Yeshiva Art

13 Jul

Drisha Arts Fellows Explore Shabbat

By Richard McBee for the Jewish Press

Drisha Institute for Jewish Education


Who would have guessed that a yeshiva would have an Arts Program? If I had died and gone to heaven, surely the World to Come would look like this. And yet for seven years, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan the liberal women’s learning program (i.e. yeshiva), Drisha Institute for Jewish Education, has had an Arts Fellowship program that offers a year of study (in addition to their regular yeshiva courses like Talmud, Halacha, Parshanut, Biblical Hebrew and Liturgy) where Torah subjects and the arts are combined and pursued with the seriousness and determination of most men sitting and learning all day long. And it’s for women only.

The first question an artist friend of mine asked; “Why isn’t there a similar program for men?” I have no answer but hope that other Orthodox Jewish educators will feel compelled to ask themselves the same question. For what its worth, this is exactly what I have been arguing on these pages for the last ten years; i.e. that there is no contradiction between the arts, visual and otherwise, and Torah learning and observance. In fact, one legitimate and effective way of learning and interpreting Torah is through art.

The importance of this concept is exactly what founder and Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi David Silber clearly believes. His support and sponsorship of this program and the parallel Artist’s Bet Midrash has pioneered the integration of Torah and contemporary arts. On a recent Thursday evening the creative results were on display and it was very impressive.

This year’s program is composed of the artwork of eleven women spanning poetry, film, performance, music, theater, sculpture and painting. The subject they collectively explored was Shabbat. While the range of investigations was broad, the liturgical poem Yedid Nefesh by Rabi Elazar Azikri drew special attention of a number of the artists.

Jaime Wynn, director, coordinator of the Drisha Arts Fellowship and one of the artists, first translated Yedid Nefesh into English and then crafted a poem inspired by her personal 21st century vision of the difficulties of yearning to be close to God. This in turn stimulated the creation of three paintings. These acrylic paintings present a surreal meditation on Rabi Elazar Azikri’s life and work. By means of a haunting light and evocative color the paintings craft a dreamscape of objects that suggest the yearning for the Divine in the physical world.

Read the full article here.

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