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.
Use images, artifacts, and audio clips to develop a more nuanced understanding of the March on Washington.
Discover the little-known history of American Jewish farming and explore the contemporary resurgent Jewish interest in food justice. Analyze traditional and modern texts about Jewish values and food production and consumption, and design your own vision for how society should produce, distribute, and consume food.
Consider the impact of consumer organizing by analyzing the day-to-day actions of the key players in the 1902 kosher meat boycott.
Ariel is a humanities teacher at a Modern Orthodox middle school. Her lesson plan introduces students to Jewish voices from Colonial America through a teacher role play and encourages students to hone critical analysis skills.
Jewish Life in Colonial and Post-Colonial America
Through primary source analysis, students examine the experience of being a Jew in colonial and post-colonial American history.
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.
Allyson was a teacher in a 4-6 mixed grade class at a Montessori-inspired supplemental school. Her winning lesson plan “Esthers and Vashtis in the Labor Movement” asks students to compare Jewish labor activists to the well-known Purim characters through audio recordings, articles, and photographs.
Who will you be? Esthers and Vashtis in the Labor Movement
Analyze the rise of the labor movement and the Jewish women who were instrumental in it, in terms of the female characters in the Purim story: Esther and Vashti.
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.
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.
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.
Discover how recipes can tell stories about Jewish history and its ever-changing rich cultural diversity.
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.
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.
One of the most famous stories in Genesis is the Binding of Isaac by his father Abraham (the Akeidah, in Hebrew). Sarah, Isaac’s mother, is noticeably absent from the text. Here we consider Sarah’s perspective, and how this foundational event in the Jewish origin story might have affected her.
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?
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
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.
Investigate the dynamics of segregation in northern schools through a New York City court case ruled on by Judge and Jewish activist Justine Wise Polier.
Encounter a little known story of women collaborating across geographic, racial, and religious boundaries through documentary clips of Wednesdays in Mississippi activists.
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.
Unpack the roles, motivations, and challenges of Southern and Northern rabbis during the Civil Rights Movement.
Consider Miriam’s experience of exile and investigate the parallels between her story and moments of alienation and isolation in your own life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learn about Jewish immigration and the development of the Jewish community in America through a 1790s letter, originally written in Yiddish by Rebecca Samuel to her parents in Hamburg, Germany, describing her life in Petersburg, Virginia.
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.
Learn about Eve’s role as the first mother, and consider what her story might teach us about going through a difficult experience without sufficient support.
Examine modern labor justice issues to allow students to consider their own stance on events like the 2013 collapse of a clothing factory in Bangladesh or the reports of poor working conditions in Chinese factories that produce iPhones and iPads.
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.
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.
Discover the story of one young Jewish Freedom Rider and Gandhi's principles of civil disobedience, and prepare your own civil disobedience training video.
Learn about Judith’s bravery in the face of extreme danger, and consider how her story can inspire us to harness our own hidden power.
Consider Rachel and Leah’s intertwined story and complicated relationship as sisters, and reflect on both the positive and challenging aspects of sisterhood.
Learn about the disturbing story of Yiftach’s Daughter (“Bat Yiftach” in Hebrew), and consider how it reflects the importance of balancing religious beliefs with the reality of the world we live in.
Examine how individuals take stands against racism and injustice using an essay by Grace Paley and three other short vignettes of individual protest.
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 different ways that American Jewish women historically—and we today—fulfill the obligation of tzedakah (charity) and gemilut chesed (acts of loving kindness).
Judy is a middle school teacher at two synagogue schools. Her winning lesson plan called “What Will It Cost Me To Work For You?” connects Jewish stories from the Labor Movement to contemporary labor issues in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
What Will It Cost Me to Work for You?
Through learning about Judaism’s views on labor, as well as about Jewish women in the labor movement, students will explore realistic responses to unfair labor conditions in the US and overseas today.
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.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Lesson Plans." (Viewed on May 11, 2021) <https://jwa.org/teach/lessonplans>.