Teaching Civil Rights to Jews

Many of us know that Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel walked with Martin Luther King Jr. at the Selma Civil Rights March in 1965. But that’s just a tiny bit of the history of Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement. If you’re struggling to teach a civil rights lesson to your Hebrew or Sunday school class, you’re in luck!



The bombing of a Temple in Atlanta

The Jewish Women’s Archive recently launched
Living the Legacy
, a new online curriculum on Jews and the Civil Rights Movement, featuring stories of women and men fighting for social justice. Designed for teens, Living the Legacy offers the opportunity for young people to explore their own identities and social justice commitments and to draw connections between a history of American Jewish activism and their own lives. For instance, students marking MLK Day this year can feel connected to Jewish students who participated in the Civil Rights Movement through the letters these activists wrote home, a photograph of NFTY teens at the March on Washington, or a video of the Freedom Seder that commemorated the first anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

In addition to containing over 85 rich primary source documents like these, Living the Legacy is a full curriculum with 16 ready-to-use lesson plans designed to be used by educators working with 8th-12th graders in both formal and informal educational settings. The flexible lessons can stand alone or be taught in various combinations. It also includes 15 traditional Jewish texts, each linked to from a variety of lesson plans and paired with accompanying questions that can be applied in a range of social justice education contexts. Living the Legacy is available for free in its entirety on JWA’s website at http://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy.

I’ve had a chance to look through some of the curricula and they really are fantastic resources for teachers. They’re also adaptable for informal settings–you can browse the primary sources separately, or by keyword. I particularly like the Power, Privilege and Responsibility lesson. Great for starting a conversation with teens about these important issues.

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