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Jewish Values in Action

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.


Enduring Understandings

  • Certain values are distinctly Jewish
  • Our values inform our identities and actions

Essential Questions

  • What are Jewish values?
  • Which Jewish values are most important to you and how can you transform them into actions that you can perform in your day-to-day life?

Materials Required

  • Dry erase/chalk board or butcher block paper
  • Writing implements (markers, chalk, pens, pencils)
  • Paper
  • Sticky notes
  • Tape

Notes to Teacher

The lessons included in the My Bat Mitzvah Story curriculum are intended to take much longer than an average class period, and they offer many options for extended projects. Please feel free to pick and choose what will be most practical and useful for your own classroom, and do not feel obligated to complete the lessons in full.

These lessons are intended for b’nai mitzvah students and draw on the Bat Mitzvah experience in particular. While they can certainly be completed in all-girl classrooms, teachers are encouraged to use these lessons in multi-gender classrooms as well. While the lessons are rooted in the Bat Mitzvah experience, the themes are applicable to all students in this age group.

Lesson plan

Values Brainstorm

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Depending on the setting/classroom/congregation, students will have varied experience with both the terminology and concept of “Jewish values.” In order to make sure your students are on the same page, begin with this short brainstorm contest to generate a list of values related to Judaism. The goal of the brainstorm is to come up with unique ideas about what values can be considered “Jewish.” During the discussion afterward, students can defend their ideas and you can narrow the list to use in the second part of the activity. The recap and discourse after the brainstorm will help you emphasize the values that are important to the families in your community.

To prepare for this activity:

  1. Come up with a list of Jewish values that you want to make sure are included in your lesson. Think about which values are most important for your students to focus on. Be open to ideas that students generate, but make sure that you have some idea of what you want to emphasize in the wrap-up. You may also want to bring Jewish texts that represent these values, so that you can use these to prompt some of the values that you want to make sure are included in the conversation.
  2. Set up the room so that there are separate places for each group to brainstorm without being tempted to eavesdrop or overhear others.
  3. Set up the board or a large piece of paper for the brainstorming activity.

Activity Plan

  1. Divide students into at least two groups. Give each group a pen and paper.
  2. Allow 1 minute for students to brainstorm as many ideas of Jewish values as possible (it may help to give an example, like tzedakah or welcoming strangers).
  3. After one minute, compile the ideas of the whole group on the board or a large piece of paper. For each idea a group thought of that WAS NOT REPEATED by another group, the team will get one point. The object of the activity is to come up with ideas other groups haven’t thought of.
  4. Look at the compiled list. Discuss:
    1. Is there anything missing?
    2. Is there anything that you feel doesn’t belong? Why or why not?

Discovering My Values

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The second part of this activity uses women profiled on JWA.org to help students see how values translate into individual action. After identifying which values are embodied by the profiled women, students will then be asked to choose the values that are most important to themselves and think about how those values can be transformed into actions in their day-to-day lives.

To prepare for this activity:

  1. Using the profiles section, pick 7-10 women to use for this activity. We encourage you to use the search filters to pick women who will complement your curriculum, and who will be most interesting and relevant to your students.
  2. Hang printed versions of the profiles of women from JWA.org around the room.
  3. Make sure that the values list generated previously is visible to all (i.e. hanging on the wall or written on the board).

Activity Plan

  1. Give the students time (5-10 minutes) to browse all the profiles and familiarize themselves with the women.
    1. If you feel your students would benefit from having more direction, pair them up and assign each pair to a profile. Then, every two minutes, have the pairs rotate to the next profile. This way, each pair will have some time to browse each profile without getting distracted or off task.
  2. Call the group back together and explain that you are switching gears. Read off a value from your brainstorm list and give students 10 seconds to choose the woman who most represents that value. Have 2-3 students explain why they think the individual they chose reflects the value you have read off.
    1. Repeat for several of the values your students came up with.
  3. Now transition to the students’ own lives. Ask students to think about which Jewish value from the list is most important to them. Give each student a sticky note or small piece of paper and have them write down their value.
    1. You may decide that you want students to pick 2 or 3 most-important values for this part and that is okay too. Students should have one value on each individual note or card.
  4. Next, have the students choose the woman they feel most represents the value or values they have chosen. Students should stick the value they chose onto the wall or onto a desk next to the profile they have selected.
    1. If you are asking the students to choose multiple values, repeat steps 5-10 for each value separately.
  5. Have all of the students at each profile group together and answer the following questions:
    1. Why did you choose this value?
    2. Is there a story or experience you can share about this value?
    3. How is this person an example of that value?
    4. Are there different values represented at this profile?
  6. Regroup as a class and ask the students to consider these questions together
    1. Were there different values represented by the same person? Give an example.
    2. What are some every-day examples of these values in action? When have you seen your friends, family members, community, or even strangers act out these values?
  7. Lastly, have students reflect on opportunities in their own lives to live out their Jewish values. On a piece of paper, ask students to list the top three or top five most important values to them. Then, ask them to generate ideas for how they could live out each value in their own lives.
    1. After students do the writing activity, have them share in partners, small groups, or as a class.
    2. You may also want to collect the papers and use them as the beginning focus activity for another class period or for individual service/social justice projects.
    3. Alternately, students could select one of the values they see as most important and write a short, fictional story that demonstrates the value.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Jewish Values in Action." (Viewed on March 4, 2024) <http://jwa.org/teach/mbms/jewish-values-in-action>.