Consider how Jewish experiences and values – in both conscious and unconscious ways – informed the actions of Jews in the Civil Rights Movement, and inform our own allegiances and behaviors.
Learn about Lilith’s long and varied history, and consider how her story reflects changing perspectives on powerful women.
Investigate what it means for American Jews to celebrate Passover and the Fourth of July in the context of religious and national freedom, by reading an editorial from the April 1897 issue of The American Jewess.
Consider the economic and social forces that shaped Jewish immigrants' everyday lives and meet real-life workers and factory owners.
In this lesson, students have the opportunity to explore different definitions of the word “hero.” They discuss why (and if) heroes are important and do research about individuals they consider to be heroes. Lastly, students are asked to think about which of their own actions could be considered heroic and how they serve as role models for friends, peers, and family members.
Originating from Cape Town, South Africa, Tali Puterman now lives in Boston and works as the Social Justice Educator and Community Organizer at Temple Israel of Boston. Tali received her MA in Educational Studies from Tufts University and her BA from Brandeis University. Reacting to her own experiences of miseducation growing up White in post-Apartheid South Africa attending an Orthodox Jewish day school, Tali challenges students to question and confront injustices and see themselves as Jewish leaders of change.
Julie Rezmovic-Tonti teaches middle school Jewish history and serves as Outreach Coordinator at Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax, Virginia. She has a BA in Women's Studies from the University of Maryland and an MA in Jewish Studies from Siegal College. She also studied at Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo and the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with her husband, three children, typewriter, pottery wheel, and garden.
Consider Rachel and Leah’s intertwined story and complicated relationship as sisters, and reflect on both the positive and challenging aspects of sisterhood.
Reuven is a religious studies and American history teacher at a Modern Orthodox high school. His lesson plan uses primary sources as the basis for exploring Jewish experiences from two important tactics of the Civil Rights Movement: The Freedom Rides and Freedom Summer.
Civil Disobedience and the Freedom Rides
Explore Jewish involvement in the Civil Rights movement, and consider how we can use this knowledge to combat ongoing institutionalized racism with civil disobedience.
Examine different ways that American Jewish women historically—and we today—fulfill the obligation of tzedakah (charity) and gemilut chesed (acts of loving kindness).
Explore the role of community organizing, Jewish values, and moral conviction in the lives of young civil rights activists as you imagine yourself a participant in Mississippi Freedom Summer.
Learn about this fascinating story from Genesis, which is not often discussed. Explore how Tamar takes action to provide herself with what she needs, once she realizes that no one else is going to give it to her.
Explore the concept of “Bread and Roses” and ideas about work and dignity, with specific cases on education and culture, hats and clothing, poetry and song, as well as traditional Jewish texts about labor.
The letters from one girl's campaign to have the first Saturday morning Bat Mitzvah in her congregation in 1974 serve as a case study for exploring how we confront controversial issues and make change in our communities.
Assume the roles of Southern Jews participating in a Temple board meeting on whether or not to support Northern Jewish activists staging a protest in town.
Unpack the roles, motivations, and challenges of Southern and Northern rabbis during the Civil Rights Movement.
Yedida Kanfer serves as the Coordinator of Education Services at the JFCS Holocaust Center, where she teaches high school students, educators, and the larger community about the Holocaust and patterns of genocide. She also manages the Tauber Holocaust Library. Prior to her position at the JFCS Holocaust Center, Yedida served as a research scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and worked for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC. Yedida received her PhD in East European and Jewish history from Yale University in 2011; she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship (Russia) and a Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture Doctoral Fellowship. Having studied Russian, Polish, Hebrew, and German languages for research purposes, her favorite language is Yiddish, which she reads and speaks fluently.
Analyze how power and privilege shape our relationships and involvement in social justice and activism, using sources including clips from the film Driving Miss Daisy.
Act out, through tableaux vivants, the ways Jews took what they had learned from the Civil Rights Movement and other liberation movements and used these insights to change the Jewish community.
Discover how recipes can tell stories about Jewish history and its ever-changing rich cultural diversity.
In this activity, students will explore their personal values and develop a deeper understanding of how values inform their identities and actions. This activity makes a great compliment to a service learning project, or an introduction to tikkun olam and other actions that are informed by Jewish values.
Learn how Hannah attempted to change her life by calling on God for help, and consider the power of asking for what you need or want in your own life.
Explore contemporary Jewish labor campaigns on issues such as the living wage and the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, and analyze how and why Jewish organizations are advocating in solidarity with oppressed workers.
In this activity, students will explore the importance of the bat/bar mitzvah in the Jewish life cycle. They will examine events that are or will be important to them throughout their lives and will imagine their future selves in order to reflect on their beliefs and hopes for their lives.
