The Jewish people have given a lot to the world, but have also taken things from other cultures and traditions and adapted them beautifully into Judaism. One such example is that of the illuminated manuscript. While it is hard to date exactly when Jews started beautifying their haggadot and other holy books, the 13th through 15th centuries was the most prolific era of Hebrew illuminated manuscripts. Many of you are probably aware of one of the better-known illuminated manuscripts in Sephardi Jewish culture, the Sarajevo Haggadah (made famous by this book by Geraldine Brooks), which dates from pre-Inquisition Iberia.
Hebrew illuminated manuscripts are generally not included in the curricula of Jewish schools, but given the opportunity for artistic exploration of Jewish themes and texts, the middle school students at Kesher Newton took a stab at creating their own illuminated manuscripts this fall.
Rather than decorate haggadot or machzorim, the students were asked to grapple with some difficult Jewish texts and then reflect on them either writing or art that would later be “illuminated” though additional embellishment and adornment. The students rose to the challenge!
Led by their teachers, Pam Pistiner and Maayan Lipiner, and featuring a visit from Kesher savta and calligrapher Elaine Adler, the Kesher students created some beautiful and insightful artistic pieces as their first forays into the world of Jewish illuminated manuscripts.
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