Tzohar Seminary expands offerings, creates Tzohar Arts
search
Amplifying approachConnecting Chasidism and art

Tzohar Seminary expands offerings, creates Tzohar Arts

A decade after it's founding, Tzohar Seminary reenergizes its engagement

Drawing created by current Tzohar Seminary student Ellie Bauer.
Drawing created by current Tzohar Seminary student Ellie Bauer.

Like Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel, whose amps famously went to 11, Amy Guterson understands the value of moving beyond 10.

Guterson is the founder and artistic director of Tzohar Seminary, currently celebrating its 11th year.

The seminary is a post-high school program for girls that enables them to integrate their creative talents with the teachings of Chasidic Judaism.

Guterson grew up in an Orthodox home but stepped away from her observance while working as an actor in New York, she said.

When she eventually returned to her Orthodox roots, she wanted to find a way to combine Torah study, Chasidism and the arts.

It was important for her, she said, to create a space where young women could embrace all parts of themselves — including their artistic side.

Hidden Worlds, created by Tzohar Seminary student. Photo provided by Tzohar Arts.

As it moves beyond its first decade, Tzohar Seminary is expanding. A new umbrella organization, Tzohar Arts, was created that includes Tzohar Seminary, Tzohar Women and Torah Arts programs.

Rabbi Dovid Hordiner, director of education for Tzohar Seminary, said the expansion is an outgrowth of a program started in 2015 called “Parsha Through the Arts.”

The seminary has piloted that program at Yeshiva Schools, he said. Students from Tzohar Seminary are trained in education and teaching and use that training to teach students at the day school lessons based on the weekly Torah portion using art.

“For example, if we’re trying to teach how God is present in our lives, even if we don’t see Him, that might be reflected through negative space in visual art,” he explained.

These works of Notan art exemplify the use of negative space which expresses the idea of resting on Shabbos as a time to pause, reflect, and appreciate our greater purpose and meaning in life. Photo by Rivky Davidson.

The idea is to make the pilot program available to schools across the world, Hordiner said.

“Torah Arts,” Hordiner said, will help schools integrate art into the wider Jewish curriculum and service all children,

“Whether they have pronounced and unique talents in certain artistic areas, all children have the power for creativity and can use their creativity in school,” Hordiner said. “Engaging in the arts gives students the experience of working though the creative process, and through doing so, they gain skills not only in the creative arts, but also in their intellectual, social, and emotional development.”

The new program, he said, will help day schools reach creative students who might not respond well to traditional lessons but are interested in the six main art forms: visual arts, theater, film, dance, music and creative writing.

Tzohar Women was formed from feedback from older relatives of the young women studying at Tzohar Seminary. Mothers, grandmothers, sisters and friends asked for the opportunity to learn.

Tzohar Women’s first initiative was a six-week course. In-person classes were disrupted by COVID-19, but the course was completed online. Now that pandemic restrictions have subsided, Tzohar Women will be restarted by offering classes, retreats and other programs that involve Chassidus, the arts, personal growth and healing, and community building to women of all ages.
Those interested in learning more about the expansion can do so at the organization’s new website, tzohararts.com. Tzohar Seminary is also showcasing its decade of arts and Torah on its YouTube channel, featuring more than 80 offerings from former students and artists, videos about the organization and more.

Former student Sima Goldstein studied at the seminary when she was 18. She said that she was initially resistant to the program.

“As an artist, I wasn’t interested in being with other artists,” she said.

Parsha Through the Arts students were tasked with drawing self-portraits while looking in a mirror. The lesson illustrated that each person is special and unique in G-d’s eyes. The drawing forced the students to focus on their insides, recognizing G-d considers each of us special because he gave us a soul. Photo provided by Tzorah Arts.

After learning more about the seminary, Goldstein applied and said the school has been a continuous part of her life ever since.

Goldstein is studying art and psychology in college. She came to Tzohar Seminary with a background in painting but said the school taught her about other disciplines.

“I learned some guitar,” she said. “I learned how to make a film. I got exposed to all types of art. I also learned improv there.”

Goldstein said that the mixture of art and Torah helped reinforce lessons she had learned in high school: Everyone is created in God’s image and God creates the world with his process of creativity.

“It helped me get a glimpse into the understanding of what God’s process is,” she said.

Goldstein, whose work can be found at simartistry.com, said she’s excited for Tzohar Seminary’s expansion.

“It’s really cool because when you meet people who have gone to Tzohar before you, or after you, there’s such a sisterhood, even though I don’t know them,” she said. “If there’s an opportunity to expand that and give more people the opportunity to engage with the light of Torah, that’s obviously incredible.”

The Tzohar class of 2022 will present a live collaborative performance of writing, art, film, music and theater on June 9 at the Eddy Theater at Chatham University. Tickets can be purchased by calling 412-521-1197. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

read more:
comments