Winter 2001-02


Jewish Studies At The University



King David: As a Cultural Hero


by Dr. Sarah Meltzer


“King David as a Cultural Hero” is an interdisciplinary, “poly-aesthetic” curriculum for secondary schools developed by the University’s Center for Jewish Education -- it draws on a variety of intellectual and artistic traditions.  It reflects an interdisciplinary approach to Bible study based in the textual and artistic traditions of Jewish, European, and Middle Eastern civilizations.  The program focuses on the many-sided figure of King David as he appears in Jewish culture and tradition as reflected in biblical, rabbinic, philosophical, theological, artistic, and archeological evidence. 

The curriculum asks students to consult various Jewish, European and Middle Eastern traditions including interpretations of ancient biblical history and poetry, representations in ancient, medieval and modern painting, sculpture, and music, and expressions of medieval and modern literature, philosophy, and theology.

      The program illuminates the figure of David as imagined by different creative artists and through various artistic forms of expression.  It allows pupils to encounter not only the David of biblical sources but also the David of lore and legend, the David of paintings and sculptures, of classical music and of sacred hymns, the David of Israeli song and cinematic art.

      In the visual field, the program examines the figure of David as reflected in works of art that create different images of him in the changing periods and cultural contexts of Judaism and other religions.  In this way, the pupils encounter David as a mythological hero, as a prophet, as a righteous and pious man.

      The program also compares David with other leaders in the past and present.  The pupils are guided in examining the ways artists idealize and glorify the images of leaders, on the one hand, yet bring them into focus as fallible, ordinary people on the other.  Thus students learn to engage leadership critically, recognizing the importance of cultural,  religious and national myths, but also demythologizing leaders by recognizing that all humans, even the very great, are prone to error.


Dr. Meltzer serves on the staff of the Center for Jewish Education, which conducts research, develops curriculum, and educates Jewish educators for Israel and the Diaspora.




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