Getting Started

Teaching with The Jewish Lens

Integrating The Jewish Lens

The Jewish Lens uses photography as a medium (a lens, if you will) to help students connect with Judaic content. The curriculum, therefore, fits naturally into both Jewish studies and art classes, and schools should feel free to involve whichever teachers and classes they feel are most appropriate. In some schools, The Jewish Lens has been taught by Judaic studies teachers; in other schools, by art or photography teachers. We have included information and resources to help those educators who feel they need additional support in either area.

We also encourage you to consider an interdisciplinary, or team-teaching, approach to the curriculum. Teachers from two different disciplines are able to provide distinctive and complementary perspectives and can support each other in areas where they may feel less proficient. The seamless integration of disciplines can also help students make relevant connections across their learning. 

The Jewish Lens works equally well as a self-contained curriculum (offered, for example, as a semester-long elective) or when integrated into other subject areas. Teachers over the years have incorporated The Jewish Lens into classes on Zionism and Israel, genealogy, world Jewry, Jewish values and the Hebrew language. The curriculum has also been used successfully as a framework to help define tzedakah projects and as a “bridge” in exchange programs between American and Israeli schools.

While the curriculum materials are designed primarily to examine Jewish values, community, and peoplehood, Ozeri’s photographs and the associated sample texts relate to a range of topic areas, including holidays, lifecycle, the Holocaust, and Israel. We encourage you to make these connections explicit whenever possible, in order to help students place their learning in a broader context.


Curriculum Organization:

The Jewish Lens curriculum is organized into four units, each of which includes a series of detailed lesson plans and suggestions for further exploration.

Unit I, “Through a Jewish Lens,” introduces the essential tools and methods of The Jewish Lens curriculum. Students learn to look critically at photographs and experiment with taking pictures. They also examine the relationship between image and text as they discover what it means to look through a “Jewish lens.”

Unit II, “Visualizing Values,” presents the concept of values, offers opportunities for exploring Jewish values in depth, and asks students to make connections among core Jewish values, images, and texts.

Unit III, “Exploring Peoplehood and Community,” encourages students to examine the diversity of the world’s Jewish communities and then turn their cameras on their own community. Students present their work in their school and/or online, thereby participating in a broader dialogue about the meaning of community and Jewish peoplehood.

Unit IIII, “Exhibiting Students work” instructs you how to create an exhibition made of students’ photographs and texts.

Depending on your time constraints, your students’ needs, and your broader curricular goals, you may not be able to cover all of the lessons outlined in each unit. We understand that and encourage you to decide for yourself how to navigate the lessons and focus the course of study for your students. We do, however, offer the following recommendations:

If you have only seven sessions to spend on The Jewish Lens, we recommend the following sequence:

(We consider these core lessons. We encourage you, if at all possible, to cover at least the six core lessons with your students.)

If you have twelve sessions to spend on The Jewish Lens, we recommend the following sequence:

If you have twenty sessions to spend on The Jewish Lens, we recommend the following sequence:

Alternatively, you might want to build your course around just one of the four main units—choosing to focus primarily on image and text (Unit I), Jewish Values (Unit II), peoplehood and community (Unit III), or Israel Education unit.

Adapting the Materials

We hope you will make the curriculum your own, and we encourage you to work with the materials in whatever ways are most comfortable for you. You can follow the lesson plans as written or use them as a starting point from which to craft your own program. You may even choose to use the photographs and other resources in this guide in completely new ways. We only ask that you share your ideas with us so they can benefit all the teachers who are using the curriculum.

 We hope the inherent relevance and flexibility of The Jewish Lens will make it a valuable tool in your classrooms for many years to come.


A Practical Guide

 Before you begin teaching The Jewish Lens, we encourage you to read through this entire guide and familiarize yourself with the program. You will need to decide how best to use the curriculum and the supplemental materials with your students (see “Using The Jewish Lens,” above). You will also need to make sure you have all the requisite classroom materials and have taken care of any necessary logistics. We strongly recommend you collect student email addresses at the beginning of the course to facilitate communication and the sending and receiving of digital photo attachments. This section will walk you through some of these materials and logistical needs.



