Living the Legacy


Identity, Independence, and Becoming American Jews

Unit 1 , Lesson 3

Jewish Women's Archive - Living the Legacy

Identity, Independence, and Becoming American Jews

Enduring understandings: 
  • Working in the garment industry, Jewish immigrants encountered American culture and began to forge American Jewish identities.
  • Even though work in the garment industry was often low-paying and difficult, it provided social and economic opportunity for young workers.
  • By working outside the home with other young people, immigrants in the garment industry cultivated peer group identities that connected them to the broader American culture and helped them differentiate from their families.
Essential questions: 
  • In what ways do you identify as “American”? How does that identity intersect with the other aspects of your identity, for example, being a Jew, a member of a particular socio-economic class, a person who lives in a urban/suburban/rural area, being an athlete/band member/dancer, etc?
  • How can work be liberating? How can being a part of group be meaningful?
  • How do you and your friends define your place in American society?
Materials required: 
  • Sheets of brown wrapping paper and white butcher paper, approximately 5 feet by 2 feet in size, one for each student (8 ½ by 14” paper can also be used, and the effect will be quite different)
  • thick drawing pencils and markers or paints
  • glue sticks, fabric glue, and/or craft paste
  • collage-making materials ranging from fabrics, buttons, beads, sequins, and other apparel items to natural items, such as sand, shells, stones, etc. to anything else that is available, with the exception of newspapers and magazines, the usual stuff of kids’ collage making (Staying away from two-dimensional sources, particularly those familiar to the students, will inspire greater creativity with three-dimensional sources. Once they have the assignment, they may choose from a category of objects—quilt squares or ceramic tile pieces, for example—or they may have disparate items in their possession that they think will work well in a collage format to say what they want their work to say.)
  • Students can also be invited to bring in materials for collages
  • Pieces of cardboard from cut-up boxes measuring 18”x24” for the collages; other options include poster board or foam core.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Living the Legacy - Lesson: Identity, Independence, and Becoming American Jews." (Viewed on April 21, 2014) <>.