The Art of the Hebrew Name

“I truly believe in the power and magic of the arts as a vehicle for Jewish engagement,” says Elyssa Moss Rabinowitz.  Rabinowitz is co-founder of Israel’s Kol HaOt, which provides interactive Jewish educational art programs. She is also the Director of the Teacher Institute for the Arts (TI Arts) which is what brought her to Pardes for a special two day student and faculty program, January 23-24th. The Art of the Hebrew Name is an unique project designed to help students artistically express the meaning of their Hebrew name.  

In preparation, students explored the meaning of their Hebrew names by asking their parents who they are named after and how their names reflect the hopes their parents had for them when they were born. Each grade enjoyed their own special session which began with students sitting in a tight circle and sharing their information.

For students in Kindergarten through Second grade, the highlight was on the first letter of their Hebrew names, while Third and Fourth graders explored their entire Hebrew names. “My name starts with a Yud,” announced Yehuda.  Miryam shared that hers begins with a Mem. Eyton revealed that his name means “strength”, while Mia said that her name means “gift from God.”  For emphasis, students worked together to position their bodies into the actual letter shapes.  Afterwards, everyone sat at tables to trace their letter or full Hebrew name (depending on the grade) on paper. Then they filled their page with colorful designs to reflect their name’s meaning and who they are as individuals. Miryam filled her Mem with a colorful drawing of Moses in a basket floating down the river,  Eloise, who’s Hebrew name is Ruth, filled her Resh with a rainbow of her favorite colors and Mia drew the story of her unique entrance into this world. Popular themes for the boys included sports, science and video games.

The highlight for Middle School students was looking at special cards with the art of Hillel Smith who created 52 posters depicting each Torah portion, with the Hebrew title artfully integrated into the design.  Our students were highly adept at identifying each Torah portion and it’s meaning. Afterwards, they set to work drawing their entire Hebrew names which they decorated with depictions of their meanings and personal interests.

Teachers enjoyed a fulfilling after-school program where Rabinowitz discussed the beauty and significance of linking Hebrew and art. January’s program was the second of several projects the Pardes TI Arts team, (consisting of our Jewish Studies teachers and art teacher), will be bringing to Pardes this year . It is all part of the school’s endeavor to bring life to the festival holidays of Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot.

Be on the lookout for more information about The Haggadah Project, a very exciting integrative program where each class will examine portions of the Passover Seder and bring them to life through artwork to be incorporated into a special Pardes Haggadah.  The one-of-a-kind Haggadah will be made available to Pardes families and others in the community.