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Bread and Roses - Lesson Plan for Family/Congregational Education

This lesson plan is part of a larger Go & Learn guide entitled “We Have Found You Wanting: Labor Activism and Communal Responsibility.”

This plan is written for use in a family education setting, though you may choose to use parts of it for a classroom setting. It would be ideal for use as a program to spark excitement about a community project.

You may choose to do this lesson with adults and children together, or you may begin together and then have the adults do one of the text studies provided below while the children begin working on an aspect of the proposed community project. For example, if you choose to begin a project where you will be visiting seniors either in their homes or in a senior residence, you can have the children make artwork that will be appropriate for an upcoming holiday.

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Opening exercise and discussion

Write the following quotation on a large piece of paper, leaving room on the bottom for kids to write underneath it:
“What the woman who labors wants is the right to live, not simply exist…the worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.” — Rose Schneiderman

Begin a discussion by asking participants for their interpretation of this quotation.

Some questions to guide your discussion:

  • What is the difference between “living” and “simply existing?”
  • Does everyone need both bread and roses?
  • Does everyone have both bread and roses? Why or why not?

Guide the discussion to explore what necessities are important to living a good life.

Option 1: for children

On the large paper with the quote, invite kids to write down one (more, if it's a small group) thing that they think is necessary to live a good life&mdashi.e. tangible things that they feel help them and others feel happy. It is likely that they will come up with the basics such as food and shelter, but they may also find that there are things that they think are crucial such as music (ipod), TV, good food (not basics such as bread and water), and other essential personal items.

Ask them to explain their choices and lead a discussion of what it is that makes a good life for a person.

Option 2: for children with or without adults

Write the quote on large paper and create a chart with two columns. On one side, have them write the basics people need to live. Invite them up one by one to fill out this side only. Then, invite them up again and ask them to write down one personal item that they feel they need to make their own lives happy. Compare the lists and ask them the difference between the two. If these lists are different, how do they differ and why?

Option 3: for children with adults

Design the same chart described above in option 2 and have the children fill out one side, while adults do the other. Then have them compare the two lists. This can be an interesting experiment in generational differences as well. Equally interesting&mdashhave students write down the one thing that is most important to their parents and have the parents do the same for their children.

Once the list (whichever option you chose) is finished, continue the conversation.

Some points to consider:

  • In this world, some have only basic necessities, while others have an abundance of things that they feel are necessary to live a “good life.” Still others do not even have the basic things they need to survive.
  • How do we deal with this inequity? Should some people be forced to live with less? Do those of us with more have any responsibilities towards people with less to help them out with more than just the basics of food and shelter?

Text study

We have presented two options for texts. You may choose to use one of these texts with adults alone, while children begin work on one aspect of the project your community will choose. Or, you may have children and adults learn one of these texts together in small groups.

Traditional Jewish Text: Maimonides

This text is from Maimonides' famous work of halakhah (Jewish Law):

Some questions for discussion:

  • What do you think the verse from Deuteronomy 15:8 means, without considering Maimonides' interpretation? What is meant by “sufficient for his need?”
  • Why does Maimonides say that a poor person who used to be wealthy enough to have a horse/servant should be kept in the “manner to which he has become accustomed?” What is his concern?
  • Maimonides seems to be interpreting the words “In that which he lacks.” How do you think he understands this phrase?
  • Do you agree with Maimonides on this, or do you think poor people should each receive tzedakah equally?
  • If you think everyone should be equal, what is the minimum standard? How does this get decided, and by whom? The giver? The receiver?

Historical Text: Rose Schneiderman's Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Speech

Begin with some background information on Rose Schneiderman. See the introductory essay for this Go & Learn guide.

Discuss the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, providing background on the fire, including the working conditions that preceded it, as well as the fact that this Jewish-owned business took advantage of its primarily immigrant population. If you want more information than what is included in the introductory essay, If you want more information than what is included in the introductory essay, visit the Triangle Fire collection at the Kheel Center.

Following the fire, Schneiderman made a speech at a memorial for the 146 workers who died. Read the text of Rose Schneiderman's speech after the Triangle Fire together.

Some questions to consider:

  • What does Schneiderman mean when she compares working conditions in her time to the Inquisition? What do you think of this comparison? Is it too extreme?
  • What are the responsibilities of Jewish business people? Should their responsibilities be different than others'? Should Jews be held to a higher standard by their own people? Is this standard different from how they should treat people of other nations?

Share this short quote from the Babylonian Talmud, Shevuot 39a.

Discuss:

  • Have people heard this phrase, “kol arevim zeh ba'zeh,” before? If so, how is it usually used? If not, how can we understand it?
  • This Talmud excerpt suggests that when one person sins, we are all punished. How does this relate to Schneiderman's complaint that “We have tried you good people of the public and we have found you wanting”?
  • How should we understand these concepts of collective responsibility and collective punishment today? Should we apply them only within the Jewish community? Do we understand them on a more universal level? What are today's sins for which we are all responsible and will all pay the price if we do not prevent them?

Community project

Use these opening texts as a starting point for a community project. The project could address either a basic need (Schneiderman's “bread”) or a quality of life need (“roses”).

Some suggestions of organizations that help provide basic necessities (such as food and shelter) are:

Some suggestions of “roses” projects (some can be done with entire group, and some would work better as family or small group projects):

  • Start a collection of toys for children in a local hospital or shelter.
  • Have the children create works of art to brighten up a hospital, nursing home, or shelter.
  • Have students create a skit to be performed for young children at a local hospital.
  • Visit a home-bound elderly person for conversation or reading (some local organizations have “adopt a grandparent” programs).
  • Create a simple puppet-making workshop for children at a shelter.

Looking for more information on Jews and Labor?

Explore Living the Legacy, JWA's social justice project about the history of Jews in the Civil Rights and Labor Movements.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Bread and Roses - Lesson Plan for Family/Congregational Education." (Viewed on August 21, 2014) <http://jwa.org/teach/golearn/sep08/family>.

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