The Piven Workshop: What Makes a Great Leader?

Using the art and methods of Israeli popular artist Hanoch Piven, these activities encourage campers to explore Israel's history, their own surroundings and identity, and individuals' connections to Israel. This activity consists of several modules which can be used on a mix-and-match basis. Elements can be used as quick conversation-starters or in-between activities; alternately, several components can fill an hour, half a day, or a week of activity blocks.

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Hanoch Piven is a real Israeli artist who is at the height of his career. His work runs the gamut from historically significant portraits to packages of hummus, basketball stars, and pop stars
David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel and proclaimer of Israel's Declaration of Independence, retired in his home in the desert (at Sde Boker) and advocated to see the desert "bloom"
Yitzhak Rabin was Israel's 5th Prime Minister and served again from 1992-1995 when he was assassinated for his role in creating the Oslo Accords, an attempt for peace between Israelis and Palestinians


Stage 1: Introduce Hanoch Piven (the Artist)

  • Introduce campers to the work of Hanoch Piven by showing them a selection of his portraits. Moses, Ben-Gurion, and Rabin are great to use.
  • Background:
    • Originally from South America and made Aliyah with his family as a child.
    • When, as a young man, he went to New York to study and pursue his career as an artist, he developed a new and creative style of portraiture - using a vast array of objects to put together images that looked like a person but also told a story on their own.

Stage 2: Understanding Piven's Technique

  • The best way to teach them Piven's technique and simultaneously expose them to some cool stories about Israel is by using three portraits: Moses, Ben-Gurion, and Rabin.

1. Moses

  • This picture allows campers to interact with the technique using a story that they are probably familiar with (Moses and the Exodus)
  • Hold up the Moses portrait and ask the campers to identify materials or objects (including matzah). Then ask: what might these materials symbolize?
    • They will likely find matza, gefilte fish, sand/ desert, handcuffs, chicken leg/shank bone, matzah balls, etc.
    • Help them notice that each object is one that is central to Moses' story.

2. David Ben-Gurion

  • This picture will be a bit harder for campers because they will likely not recognize Ben-Gurion, but that's OK!
  • In this case, tell campers that this is a portrait of David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister. Ask them if they know anything about him and allow them to list out anything they do. If they don't, that's OK!
  • Ask them to name anything they can recognize in the picture. As they name things, ask them first if they know why it's in the portrait, and if they don't, you can fill in the information about Ben-Gurion (listed below). Each time you give an explanation, you can also ask what they think -- they may have ideas of their own:
    • Face made of sand, twigs as hair/eye brows -- Ben-Gurion was a big believer in the Negev desert, and the importance of making the desert bloom to the survival of Israel. After he stopped being the Prime Minister, he retired to Sde Boker in the Negev. The major Israeli university in the South is Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be'er Sheva.
    • Newspaper -- He is holding a copy of Ha'aretz (literally "the land" and also the name of a major Israeli paper) announcing the creation of the state. This portrait is showing a moment in his career, the moment after he declares the Jewish state on May 14, 1948.
    • Photograph of people dancing -- this is an actual photograph of the people who danced and celebrated after the announcement of the Jewish state.
    • Nose made of boxing glove -- he was always considered a fighter
    • Bathroom -- this is a question you can throw back at them. We often think that the reason Piven put him in the bathroom is because this shows that Ben-Gurion was always so busy that the only time he could take to read the paper was in the bathroom!

3. Yitzhak Rabin

  • This is an example of a picture that relies on a single story, a single moment. While your campers can try to guess who is in the picture and what it represents, chances are they won't know, so they'll need you to tell the story.
  • Start by telling them a few important things about Rabin.
  • Explain that Piven created this picture just after Rabin's assassination. If necessary, fill in information about his assassination -- including the presence of candles all over Rabin's square immediately after the event:
    • Rabin was elected as Prime Minister for a 2nd term in 1992. During his second term in office, Rabin focused on creating peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. He played a leading role in the signing of the Oslo Accords, which granted the Palestinian National Authority partial control over parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
    • For his role in the creation of the Oslo Accords, Rabin was awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize. The accords, however, greatly divided Israeli society with some seeing Rabin as a hero for advancing the cause of peace and some seeing him as giving away land they viewed as belonging to Israel.
    • On the evening of November 4, 1995, Rabin was assassinated by a radical Jewish man who opposed the signing of the Oslo Accords. Rabin had been attending a mass peace rally in what is now known as Rabin Square, located in the middle of Tel Aviv. When the rally ended, Rabin walked down the city hall steps toward his car, at which point he was assassinated. Rabin’s assassination came as a great shock to the Israeli public and much of the rest of the world. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis came to the square where Rabin was assassinated to mourn his death by lighting memorial candles and singing peace songs.
  •  Ask the campers: Can you figure out why Piven created the portrait in this way? What do you think his head is made of? (Candle wax). This is an example of a portrait that tells the story of one moment in someone's life -- in this case his death.

