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Go and Learn

Photo by Gordie Earle.

Primary sources bring Jewish voices to life

Go & Learn

Go & Learn features versatile lesson plans for three different audiences—youth, families, and adults—that include background information, primary source documents, discussion questions, and program extensions. Challenge and inspire students to explore identity and action through the stories and experiences of American Jewish women.

Image of Heather Booth and Fannie Lou Hamer

Sing a New Song: Jews, Music, and the Civil Rights Movement

In the 1960s, American Jews made up a large percentage of those white Americans who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. Many of them were motivated by liberal American values, Jewish values, and a belief that they understood the African American experience. At rallies, sit-ins, and marches they stood shoulder to shoulder with African Americans, and they were strengthened by the same freedom songs. This Go & Learn guide uses the letter of a Jewish civil rights activist and several freedom songs to explore how this music, based in African American church music, was able to cross racial and religious boundaries and build community.

Sally Gottesman Bat Mitzvah invitation

Taking Risks, Making Change: Bat Mitzvah and Other Evolving Traditions

Today, the Bat Mitzvah may seem like a routine aspect of a young girl's Jewish life. But less than 100 years ago, no public ceremony existed to mark a girl's coming of age, and over the past century, what a "Bat Mitzvah" looks like has continually shifted. This Go & Learn guide uses the letters from one girl's campaign to have the first Saturday morning Bat Mitzvah in her congregation as a case study for exploring how we confront controversial issues and make change in our communities.

Rose Schneiderman

"We Have Found You Wanting:" Labor Activism and Communal Responsibility

A Jewish immigrant activist and a lifelong advocate for the rights of workers and of women, Rose Schneiderman shaped the American labor movement. Known as a powerful orator, Schneiderman used her speeches—such as the one she delivered in April, 1911 to protest the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire—to galvanize leaders and ordinary citizens to action on behalf of workers, immigrants, and other disadvantaged members of society. This Go & Learn guide uses Schneiderman's speech and life example to explore our communal and individual responsibilities for the well being of others in our midst.

Zippy Porath and other American students

A Young American Jew in Israel, 1947-1948

When Zipporah ("Zippy") Porath arrived in Jerusalem in October 1947, she expected to spend a year studying at Hebrew University and enjoying the adventures of life in the land of Israel. She did not expect to be caught up in a war or to become an underground fighter in the Haganah, but history intervened and changed the course of her life. In lively letters she wrote home to her family, Zipporah described the historic events in which she participated. This Go & Learn guide uses Zipporah's letters to explore the founding of the State of Israel from the perspective of a young American woman who joined the Zionist effort.

Tefillin Barbie

Tefillin Barbie: Considering Gender and Ritual Garb

Do women in your community wear tefillin and tallit when they pray? Do you? For many, the relationship between gender and ritual garb is still evolving, as Jews consider their personal and communal associations with these objects and practices. This Go & Learn guide uses the provocative image of "Tefillin Barbie"—created in 2006 by soferet (ritual scribe) Jen Taylor Friedman—to explore issues of gender, ritual, and body image.

The Burney Relief, "Queen of the Night"

Lilith Evolved: Writing Midrash

In this Go and Learn, guide, we explore the notion of midrash and highlight "The Coming of Lilith" by theologian Judith Plaskow as an example of how contemporary Jewish feminists have created their own midrashim—retellings of biblical stories—in order to incorporate women's viewpoints into the traditional texts of Judaism. In writing their own versions of these texts, Plaskow and her peers have made Judaism more inclusive of the voices and perspectives of all people who engage in its teachings.

Henry Street Sidewalks

Immigration and Generations: Anzia Yezierska's Children of Loneliness

The experience of immigration brings many challenges. Immigrant families are subjected to discrimination, culture shock, pressure to assimilate, and poverty. These experiences hurt both individuals and families, often pulling parents and children apart from each other. In this Go & Learn guide, we feature a short story by immigrant writer Anzia Yezierska, titled Children of Loneliness. The story illustrates how one young woman's struggle to find her own place in American society tears her from her parents and their way of life.

Abzug at a New York Press Conference

Queen Esther and Bella Abzug: Costumes, Leadership, and Identity

On Purim we dress in costume to create a new persona. We delight in unexpected images. We poke holes in the humdrum everyday roles of men and women, rich and poor, young and old. Our assumptions about people shift, and thus, the holiday transforms us.

