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.
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.
Encounter a little known story of women collaborating across geographic, racial, and religious boundaries through documentary clips of Wednesdays in Mississippi activists.
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.
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.
Use images, artifacts, and audio clips to develop a more nuanced understanding of the March on Washington.
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.
Consider Rachel and Leah’s intertwined story and complicated relationship as sisters, and reflect on both the positive and challenging aspects of sisterhood.
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.
Explore and interrogate the identification between Jews and African-Americans against the backdrop of the Passover seder.
Consider Miriam’s experience of exile and investigate the parallels between her story and moments of alienation and isolation in your own life.
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.
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.
Learn how Ruth changed her life by making a series of bold choices, and examine how taking risks, small or large, might lead to positive transformations in your own life.
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.
Explore the complexities of our own identities, and how these identities shape the way we view and act in the world.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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).
Audrey Abade is the Jewish History Department Chair at Magen David Yeshivah High School. Her research has focused on Sephardic Jewry, particularly the role of women within Syrian and Egyptian Jewish communities. Her study of Egyptian Jewish women and their immigration to the United States was published in, “A Jewish Feminine Mystique?: Jewish Women in Postwar America.” Her lesson focuses on Syrian Jewish Americans during World War II and looks at the process of identity formation through the lens of young first and second generation women.
Deborah is Director of Congregational Learning at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac, MD. Her winning lesson plan, “Confirmation: Joining the Legacy”, teaches students about the history of Confirmation.
Confirmation: Joining the Legacy
Through learning key aspects of the history of Confirmation, students will develop a sense of connection to past Confirmands, and thus see their Confirmation as connected to Jewish heritage.
Assess Jewish attitudes towards Affirmative Action as an example of how individuals and communities try to manage competing priorities.
Read the 1890 Yom Kippur sermon by Ray Frank, the first Jewish woman to preach formally from a pulpit, and consider what unites and divides the Jewish people both historically and today.
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.
Michael is a rabbi and educator at Beth Chaim Congregation in Danville, CA. His lesson plan, “Selling Soap, Smashing Sexism, Seeing Ourselves” uses Torah and images of art and advertising to teach students about how women are viewed in the media, as well as to create their own artwork inspired by Jewish artist Barbara Kruger.
Selling Soap, Smashing Sexism, Seeing Ourselves
In this lesson, students explore the work of Jewish artist Barbara Kruger, and learn how to look critically at images of women in advertising.
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 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.
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.
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?
Examine how individuals take stands against racism and injustice using an essay by Grace Paley and three other short vignettes of individual protest.
Examine different ways that American Jewish women historically—and we today—fulfill the obligation of tzedakah (charity) and gemilut chesed (acts of loving kindness).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Consider the impact of consumer organizing by analyzing the day-to-day actions of the key players in the 1902 kosher meat boycott.
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.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Lesson Plans." (Viewed on April 18, 2019) <https://jwa.org/teach/lessonplans>.