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Rabbi Reuven Travis, 2013 Twersky Award Finalist

Reuven Travis

Rabbi Reuven Travis is a religious studies and American history teacher at Yeshiva Atlanta. He attended JWA’s 2012 Institute for Educators and returned passionate about including women’s voices in his day school classroom. Travis shunned his previous textbook, feeling that it “made mention of women only in the sidebars.” Instead, he brings in sources and videos and adds mini sketches about women who lived during different periods in American history. “I have opened my students’ eyes to foundational events in US History,” he says.

Each week, he has his students visit JWA's This Week in History to write about a significant event from the week. In his boys’ Bible study class, students research Biblical texts to explore the matriarchs’ lasting contributions to the formation of the Jewish people, and outside his classroom, he has hung posters of Jewish women leaders throughout Jewish history with the caption, “Who says it’s a boys only club?”

 

Rabbi Travis submitted two lessons in his application:

Lesson Plan: Civil Disobedience and the Freedom Rides

Standards Correlation: SSUSH22

  • The student will identify dimensions of the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1970.
  • Explain the importance of President Truman’s order to integrate the U.S. military and the federal government.
  • Explain Brown v. Board of Education and efforts to resist the decision.
  • Describe the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and his “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • Describe the causes and consequences of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Essential Questions

  • How could the oppression of African-Americans in the South endure for so long?
  • What does it take to be “the first?”
  • Why was there such a high degree of Jewish participation in the Civil Rights movement?
  • What is Dr. King’s enduring legacy?
  • How can we still talk about a Civil Rights movement in the US when we currently have an African-American president?

Key Knowledge

  • Students will know that Civil Rights dominated much political discourse during this time period.
  • Students will know why the Federal Government’s involvement was necessary to end the abuses of civil rights on the state level.

Key Skills

  • Students will be able to analyze facts and events and draw conclusions from their analyses.
  • Students will be able to write coherent, logical paragraphs and papers which lay out their analyses and support their conclusions.

Evaluating/Checking for Understanding

  • Daily discussions/student interactions
  • Written reflection on Brown v. Board of Education in which students describe their current reaction vs. what it would have been had they been there
  • Written reflection in which students describe ideals in their world they feel are so important that they would make the kinds of sacrifices Judith Frieze and other Freedom Riders made
  • Written reflection on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and how it continues to impact our lives to this day
  • Unit Test

Materials: Teacher

  • Textbook
  • Computer/projector

Materials: Students

  • Textbook
  • Three-ring binder/paper
  • Pencils or pens, highlighters

Resources

Lesson Outline

  1. Students to have read “Civil Disobedience and the Freedom Rides: Introductory Essay” and “Gandhi's Rules of Civil Disobedience” the previous night for homework.
  2. Teacher to begin lesson by sharing with students that today they are going to learn about a young woman, just a few years older than them, who took part in the civil disobedience of the Civil Rights Movement by volunteering for a project called the Freedom Rides.
  3. Teacher to review some of the information from the introductory essay so that students will understand the context for Frieze's stories.
  4. Teacher to use video resource to further clarify the strategy of non-violence.
  5. Teacher to then distribute copies of the Judith Frieze Document Study to students. Students to quietly read the introductory paragraph about Judith Frieze and the Freedom Rides.
  6. Working in small groups, students will read the excerpts from The Boston Globe in the Document Study out loud being sure to refer to the Discussion Questions appended to the Document Study. Each group should choose one of Frieze's statements that stands out to them as being the most significant part of her experience.
  7. Students to come back together as a class and share the statements they chose.

Conclusion and Evaluation

Written reflection in which students describe ideals in their world they feel are so important that they would make the kinds of sacrifices Judith Frieze and other Freedom Riders made.

Homework

Students to read Freedom Summer Introductory Essay from JWA's Living the Legacy project.

 

 

Lesson Plan: Civil Disobedience and Freedom Summer

Standards Correlation

SSUSH22

The student will identify dimensions of the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1970.

  • Explain the importance of President Truman’s order to integrate the U.S. military and the federal government.
  • Explain Brown v. Board of Education and efforts to resist the decision.
  • Describe the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and his “I Have a Dream” speech.
  • Describe the causes and consequences of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Essential Question(s)

  • How could the oppression of African-Americans in the South endure for so long?
  • What does it take to be “the first?”
  • Why was there such a high degree of Jewish participation in the Civil Rights movement?
  • What is Dr. King’s enduring legacy?
  • How can we still talk about a Civil Rights movement in the US when we currently have an African-American president?

Key Knowledge

  • Students will know that Civil Rights dominated much political discourse during this time period.
  • Students will know why the Federal Government’s involvement was necessary to end the abuses of civil rights on the state level.

Key Skills

  • Students will be able to analyze facts and events and draw conclusions from their analyses.
  • Students will be able to write coherent, logical paragraphs and papers which lay out their analyses and support their conclusions.

Evaluating/Checking for Understanding

  • Daily discussions/student interactions
  • Written reflection on Brown v. Board of Education in which students describe their current reaction vs. what it would have been had they been there
  • Written reflection in which students describe ideals in their world they feel are so important that they would make the kinds of sacrifices Judith Frieze and other Freedom Riders made
  • Written reflection on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and how it continues to impact our lives to this day
  • Unit Test

Materials—Teacher

  • Textbook
  • Computer/projector

Materials—Students

  • Textbook/three-ring binder/paper/pencils or pens/highlighters

Resources

Lesson Outline

  • Students to have read “Freedom Summer—An Introductory Essay” the previous night for homework.
  • Teacher to explain that because Freedom Summer volunteers were predominantly young students, the project sparked some generational tensions. Many of the volunteers' parents, even if they supported the civil rights movement in general, were concerned about the violence that their children faced and discouraged them from participating. Some parents disagreed with the radical tactics of the project, believing that more traditional routes to change—legislative, judicial, etc.—should remain the focus of the Civil Rights Movement. Others were inspired by their children's commitment to civil rights and even learned from them. The letters volunteers wrote home testify to the varied responses that they faced from family.
  • Teacher to distribute copies of Voices of Freedom Summer Document Study.
  • A different student will read each letter out loud. As the students read the letters, teacher will remind students who wrote these letters and when (young people during Freedom Summer, in 1964), and for what audience (generally loved ones). Teacher will encourage students to consider the purpose of these letters as they read them again and will interject if a term, phrase, or idea needs some additional explanation.
  • Students to find a partner and choose a letter that they find interesting. Each pair will need paper and pencils.
  • Once students have chosen a letter, teacher to explain that they are to take on the role of the person the letter was written to. In that role, they should write a response to the letter writer. Then they should take on the role of the letter writer and respond to their new letter.
  • As students are writing, teacher to walk around the classroom and check on their progress to ensure that they are addressing the issues included in the original text and are seriously considering how friends and family may have felt about the writer's participation in Freedom Summer.
  • Time permitting, a few students will share their original letter and their two responses.

Conclusion

Teacher to create a bulletin board of the letters on which he can write (positive) feedback and questions on post-it notes. In addition, students will be encouraged to write their positive comments and questions as well.

Homework

Students to read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Rabbi Reuven Travis, 2013 Twersky Award Finalist." (Viewed on September 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/twersky/reuven-travis>.

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