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Discussion Questions

Part I
  1. Initial assessment: Who wrote this document? When?
  2. Where was it written?
  3. Who do you think the intended audience was? How do you think this might have influenced the message?
  4. What did the rabbis who wrote this letter do to get arrested?
  5. In their letter, the rabbis say that "We came because we could not stand silently by our brother's blood." This quote is based on Leviticus 19:15-16 which says, "You shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your kinsman fairly. Do not deal basely with your countrymen. Do not stand on the blood of your neighbor." It is part of the Torah portion known as kiddushim, or the holiness code, which is read during the High Holy Days.

    What do you think the biblical quote means? What do you think the rabbis in St. Augustine meant by this quote? Why do you think they chose to use a biblical reference?
  6. What do you think are some of the reasons these rabbis chose to participate in civil rights activities in St. Augustine? What in the letter makes you say that? Which of their reasons were based in Judaism? Which were universal? Which were particular to being a rabbi/Jewish leader?
  7. What part do you think community played in their experience before their arrest and during their time in prison?
  8. What did the rabbis feel they had accomplished by their actions in St. Augustine?
  9. What impact did the rabbis' actions have on them personally? In thinking about the reasons for and impact of activism, how would you rate the ways in which it changes the activist?
Part II
  1. How do you think these rabbis' experience and/or Jewish values influenced their participation in the Civil Rights Movement? What clues from the letter make you think that?
  2. How would you describe the role that these rabbis played in the Civil Rights Movement?
  3. Do you think this is an appropriate role for a rabbi? Why or why not?
  4. Are there any current political/social issues on which you think rabbis today should take a stand? What kind of role would you want to see them take?

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Discussion Questions." (Viewed on January 16, 2018) <>.


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