  •  Cameras
    Student photography is a fundamental component of The Jewish Lens program, and your students will therefore need access to cameras—ideally cameras they can use both at school and at home. Although The Jewish Lens does not require students to use a particular type of camera, we strongly recommend that your students use digital cameras. This will make it easier to edit and share images. Some schools have provided digital cameras for students to use; others require students to bring cameras from home. Many students have cameras on their cell phones that are perfectly acceptable. Just make sure students are able to take pictures at a high enough resolution so that their images can be enlarged and printed for the culminating student exhibition.
    If digital photography is not an option, students may use film cameras, including disposable cameras. (If you use disposable cameras, make sure students write their names on the cameras at the beginning of the course.) Using film cameras, however, means students will not be able to share photographs immediately. Their film will have to be developed and either printed or burned onto a CD for digital viewing.
    A note about photography costs: Each school will need to set its own policy and budget regarding any expenses for camera purchase, film development, and exhibiting student work. Some schools cover all of the costs; others require students to pay. If this is an elective course, notify parents about any costs ahead of time as part of the sign-up process and include any costs in the “book order” or activities fee. We encourage you to think creatively about ways to cover expenses. Some schools have managed to get supplies donated or have local photography stores help sponsor their exhibition of student work.
  • Classroom Technology
    The Jewish Lens curriculum works best when you are able to view photographs digitally in the classroom (those taken by Zion Ozeri, as well as those taken by your students). We therefore recommend you secure access to a laptop or classroom computer and an LCD projector. Students can then email you their pictures or share them via USB port. If you do not have access to a computer and LCD projector, you will have to make prints or photocopies of photographs in order to view and share them.
    Some schools have made use of SMART Board technology. SMART Boards are touch-sensitive whiteboards that connect directly to your computer. You can control applications directly from the display, write notes digitally on the board, and save the work for later.
  • Additional Materials
    Each lesson plan outlined in this guide includes a list of required materials, but you may want to make sure you have all the necessary materials before you begin teaching the course. Here is a list of all materials recommended for teaching the full program:
    •  Laptop and LCD projector
    • All photographs by Zion Ozeri 
    • All The Jewish Lens worksheets (included in curriculum) – photocopied
    • Blackboard or chart paper
    • Student cameras
    • Magazines that can be cut up
    • Poster board, scissors, and glue
    • Thumbtacks or tape (for hanging photos and student work)
    • Several packs of small “post-its”
    • One or more dictionaries
    • “Photo Captions” and “Sample Texts” (included in curriculum)
    • World map
    • Library and/or Internet access
    • White paper and markers, crayons, or colored pencils
    • Subject Release Form (included in curriculum)
    • Mat board, Foam core, oak tag, or other material for framing and displaying student photographs
    • Double-sided tape, spray mount, glue sticks, binder clips, easels, thumbtacks, and/or pins for mounting and hanging work
    • Printer and paper or labels for printing exhibition text


Planning a Student Exhibition

It is important that students have an opportunity to present their work. This enables them not only to feel pride in their accomplishments but also to reflect on their work and understand how it fits into a larger context.

We therefore recommend you conclude your Jewish Lens program with an exhibition of student work, and engage your students actively in the process of mounting it. By participating in the process, students become more invested and have a stronger voice in communicating their ideas and vision to others. In figuring out how to organize, present, and interpret the material for others, they are forced to reflect on what it means to them. Lesson 17 (Exhibiting Your Community) outlines a structure for creating an exhibition with your class. 

Before you begin teaching the course, try to find a space in your school or elsewhere in the community that can be dedicated expressly to a student exhibition. It should be a location with good lighting and high visibility.

If you are not able to create a physical exhibition, there are other ways to present your students’ work when the time comes. However you decide to present students’ work, try to come up with a game plan before you begin teaching. For example:

  • You can create a digital slideshow of your students’ photographs to show to parents, other classes, or members of the school community. Your virtual exhibition could be put on display in the school or uploaded to the school’s or synagogue’s website.
  • It has become increasingly easy and inexpensive to create professional-looking photo books using online tools. You can design them yourself and incorporate your students’ photos and texts into the layout. and are two popular sites that offer this service. Feel free to contact The Jewish Lens for more information.
  • In addition, we invite you to send us your students’ photos and texts so they can be posted on The Jewish Lens website. This brings their work to an even larger audience, including young people in other communities who have participated in the project. Viewing the photos of students from other schools along with their own will provide a new context for understanding their own work and an opportunity to see how others have approached a similar task. It also enables diverse communities of students to connect with each other. Please contact The Jewish Lens staff for directions about how to post your students’ work.

Please note: Students’ parents must give permission for their children’s work and names to be posted on the main Jewish Lens website. There is a student release form in the “Forms and Letters” section of this guide that you can send out for parents to sign.


Parental Involvement

The impact of The Jewish Lens curriculum is enhanced when parents are involved in the project. There are many ways to involve them. You might, for example, ask them to help in the planning and execution of the student exhibition. If any parents are photographers or visual artists (either professionally or as a hobby), you might invite them to share their expertise with the students. We also encourage parents to visit the project website and explore the photographs and resources that are available there.

 In addition, we strongly recommend you send a letter to parents before the program begins in order to:

  •  inform them about the project
  • invite them to a kickoff meeting and/or culminating event
  • share a timeline with essential dates and deadlines
  • solicit assistance in securing cameras and other supplies
  • ask for their help in finding exhibition space or other support

You can use the Sample Letter to Parents about The Jewish Lens Project.


The Jewish Lens Staff Support

The Jewish Lens offers ongoing support throughout the year. If you’re looking for project ideas, resources, curriculum clarifications, or technical advice—or if you just need someone to share your successes and frustrations with—please give us a call or drop us a line. We’re here to help you.


A Note on Student Learning Assessment

The lessons outlined in this curriculum guide incorporate a variety of student activities, including small-group discussions, research assignments, observation exercises, creative responses, and student reflection. We encourage you to use these assignments as the basis for evaluating student learning as necessary.

 You may also want to have students keep a journal of their experiences. Journaling creates a space for students to reflect on their own experiences and their learning. You can periodically collect the journals, read the students’ comments, and respond to them, in order to evaluate student learning and establish a direct dialogue with them about their work.

You might, for example, ask students to respond to a couple of open-ended questions or prompts at the end of each session or for homework. For example:

  •  Describe today’s class. 
  • What was most interesting to you? Why? 
  • What was least interesting to you? Why? 
  • What are you looking forward to in future classes?

Feel free to photocopy and distribute Student Reflections for students to complete.

 Toward the end of the project, please ask your students to complete Student Evaluation to help you improve the program for future classes. Please also consider sharing their feedback, and yours, with the Jewish Lens staff to help us improve our offerings.

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