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.
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.
Unpack the roles, motivations, and challenges of Southern and Northern rabbis during the Civil Rights Movement.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Consider Rachel and Leah’s intertwined story and complicated relationship as sisters, and reflect on both the positive and challenging aspects of sisterhood.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Assess Jewish attitudes towards Affirmative Action as an example of how individuals and communities try to manage competing priorities.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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?
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 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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Examine how individuals take stands against racism and injustice using an essay by Grace Paley and three other short vignettes of individual protest.
Discover the story of one young Jewish Freedom Rider and Gandhi's principles of civil disobedience, and prepare your own civil disobedience training video.
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.
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.
Use images, artifacts, and audio clips to develop a more nuanced understanding of the March on Washington.
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.
Consider the impact of consumer organizing by analyzing the day-to-day actions of the key players in the 1902 kosher meat boycott.
Consider Miriam’s experience of exile and investigate the parallels between her story and moments of alienation and isolation in your own life.
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.
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.
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.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Lesson Plans." (Viewed on July 19, 2019) <https://jwa.org/teach/lessonplans>.