Jewish Learning Through the Cultural Arts

What happens when Jewishly-identified visitors participate in Jewish cultural arts experiences? What do they learn about themselves, and about Judaism as a communal experience? How are they changed by what they see, touch, hear or taste?

Visitors at museum display

Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History

Photo Credit: G. Widman/Visit Philadelphia

Find out more about the findings of this study and view the Zoom video from the event, Learning About Learning: A Conversation with Professor Laura Yares | Learning at a Jewish Museumwhere Project Director Laura Yares talked with Jon Levisohn.

This project focuses on the distinctive forms of Jewish learning that can occur when individuals and groups experience the cultural arts. Learning in cultural arts contexts is a broad field of inquiry, inclusive of both content transmission (learning new information), as well as affective learning about self, identity and community. Focused on adult learners, this project utilizes ethnographic research methods — including interviews, observational and digital fieldwork, audio diaries, and content analysis — to explore how learning about Judaism happens outside of formal classroom settings and during leisure time.

The project seeks to explore learning experiences across five sites. In 2019 research began with a study of 30 young adult visitors to the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It has continued with the creation and reception of Saturday Night Seder (an online fundraiser and communal celebration of the Passover holiday), and a popular Facebook site for fans of the Israeli television series Shtisel. Additional sites will include Sephardic/Mizrachi music and visual arts creative experiences.

Publications

  • Yares, L. “Exit Through the Gift Shop: Affective Learning and Millennial Jewish Consumer Culture at the National Museum of American Jewish History,” Material Religion (forthcoming 2022)

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