Jewish Art and Visual Culture course planned

Jewish Federation of St. Louis is planning a seven-session course examining “Jewish Art and Visual Culture,” starting Thursday, Nov. 19 and continuing the third Thursday of each month, through May.  

Participants will examine the ways Jewish identity has surfaced within and been and been influenced by the visual arts.  This course is designed to provide insight and inspiration for those that embrace and continue to explore Jewish heritage and Jewish life through the lens of Jewish visual arts.  The course will culminate with a local tour of selected synagogues’ art collections. Each session costs $20. For more information or to register contact Cyndee Levy, [email protected] or 314-442-3754 or go to 

Classes planned are:   

• Nov. 19: Rabbi James Stone Goodman will lead a tour and discussion of German-born artist Anselm Kiefer’s installation “Breaking of the Vessels” at the St. Louis Art Museum. The class will explore the visual arts as text, examining the intersection between visual art and Jewish textual integrity. Goodman serves Neve Shalom Congregation and performs with several musical groups in St. Louis, all of which specialize in original materials based on traditional themes, integrating story and music in a performance art form.  

• Dec. 17:  Rabbi Hyim Shafner of Bais Abraham Congregation leads “Torah through the Eyes of Contemporary Religious Art,” encouraging a new way of seeing the Torah and midrash as informed by contemporary paintings and the deep Biblical insights they reveal.  


• Jan. 21: Helene Gottesmann will lead “What is Jewish Art?” The class will include a survey of ancient Jewish art, including early pottery, coins, funerary art, floor mosaics and painted narrative frescos in synagogues. Gottesmann, a native St. Louisan, is a ceramic artist who has a Ph.D. in public health from the University of Illinois School of Public Health and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Missouri.   

• Feb. 18:  Artist Tsila Schwartz will lead “Jewish Symbols,” exploring Jewish religious texts, such as ketubot and amulets, focusing and discussing explain the meaning of the symbols that reoccur in Jewish religious art. Schwartz is a native of Jerusalem and a folk artist who specializes in ketubot (Jewish wedding contracts) and other Jewish texts.   

• March 17:  Rabbi Lane Steinger of Shir Hadash Reconstructionist Community will lead a class on the development of synagogue architecture from antiquity to the present day.

• April 21: “Art as Social Practice,” will explore the concept of Art as a Social Practice through the work and experience of St. Louis-based sculptor Ilene Berman. Her practice is based on her belief that art can and should change the world. 

• May 12:  A Guided Tour of Local Synagogue Art —  tour guide to be announced.