The Passover vs. Fourth of July Debate - Lesson plan for Adults
This lesson plan is part of a larger Go & Learn guide entitled “The American Jewess on Liberation and Freedom.”
Notes for Teacher/Facilitator
Many communities have an annual “Latke-Hamantaschen Debate,” at which two experts on history, Jewish culture, and humor debate the relative merits of each traditional food and its significance for Jews and Americans. Along these lines, this lesson plan proposes a Passover-Fourth of July Debate, in which teams can argue the relative significance of each holiday for American Jews. You may want to set aside two sessions, one for the debate preparation, and one for the actual debate. Alternatively, you could ask participants to read the materials ahead of time and prepare talking points, and implement the debate in one session.
The American Jewess
To begin, read the featured document—an excerpt from the Editorial in the April 1897 issue of The American Jewess—aloud as a class.
Then split into two teams, assigning one side as the Fourth of July team and one side as the Passover team. Hand out the resources and questions below. Allow each team enough time to research its topic and construct its argument. You may want to invite friends, families, or other adult learners to watch the debate. Design the debate structure (how many minutes per side, etc.) and assign someone to enforce this structure through his/her facilitation. This facilitator may want to ask questions of each side, based on the suggested questions below, or simply allow each side to present a more free-form persuasive argument on the merits of its assigned holiday. Encourage debators to bring props, costumes, songs, or anything else that will enliven the activity!
Resources for the preparation of arguments:
- For background on the meaning of Passover, see the overview essay on the main page of this Go & Learn guide.
- For examples of a Latke-Hamantaschen debate, see “8 Great Arguments from the Latke-Hamentash Debate,” The Great Latke Hamantash Debate book, or this recording of the 2013 Latke-Hamentaschen Debate at MIT.
- For a discussion of the benefits and challenges of freedom for Jews in the United States, see “Freedom: The Promise And The Challenge” by Samuel G. Freedman.
- Review this article on “Passover Themes and Theology.”
- Explore excerpts from the Declaration of Independence.
- Read translated text of the Ten Commandments.
Questions to consider:
- How does each holiday define freedom?
- What are the symbols of liberation in each holiday?
- How do you understand the metaphor of the silkworm in the The American Jewess editorial?
- What is the Editor’s argument in favor of American Jews continuing to celebrate Passover?
- What does it mean for liberty to “become a blessing and not a curse”? What does the Editor suggest we must do for this to happen?
- In what ways are American Jews indebted to God and America for our freedoms?
- Which is more celebratory: parades and fireworks, or the Passover seder?
- Which form of celebration does a better job of transmitting the messages and histories of these events of liberation from one generation to the next?
- Which of the received texts following from these events (the Ten Commandments and the Torah after our Exodus from Egypt, and the Declaration of Independence from 1776), are more compelling?
- In what ways does each text characterize freedom?
- Which creates a freer society: rights, such as those mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, or responsibilities, like those in the 10 Commandments?
- If you had to celebrate just one of these holidays, which would it be, and why?