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"Jewish Americans:" Growing Rifts Part II

  1. Explain that two events that took place in New York City can be seen as a case study of what we have been discussing in class.
  2. Show your students the clip from PBS' Jewish Americans that begins at 54:33 and ends at 1:07:00. (Check your copy of the DVD in advance, to be sure these times correspond to the appropriate clip.) (David Grubin, Series Creator. The Jewish Americans, PBS, 2007.)
  3. This clip of Jewish Americans covers three areas. You may choose to show and discuss each piece separately or show and discuss the whole clip. The clip breaks down like this:
    1. 54:33 – Separation, Black Power, the idea that slavery & immigration are different
    2. 57:06 – The events of the Ocean Hill/Brownsville school boycott
    3. 1:04:00 – Julius Lester's radio show and the poem "Jew Boy"
    Based on the issues that come up during the sharing of the three documents discussed above, choose 3-5 questions from those below to discuss with your students:
    • How would you describe what happened in the Ocean Hill/Brownsville school boycott in your own words? (The teacher should fill in any significant details that the students left out)
    • How did the African American parents feel about the schools? What did they want to accomplish? How did the teachers feel?
    • Black Power moved from a focus on integration to a focus on self-determination. How do you think Black Power influenced the actions taken by the African American community in Ocean Hill/Brownsville? (Note to Teacher: The issues surrounding Ocean Hill/Brownsville had to do with communities taking power/responsibility for their local schools. The School Board described the new system as "decentralization" while the community described it as "Community Control.")
    • Why do you think the African American parents were surprised at being labeled anti-Semitic? Do you think their actions were anti-Semitic? Why or why not?
    • In what ways were the Jewish teachers threatened by the instituted changes? How did they react? Why do you think the Jewish teachers were surprised at being labeled racist? Do you think their actions were racist? Why or why not?
    • Which issues that were raised by the documents you read earlier can be seen in the way the Ocean Hill/Brownsville school boycott played out? If possible, reference specific documents.
    • How would you describe what happened with Julius Lester's radio show in your own words? (The teacher should fill in any significant details that the students left out.)
    • How do you think the student who wrote "Jew Boy" felt? What kind of language does the poet use that makes you think this?
    • What did Julius Lester want to accomplish by broadcasting this poem? Do you think he succeeded in his goal? Why or why not? What might he have done differently?
    • How did Jews feel about "Jew Boy"? Do you think they overreacted? How else might they have reacted?
    • What do you think the author intended with this poem? How do you think having it read on the radio impacted the way the poem was received?
    • We don't have any information on how the author felt about her poem being read on the radio. What do you imagine her reaction might have been?
    • Which issues that were raised by the documents you read earlier can be seen in Julius Lester's radio show? If possible, reference specific documents.
    • How do you think these events and feelings relate to the current relationship between Jews and African Americans today?
    You may want to let students know that Julius Lester converted to Judaism approximately fourteen years after this radio broadcast, and discuss any reactions they may have to learning that. (Note: in the next scene in The Jewish Americans, Julius Lester talks about being Jewish.)

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. ""Jewish Americans:" Growing Rifts Part II." (Viewed on August 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/node/11992>.

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