The Jewish Lens: A Picture Says a Thousand Words

This is a guest post by Hugh Kirsch. Originally from Duluth, Hugh W. Kirsch is the Director of EDGE (a program of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation) whose mission it is to support, develop, and connect educators in Minnesota Jewish educational environments. He has a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Development & Adult Education from the University of Minnesota, is active as an actor in the local theatre scene and has been a member of the Twin Cities Jewish community for over thirty years.
In Judaism, the tradition of educating our children not only dates back to the very beginnings of Judaism itself, but throughout our rich history has been one of the foundations of our culture and faith. The duty to teach one’s children is even stated in, arguably, our most import prayer, the Shema/V’hafta. Jewish educational organizations in the Twin Cities take this charge seriously, and when a new and exciting program like The Jewish Lens (TJL) comes along, they put aside whatever geographic, focus based and or philosophical differences to form a true educational community.
The Jewish Lens is a program founded by, the internationally renowned, photographer Zion Ozeri whose vision it was to teach our children Jewish values and text through the “lens” of photography and experiential learning.
Such a curriculum allows students to observe and interact with their culture while encouraging them to create their own narrative in such a way as to form deep and lasting links to Judaism and their heritage. The Jewish Lens believes; “that arts and experiential education are important partners to traditional instruction – that pictures must go along with text in order to connect with people” throughout the course of the school year, students and teachers can share work, garner ideas and explore the curriculum through The Jewish Lens website and Facebook page, with the program culminating in a community wide initiative(s) showcasing the students work.
With this mission, as well as Zion Ozeri’s brilliant photography backing them, the executive director of The Jewish Lens contacted EDGE (a program of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation dedicated to the professional/educational development of Jewish Educational organizations throughout Minnesota) with the idea of launching a pilot program here in the Twin Cities.
Jewish educational Institutions from both sides of “The River” came together for informational meetings and to review the program. The excitement this program generated, along with the support of EDGE and The Jewish Lens, set in motion an almost unprecedented climate of unity and cooperation.
After two curriculum trainings led by TJL staff, the Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School, Temple of Aaron, Bet Shalom, the JCC of St. Paul (Camp Butwin), Talmud Torah of St. Paul, Mount Zion, Talmud Torah of Minneapolis and Beth Jacob Congregation joined approximately 200 other schools in the United States (and 50 in Israel) on a journey looking at Judaism through “The Jewish Lens”.
In this fast-paced ever-changing world, Jewish children, more than ever, need to have a strong foundation in their Judaism. This foundation is one that can serve them throughout their lives. Here, in the Twin Cities, a diverse, creative and forward thinking group of Jewish educational organizations have come together, regardless of differences in organizational structure or philosophical backgrounds, to embrace and provide their students with an experiential program that, like Mr. Ozeri and The Jewish Lens, speaks to the Judaism of children in a way they can embrace and learn.
If you would like more information, or have questions, regarding The Jewish Lens program, please contact Hugh Kirsch – Director, EDGE program at [email protected] or visit The Jewish Lens website at For updates regarding The Jewish Lens in the Twin Cities or the community wide initiative(s) to be scheduled this coming spring, please visit the new EDGE website coming December 2011 at
(Photo: andrewrennie)