November 29, 2015

An Artfully Crafted Tefillah Experience

Kim Robins, '17

What do a siddur and an embroidery needle have in common?
For the students at Golda Och Academy, both represent an opportunity to incorporate Tefillah into their daily lives.
Art Minyan as we know it today began with the inception of Tefillah electives three years ago. Since then, it has consistently battled a negative reputation. Since it aims to enhance Tefillah through creativity rather than through traditional prayer, many students see it as an “easy minyan” or as a way to get out of standard T’fillah. These rumors, however, are completely false; any student who has experienced Art Minyan firsthand can attest to its efficacy and positive atmosphere.
Students do not see Art Minyan as a less serious or less religious form of Tefillah. The participants in Art Minyan either have a genuine interest in visual arts, or are looking for their own voice in Tefillah.
“[I joined Art Minyan because] I think there is a strong correlation in Judaism between art and Tefillah,” said senior Gabi Solomon. “Art is a form of communication and expression and so is Tefillah.”
Reflecting on his time in Art Minyan, junior Yoni Wechsler noted that, “After praying, people really wanted to express how they felt in some sort of way, and ... art was their way of doing that.”
Generally, Art Minyan does not mirror or focus on the traditional liturgy. Often, the minyan’s activities are more about reflection and exploration than about adhering to the prayers. Students respond to prompts in their art journals and create embroidered challah covers, activities that build connections to Jewish holidays, liturgy and nature.
“I think Art Minyan is intended to augment the experience [of Tefillah],” said Ms. Watson, who teaches the minyan on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. “We certainly draw our inspiration for projects from Jewish texts and traditions, but Art Minyan is unique in that it allows us to apply Tefillah to ourselves in a visual, creative way.
“The process is exciting, creative and introspective.”
Art Minyan has been explosively successful, but not in the sense that it creates a magical connection to or fluency in traditional prayer. Instead, Art Minyan encourages participants to think about Tefillah through the lens of themselves. For most students, this non-liturgical approach is much more effective.
Senior Talia Solomon attested that the minyan “was successful for me, because the projects inspired me to look deeper into myself, which is an important aspect of Tefillah.”
Sophomore Emily Saperstein echoed Solomon’s sentiments.
“Art Minyan was definitely successful for me, but more in the way of connecting myself to Judaism and other people around me rather than connecting with prayers and G-d,” said Saperstein. “As long as people have a positive attitude toward projects and really focus on doing their best, this minyan can be enjoyable and successful for everyone, just as it was for me.”
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