Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Jewish Academy of Orlando teachers participate in year-long fine arts initiative


September 14, 2018

Ten Jewish Day schools from around the country, as well as the leaders, mentors and teachers from the Teacher Institute for the Arts at Camp Ramah in Ojai, California.  Representing Jewish Academy of Orlando are Alan Rusonik, head of school, Fanny Sernik, Judaic Studies teacher, and Penny Goldstein, Art teacher.

The fine arts program continues to grow at Jewish Academy of Orlando. This summer, JAO was one of 10 schools selected to participate in a grant by the highly prestigious Teacher Institute for the Arts program, sponsored by Kol HaOt Art Institute of Jerusalem. This program is run under the auspices of American/Israeli artist David Moss. Teachers were trained to utilize cutting-edge techniques to integrate art and Judaic studies.

"Exploring Jewish texts and values through the visual arts is one of the most effective ways to cultivate creativity and to instill in-depth connections to Judaism," said Alan Rusonik, head of school. The Teacher Institute for the Arts was established to train and empower day schools to integrate the visual arts into formal Jewish education.

The program consists of a summer Institute followed by a year of mentoring and practical implementation. Teams of 1-2 Jewish Studies teachers along with 1-2 art teachers from day schools across North America are provided with the tools to integrate the arts into the Jewish Studies curricula at their schools. Each school team is assigned a mentor to work with them throughout the program to create and implement a creative arts based project.

"The training to integrate fine arts with Jewish Studies was an incredible and transformational experience," added Morah Penny Goldstein, Jewish Academy of Orlando Art teacher. "We have grown our toolbox exponentially and we are very excited to implement these new strategies," said Goldstein.

Jewish Academy of Orlando's mentor is Rabbi Matt Berkowitz, a cofounder of Kol HaOt. Rabbi Matt has synthesized his diverse roles as rabbi, educator and artist. Formally trained in Jewish scribal art, he is a ketubah illuminator, and has created the limited-edition artist portfolio Passover Landscapes: Illuminations on the Exodus, which is part of major library collections.

David Moss, the found of the program, has implemented his inspired, visionary approach to Jewish studies in schools, camps, and Federations across the US. His projects-which range from creating imaginative books, prints, ritual objects, and educational programs, to designing communal buildings-are all deeply based in Jewish texts and traditions. Moss's work has been displayed throughout the world, but he is probably best known for his Hagaddah, which was originally created in 1983 as a unique private commission that took three years to produce. He is a much sought after lecturer and artist-in-residence.

Rusonik attended the training. "It was a remarkable and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study with David Moss and to collaborate with colleagues around the country," said Rusonik.

"We are delighted to offer our students yet another unique opportunity to integrate multiple disciplines to augment their love of learning," added Rusonik

To learn more about the Jewish Academy of Orlando, please visit https://www.jewishacademyorlando.org or follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JewishAcademyOrlando.


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