After the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, labor rights activist Rose Schneiderman made a famous speech which provided the basis for investigating our communal and individual responsibilities for the well being of others in our midst.
Use images, artifacts, and audio clips to develop a more nuanced understanding of the March on Washington.
Analyze how underlying rifts in the relationship between African Americans and Jews brought these groups into more overt conflict in the late 1960s, with a focus on the Ocean Hill-Brownsville school crisis and a poetry slam activity.
Children of Loneliness, a short story by immigrant writer Anzia Yezierska, illustrates how one young woman's struggle to find her own place in American society tears her from her parents and their way of life.
Encounter a little known story of women collaborating across geographic, racial, and religious boundaries through documentary clips of Wednesdays in Mississippi activists.
Examine inter-generational relationships among Jewish immigrants, and the role of work and workers’ youth culture in the Americanization process. Use art and writing to explore your own identity formation.
Interrogate the notion of midrash using "The Coming of Lilith" by theologian Judith Plaskow as an example of how contemporary Jewish feminists have created their own midrashim—retellings of biblical stories—to incorporate women's viewpoints into the traditional texts of Judaism.
Explore and interrogate the identification between Jews and African-Americans against the backdrop of the Passover seder.
In this activity, students learn about a part of their own family history and have the opportunity to practice interviewing and writing skills. To showcase their learning, students curate their own museum of family history artifacts.
Using the provocative image of "Tefillin Barbie"—created in 2006 by soferet (ritual scribe) Jen Taylor Friedman—examine the relationship between gender, body image, and ritual garb.
Examine the rich tradition of Jewish radical politics and its repression in the McCarthy era, focusing on the history of Jewish radicalism in the entertainment industry and the Hollywood blacklists of the 1940s and 1950s.
In a 1916 letter, Henrietta Szold (the founder of Hadassah) defied Jewish tradition and challenged rituals that exclude women by asserting her right to say Kaddish (the Jewish prayer for mourners).
Consider what contemporary civil rights and social justice issues matter to us today, and how Jews and African Americans determine their priorities and responsibilities to effect social change.
Consider Miriam’s experience of exile and investigate the parallels between her story and moments of alienation and isolation in your own life.
Learn about the founding of the State of Israel from the perspective of Zipporah Porath, a young American woman who joined the Zionist effort in 1947.
Explore the complexities of our own identities, and how these identities shape the way we view and act in the world.
Rachael Cerrotti is a documentary photographer, writer and educator. Her storytelling focuses on narratives of resilience with a unique interest in family history. For nearly a decade, Rachael has been pursuing her long-term project, Follow My Footprints, retracing her grandmother's route of displacement during and in the wake of World War II. She is now writing a book about this journey and regularly speaks in communities and classrooms across the country and abroad.
Ramona is Director of Education at Congregation Beth Ahabah in Richmond, VA. Her winning lesson plan, “Our World Through a Jewish Lens,” introduces students in grades 8–10 to photojournalist Ruth Gruber, whose work was influenced by her Jewish identity, and asks how they might express a Jewish point of view through photography.
Our World Through a Jewish Lens
Explore Hurricane Katrina as an example of how Jews respond to catastrophe. Gail Chalew, a Jewish reporter from New Orleans, tells the story of Haley Fields, a thirteen year old girl from Los Angeles, who came up with her own unique way of helping those in need.
Through the history of mutual aid societies, unions, and settlement houses, as well as contemporary organizations working for labor rights, consider the ways Jews have supported one another and also worked in solidarity with others to repair the world.
Michelle is sixth-grade Humanities Teacher and Middle School Advisor & Community Engagement Coordinator at the Jewish Community Day School in Watertown, MA. Her lesson plan, “What Does It Mean To Be A Jewish Feminist?,” is an elective for students in grades 5–8, who learn how women and men might define themselves as feminists, then conduct independent research and present their findings to the class.
What Does It Mean To Be A Jewish Feminist?
Study several traditional Jewish texts and apply the concepts in these texts to the stories and characters in the game. Think about the lessons Judaism teaches about the responsibilities of workers and employers.
Assess Jewish attitudes towards Affirmative Action as an example of how individuals and communities try to manage competing priorities.
Using the letter of a Jewish civil rights activist and several freedom songs, explore how music is able to cross racial and religious boundaries and build community.
Explore the realities of working conditions in garment factories and the experiences of labor union members. Then uncover why and how both workers and factory owners organized to reach their goals.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Lesson Plans." (Viewed on June 1, 2020) <https://jwa.org/teach/lessonplans>.