 Stage 3: Creating Portraits

  • Finding meaningful objects:
    • Place a wide array of random objects on a table in front of your campers.
    • Ask the campers to take five minutes and to select one item that symbolizes something they like a lot, and one item that symbolizes something they dislike.
    • Once everyone has made a selection, invite everyone to share what they chose and their reasoning.
    • Navigate this conversation carefully, with an eye toward making everyone feel comfortable sharing and eager to express themselves through these and other objects.
  • Next, tell the campers that it's time for them to create their own self-portrait.
    • Distribute pieces of poster board (about 20" x 24") to each of the campers and invite them to visit the table filled with random objects again.
    • Depending on how much you want to guide the outcome of the activity, you can pepper the group with questions and ideas as they work, encouraging them to focus on aspects of their lives and personalities -- or you can let them work as they see fit, emphasizing whatever parts of their lives they choose.
    • Art staff should be on hand to help with glue guns, but should be briefed so they encourage campers to express themselves freely and honestly.
    • Allow about 30 minutes for campers to create their own portraits, and another 15 minutes for everyone to share their work with the group.

Stage 4: Wrap Up

  • This activity can be structured in many ways. When you're done with all that you plan to do, encourage campers to discuss the experience.
    • What did you learn about yourself?
    • What did you learn about your friends and other people at camp?
    • How would you describe Hanoch Piven's style if you were talking on the phone to someone who could not see the portraits? What would you say you like or dislike about the style?
    • What's the funniest object you saw in your or someone else's portrait?
  • The takeaways from these activities should include the tangible pride that comes from seeing one's work on display. Portraits and pictures should be featured prominently in a place of pride for the entire camp community to see, and included on the website and parent communication.


The possibilities are endless. Several variations are included below. Feel free to try other things, using as many of Piven's works as you'd like. Just be sure to share your successes with us so other camps can benefit from your creativity!

The Israelis We Know

  • Instead of having campers create portraits of themselves, have them create portraits of their schlichim as a way of getting them to learn more about the Israeli staff.
  • Ask the group how they would create a portrait of a specific Israeli who they know, but they don't know all that well. Look for suggestions about ways to get to know the person better.
  • Now, announce the next part of this activity: working in small groups, you will create portraits of the Israeli staff at camp. In order to do this, you will need to interview each Israeli before they set about doing the job.
    • Divide campers into small groups and assign each group to one Israeli staff member who they will be interviewing before the next meeting. Work with them to write down some questions that will help them get a better understanding of the person they are going to portray.
    • Encourage them to come up with a list of of questions for the schlichim that will help them get to know them well enough to create a portrait.
    • Questions might include (use these as a guide, not as a specific list to distribute to campers!):
      • Do you have a favorite sport, food, singer, movie?
      • What did you like best in high school?
      • What did you do in the army? Tell us a story from your army service.
      • What's the craziest thing you ever did with your friends in high school? What would you do if we did the same thing at camp right now?
      • What do you like about camp?
      • What do you like about Israel?
      • What do you miss most from Israel right now?
      • Encourage each group to think up really creative, crazy questions, but remind them be respectful and not to push too hard in the interviews.
    • Then send them off to interview the Israeli they're going to portray. Encourage them to bring supplies to the next session, based on what they learn in the interview (maybe a candy wrapper, a button, or anything else they think is appropriate).
    • At the next session, each group gets a piece of poster board and access to the table filled with random objects, in addition to the objects the campers brought specifically for this project.
    • Allow 30-45 minutes to create the portraits, and this time let the art staff help a bit more so the finishing touches look good.
    • Once everyone is done, campers share their work with the Israelis and with each other. You may decide to give the portraits to the Israelis as a gift, or to hang them in a central location in camp. (If you create a display, your camp might decide to give the portraits to the Israelis as going-away gifts at the end of the summer).

Our Israel

  • This activity also is designed to focus campers' creativity on Israel, but it addresses the group's notions of Israel, rather than the life of one specific Israeli.
  • Divide campers into groups of 3-5 members and ask them to create a portrait titled "Our Israel."
  • Don't give too many detailed instructions, so as not to limit creativity, but in response to questions you can say:
    • This art work need not portray a person
    • There is room for different ideas and perspectives in the artwork
    • Base it on your ideas, your knowledge, your dreams, and your jokes
  • Allow the groups 20 minutes to create "Our Israel" and then 10 minutes to share them with everyone.
  • Display the creations for all the camp community to see.

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