Tzedek Means Justice

Hurricane Katrina: Community Responsibility and Tikkun Olam

The Kabbalah (Jewish mystical school of thought) teaches that God created the world by projecting a beam of light into the universe and then created vessels to hold the light. But the divine light was too strong for the vessels and they shattered into bits. These bits and holy sparks scattered into the world. Our job as humans is to redeem the holy sparks through prayer and action. In doing so, we act as partners with God in the work of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).

Cookbooks that tell stories

Jewish Diversity and Innovation: The View from the Kitchen

What can we learn about Jewish history and culture from recipes? In this Go & Learn guide, we begin with a recipe for “Moroccan Pumpkin Soup with Chick-peas in Massachusetts” to explore how Jewish food culture has adapted as Jews have migrated from place to place. Just as Batsheva Levy Salzman brought her mother's pumpkin soup recipe from Morocco to Israel and then to Massachusetts, and switched its setting from Sukkot to Thanksgiving, recipes tell us stories about Jewish history and our ever-changing rich cultural diversity.

First cover of American Jewess

The American Jewess on Liberation and Freedom

Passover is the holiday of liberation and freedom. What do these terms and this holiday mean to us as Americans? This Go & Learn guide features an editorial from the April 1897 issue of The American Jewess exploring the meaning of Passover in relation to the Fourth of July. The editor, Rosa Sonneschein, asks what it means for Jews to celebrate Passover in the context of American religious and national freedom.

Israeli Five Lira note with Henrietta Szold

Henrietta Szold on Saying Kaddish

Jewish tradition is filled with rituals that help us mark moments of joy and pain, and through which we can honor family members and the values they have passed on to us. Among these are powerful practices around death—such as saying Kaddish (the Jewish prayer for mourners) and sitting shiva. Traditionally, women did not recite the Kaddish or participate in the minyan (prayer quorum) at shiva. In 1916, in an early example of what would be many challenges by women to the restrictions on their participation in Jewish ritual, Henrietta Szold (the founder of Hadassah) defied Jewish tradition and asserted her right to say Kaddish. In the letter featured in this edition of "Go & Learn," Szold politely declines the offer of a male family friend to say Kaddish for her mother and sets out her reasons for reciting it herself.

Helène Aylon

Wrestling with God and Jewish Tradition

The biblical figure of Jacob is also called Israel, the one who wrestled with God (Genesis 35:10). As the "Children of Israel," the Jewish community has carried on this legacy of wrestling with God and tradition in our attempts to create meaning in our lives. This Go & Learn guide uses the artwork of the Jewish feminist artist Helène Aylon to explore how we—as individuals and as a community—grapple with ideas about God and Jewish tradition.

Jews Synagogue in Charleston

Writing Home: A Letter from an Early American Jew

We know little about Rebecca Samuel, the author of the featured document in this guide, outside of what her letters provide for us: a slice of her life as a Jewish woman in early America. In this letter, originally written in Yiddish in the 1790s to her parents in Hamburg, Germany, Samuel describes her life in Petersburg, Virginia. She vividly portrays the challenges of keeping a Jewish household, her wishes for her children, and her excitement about the prospect of moving to Charleston, South Carolina. This Go & Learn guide uses Rebecca Samuel’s captivating letter as a centerpiece for interactive sessions about Jewish immigration and the development of the Jewish community in America.

"The Jewish Woman" cover, Vol.1, no.1

Benevolent Societies and Tzedakah

How do you give tzedakah (charity)? Although Jewish women’s and men’s religious roles have differed for much of history, Jewish laws and teachings regarding a person’s responsibility to help those in need have always applied to both sexes. This Go & Learn guide explores different ways that American Jewish women historically—and we today—fulfill the obligation of tzedakah and gemilut chesed (acts of loving kindness).

Ray Frank, San Francisco

Ray Frank's Yom Kippur Sermon, 1890

Ray Frank (1861-1948), called the "Girl Rabbi of the Golden West," became the first Jewish woman to preach formally from a pulpit in 1890, when she delivered sermons for the High Holy Days in Spokane, WA. Although the language of her Yom Kippur sermon may sound old fashioned, Frank's message remains both relevant and compelling.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Go & Learn." (Viewed on September 30, 2014) <http://jwa.org/teach/golearn>.

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