers to its interpretation. The ability to discern fact from interpretation and the ability to draw inferences based on what is observable are important skills that have relevance beyond the realm of the visual arts.
- Text Study
Written texts have always been central to Jewish life and Jewish education—we are, after all, the “people of the book”—and this program in no way is meant to suggest that photographs should supplant or diminish the importance of the traditional texts. Rather, photography is introduced as a complementary medium, enhancing students’ ongoing study of Jewish values, community, and text. Photography and other artistic modes have the power to shine new light on traditional sources and create rich opportunities for personal connection and expression. It is hoped that the materials in this packet will foster such connections for students.
Students may discover that the skills they have learned in connection with looking at images (for example, developing interpretations based on evidence and recognizing different perspectives) can also be applied to reading written texts. Ultimately, seeing the connection between text and image can help to illuminate both.
- Student Photography
The Jewish Lens offers students a chance to consider and experiment with the formal elements of photography. Photography is an art form—a creative medium through which we communicate ideas, emotions, and experiences. Choice of subject matter is only one aspect of photography. Just as important are the choices a photographer makes about what details to include, what to leave out, what angle to shoot from, what kind of light to use, how to arrange the elements of the picture, etc. Once students have had a chance to explore these kinds of choices, they will be able to express themselves more creatively and thoughtfully.
Although students probably have experience taking pictures, the process of editing and critiquing their photography may be new to them. It is a skill that will enable them to take their work in all areas to the next level.
The Jewish Lens is designed to address the following goals, key concepts, and skills:
Through their participation in this curriculum, students will:
- explore values that are central to Judaism
- investigate the diversity of the Jewish communities around the world
- analyze Jewish texts and make connections with contemporary Jewish life
- cultivate their visual literacy skills
- develop beginning competence in the art of photography
- experience a personal connection to Jewish values through artistic expression
- relate their investigation of Jewish values and notions of community to their own emerging identities
During this course of study, students will gain a deeper understanding of the following concepts:
- Cultural groups share core values that help guide the behavior of community members.
- Individuals usually have personal values that help guide their behavior toward others. One’s values play an important role in his or her sense of identity.
- Core Jewish values are reflected in the biblical and rabbinic texts of the Jewish tradition.
- Jewish communities around the world often have different traditions and customs but share the same core values.
- Photography can be a powerful communication tool, depicting for example, Jewish values, traditions, or elements of communal life.
- The meaning and emotional impact of a photograph is influenced by many factors, including its content, context, and composition, as well as the intention of the photographer.
Through this program, students will develop their skills in the following areas:
- Gathering, organizing, analyzing, evaluating, and synthesizing information
- Analyzing primary documents
- Using the internet and other secondary sources for research
- Forming opinions and drawing conclusions based on evidence
- Literacy and Communication
- Expository writing
- Writing for a variety of audiences
- Oral presentation
- Hebrew language skills
- Critical interpretation of Jewish texts
- Participating in small-group planning and discussion
- Expressing ideas and opinions clearly and respectfully in group discussions
- Visual literacy
- Analyzing and interpreting artworks
- Communicating through media and the visual arts
- Drawing connections between the visual arts and other disciplines
- Viewing social and cultural phenomena from a variety of perspectives
- Reflecting on personal beliefs and values
Zion Ozeri is a world-renowned photographer. In his travels, he has encountered diverse Jewish communities scattered across the world, and through his photographs he brings them together—depicting familiar customs, shared experiences, and a sense of home. His images speak to all who have altered, shaped, and reinvented their traditions, fusing old and new, familiar and unfamiliar to create rich, modern, meaningful ways of life.
Infused with a cross-cultural perspective and a mission to explore the diversity of Jewish life around the world, Ozeri captures the differences between these communities, as well as the many profound similarities that have endured across time and space. His photographs consider the forces that have kept Jews together as a people throughout the millennia and reflect on what binds Jews to their faith and to one another. Ultimately, his work asks viewers to ponder universal questions about what unites all people in their common humanity.
Zion Ozeri graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and Pratt Institute, both in New York City, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. His photographs have been exhibited in many museums and galleries. His work has also been published in numerous books, magazines, and newspapers.
Zion Ozeri, Founder and Artistic Director
Josh Feinberg, Curriculum Developer and Writer
Sharon Ayalon, The head of humanities department, CET
Hana Holland, Head of Interdisciplinary Staff, CET
Anat Besser, Professional contents developer, CET
Arielle Stein, Tech support
Jodi Sandler, Finance Director
Sandy Antignas, treasurer, New York
Ellen de Jonge-Ozeri, New York
Alisa Doctoroff, Co-founder, New York
Ruth Fisher,New York
Linda Mirels, New York
Zion Ozeri, New York
Jim Seder, Milwaukee
Randie Malinsky Z”L, New York
Dr. Daniel Gordis, Senior Vice President, Shalem Center, Israel
Deborah E. Lipstadt, Ph.D., Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies and Director, Rabbi Donald Tan Institute of Jewish Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, University Chaplain, New York University
Executive Director, Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU
Robert Chazan, Ph.D., Scheuer Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University, New York, NY
Rabbi Harlan J. Wechsler, Congregation Or Zarua, New York, NY
Leslie Teicher, Educator, New York, NY
Shmuel Adler, Project Manager, Karev for Involvement in Education, Israel
Eugene Rothman, PhD, Associate Director for Academic Development and Senior Fellow, The Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies, University of Miami, Miami, FL
Professor Haim Shaked, The Dr. M. Lee Pearce Professor of Middle East Peace Studies; Director, The Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies and The George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies; University of Miami, Miami, FL
Andrés Spokoiny, CEO and President, Jewish Funders Network
Ido Levin, Ido Levin Law Offices, Tel Aviv, Israel
Gila Ben Har, CEO, The Center for Educational Technology (CET)
Avi Warshavsky, CEO, MindCET
Dr. Miriam Heller Stern, Dean, Graduate Center for Jewish Education, American Jewish University
The Jewish Lens program is made possible by generous grants from The Covenant Foundation, UJA-Federation of New York, and private donors.
The Jewish Lens is a dynamic, interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on Jewish values and Jewish communities worldwide through the art of photography. Based on the work of photographer Zion Ozeri, whose images capture the diversity of the world Jewish community, the program encourages participants to document their own Jewish communities and curate exhibitions of their work.
Copyright © 2009 Zion Ozeri / The Jewish Lens. All rights reserved. Student Worksheets and Handouts in Teachers section are intended for the educator’s use in the classroom. For this sole purpose, materials in this section may be reproduced. No other part of this curriculum may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from Zion Ozeri / The Jewish Lens.
The development of the Jewish Lens has been supported by: