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What's Jewish About Justice?

  1. Post the "What's Jewish about Justice" signs around the classroom/space you are using.
  2. Explain that membership, belonging, and exclusion aren't only categories of personal identification. They also describe how larger groups relate in society. Your students should consider the fact that the same identity can be experienced as providing a sense of belonging in one context and a sense of exclusion in another. For example, being Jewish may lead to feelings of belonging in a Jewish setting and exclusion in another setting. Explain that this simultaneous "in"/"out" identification has influenced how many Jews relate to social justice issues.
  3. Point out the "What's Jewish about Justice" signs that are posted around the room. You may want to give your students some time to do a "gallery walk" around the room to read and reflect on the different signs.
  4. Have your students think about the different actions taken by Rabbi Nussbaum, Roberta Galler, and the rabbis who marched from Selma to Montgomery. (You may want to add other figures from the curriculum, if you already have done other lessons with the class.) Ask your students to choose one of those figures and then go and stand under the "What's Jewish About Justice" sign that represents the Jewish value that might have motivated their actions.
  5. Once all of your students are standing under a sign, go around the room and ask each group of students which historical figure they were thinking of and why they think this Jewish value shaped the person's actions.
  6. Repeat this activity, but this time have your students choose to stand under the sign that they feel most connected to and/or the value that they think would motivate them to act in the world.
  7. Once all of your students are standing under a sign, go around the room and ask each group of students to explain why they chose their sign and what kind of actions in support of social justice this value might motivate them to take in the world today.
  8. Ask your students what connections they see between their values and the values of the Jews they've studied today who took part in the Civil Rights Movement.
  9. Remind your students that no matter our identities, we probably hold Jewish values, American values, and some other values all at the same time. Some Jews are driven to work for justice by Jewish values; others are motivated by other values. Jews have a strong tradition of seeking justice, but do not have a monopoly on social justice values or activism.
  10. Distribute light colored paper and markers to your students. Have them come up with a value sign they would like to add to the ones posted around the room. The new value sign should reflect another value that would cause them to act to support social justice in the world today. It should also include an action that they would take based on this value.
  11. Once your students are done making their signs they can post it some place in the classroom.
  12. You may want to leave these signs up for future classes as a reminder of the class' values as you continue your studies of Jewish Social Justice and the Civil Rights Movement.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "What's Jewish About Justice?." (Viewed on January 19, 2018) <>.


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