Hello! This is Morah Shterna (the yetzirah – art educator), here to tell you about the process of creating line drawings at the Jewish Enrichment Center.
When introducing a new Jewish text to the younger children (N4 through 2nd grade) we often create line drawings to help them follow along with the text. These drawings go up in the rooms, are held up when reading the text, can be drawn on, and usually have space for the children to add their own interpretations, such as a thought bubble.
The Jewish Enrichment Center creates its own line drawings (instead of imagery that might already exist on the topic) because it is so important to us that the drawings allow for the children to have as much of their own interpretation (unhindered by our own biases and preconceptions) as possible.
As the yetzirah (art) educator, I think very deliberately about what the characters might look like and how to make them as clear as possible. I often come to text with embedded ideas of gender, race, religion, culture, etc., and it is important to me that the children can come to the text on their own, without my lens getting in the way. In order to create these drawings as unbiased as possible, they go through a drafting process and are seen and edited multiple times. It’s impossible to avoid any artistic decisions at all (such as a beard or robe) but I try to switch things up as much as possible, given that we really don’t have a strict idea about what these characters might have looked like.
Each text comes with its own challenges. For example, the text about wicked Melekh Akhav (King Akhav) had me wondering “What common cultural imagery exists surrounding an ‘angry wicked person’?” “What does a ‘good leader’ look like?” “How can I avoid falling into those harmful stereotypes or subvert them into something different?” When we continue to create the same one or two ideas of what an “angry wicked person” or a “good leader” might look like, it has the potential to create much bigger consequences later on…. real life is not so simple.
Speaking of yetzirah, please join us on Sunday, February 2, for Yom Yetzirah (day of creativity). After a potluck lunch (sign up here) at 11:45am, we will paint, glue, draw, experiment, explore, and generally be creative until 2pm. RSVP to email@example.com. I hope to see you there!