Temple Beth-El Launches Virtual Judaic Art Course During Pandemic

Religious School students at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook have found a new way to connect to their Jewish identify during the pandemic.

A Judaic Art Course incorporates YouTube videos and Zoom learning led by an experienced art teacher to further students' engagement in Judaism.

" I feel like it's a special program to bring the Jewish cultural and arts elements to our students and a creative way to teach students in this Covid-19 environment," said Rabbi Ari Moffic, Director of Congregational Learning, Temple Beth-El, 3610 Dundee Road, Northbrook.

The program includes the curb-side pick-up of art supplies at Temple Beth-El each week by parents. The congregation's art teacher, John Gorman, creates a YouTube video for each learning module which is viewed by the students at home.

Mindy Dapin, a Northbrook resident with two children in the Temple Beth-El Religious School, reflects on the value of the Virtual Judaic Art Program. She has 4th grader, Lily and 6th grader Josh who have watched and created art for 3 sessions so far.

"My family has been a member of the temple since my son was in 2nd grade, so for 4 years," Dapin said. "We have always enjoyed the "extra" components of religious school such as cooking and art and those are the activities that we hear about."

The projects that they have produced since Mr. Gorman started teaching at Beth El are very impressive, according to Dapin. "I agree with my daughter, Lily, in that an art program allows the students to connect to Jewish culture and symbols outside of the written word.

"I think that they are able to pick up and learn more about the Holidays and culture because it is integrated into an engaging activity."

Dapin points out some of the projects her children have enjoyed include decorating and creating a spice sack for Havdalah, sketching an apple and creating a Sukkah, which in our house and evolved into an elaborate pillow fort.

"The teacher, Mr. Gorman is very engaging and his energy comes through his videos. I like that he recognizes that this is a different scenario and has fun with the videos incorporating his daughter and some of her toys (and even her bed for Sukkot."

Dapin explained Gorman integrates artistic skills, like shading, facts about the holidays and humor into each lesson. "I asked my kids today about Mr. Gorman and art. Josh said art is "100% fun" Lily said "Mr. G. gives a lot of details and instructions to the projects." "I like art because it is a little something different then just sitting and reviewing Jewish things."

You Tube Facilitates Creative Learning Opportunity

"The You Tube videos provide instructions to create the art object such as the Havdalah Spice Sack, identified as the first project for ages kindergarten through sixth grade. To the educational videos visit:

During the video, John also talks about the significance of the art object (Spice Sack) as a reminder of the "sweet things in your life, such as spending time with family on Shabbat."

For some of the older students beyond sixth grade, option will be other sort of "thought' projects based around themed paintings, exploring Jewish artists like Marc Chagall, art history ("3D Apples and a Famous Painting with an Apple."). This will include finding images in paintings with Jewish symbolism.

Additional learning modules throughout the school semester will cover the holidays of Sukkot, Simchat Torah, "What's Jewish About Pumpkins?" and "Pirkei Avot- Sayings of the ancestors quotes."

Reflecting on his virtual educator role, Gorman says, "it has been a life changing experience. I am learning as the kids learn. The strong sense of community, amazing people at TBE, has been great exposure to cultural aspects of Judaism (not being raised in a Jewish family)."

John graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Savannah College of Art and Design and currently teaches in School District 21 (Buffalo Grove-Wheeling).

Rabbi Moffic summarizes the value of the Virtual Judaic Art Program. "Our children watch other kids unbox toys, pets doing funny things and people tasting unusual foods. Why not learn and engage with Jewish art on YouTube as well?"

Jewish arts and crafts and creating Jewish cultural and ritual objects has long been a beloved part of religious school, she explained. "Because Covid-19 has limited our in-person options, we've thought outside the box about how to use their technology to bring this element to their kitchen tables."

Contact Us

For additional information about membership and the religious school, contact: Temple Beth-El, 3610 Dundee Road, Northbrook. Reach out to: Janice Hadesman, Executive Director via email: or call 847-205-9982 extension 211 or visit:

Rabbi Ari can be reached directly through her email:

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