Since the early part of the twentieth century people have been fascinated with films. My students in New Haven, Connecticut are no different. The majority of them are African American and Hispanic teenagers from the inner city. Many of these students, like other young people of all backgrounds, are self-organized into a subculture that glorifies action movies and violent rap songs. Images of rebellion are attractive to teens. For many, their favorite movie imagery is when the protagonist portrays strength, street smarts, and a cunning character.
My students are sent to our high school from other city schools after having failed to perform either academically or socially. As a result, some teachers may lower their expectations of them. Their future educational or career plans are ridiculed by their peers and considered visions of futility. Most students wish to separate themselves from the reality of their ghetto experience. Since their options of escape are limited in space and geography, movie imagery is the expression of their hopes and pseudo identification with the outside world.
Unfortunately, the majority of my high school students are not academically motivated. This, however, does not quell their natural curiosity. As an Orthodox Jew who wears the traditional head-covering required by my religion, I am asked many questions by my students. They want to know what I am wearing on my head or if I am Muslim. Their inquiries have led me to recognize that their exposure to other cultures is minimal, and their knowledge of how other oppressed people have overcome adversity is very limited. The knowledge that they
have about other cultures is information acquired on the street or from sound bites from Louis Farrakhan, Malcolm X, and leaders of the Civil Rights movement.
To balance the students' lack of knowledge about other minorities and cultures, it would be useful to have a curriculum concerning anti-Semitism including the space and geography of Eastern Europe where anti-Semitism has taken place. A curriculum concerning this subject would be unique in comparison to the average history or civics class and would be an attention-grabber, a necessity when working with students that are not academically motivated.
My three lesson plans would encompass the geographical map of Eastern Europe and struggle of the Jewish people for a national home in the land of Israel. It is a struggle many minority groups, such as those represented in Cross Annex, will recognize as similar to their own. My students will likely draw parallels between the suffering of their own people in recent history and the oppression and suffering of the Jewish people in the last two centuries.
African Americans, for example, can identify with the Jewish search for a homeland. Both African Americans and Jews were treated like aliens by countries they lived in or were forced to live in. Some adopted artificial characteristics to survive. "Sambo" became one stereotype of the African American personality. "The Wandering Jew" became the Jewish mentality. Such an existence, combined with social, economic, and political impediments forced both peoples to struggle throughout their history. Even when both groups were officially "accepted" into mainstream society, both were subject to discrimination: anti-Semitism and racism. Eventually, African Americans made great strides during the Civil Rights movement, and the Jewish people regained their national existence and the State of Israel, after the Holocaust.
The Social Studies curriculum will provide general understanding and knowledge of Jewish life and anti-Semitism within the geographical map of Eastern Europe, beginning in the later part of the eighteenth century. The curriculum will include several films such as
Long is the Road, The Pianist, Schindler's List,
etc., showing the life and conditions of Jews scattered around the world without a country of their own. The films selected for this curriculum symbolize the ideology of Zionism and the Jewish national aspirations as a result of oppression within the geographical map of Eastern Europe.
Some of the objectives of the curriculum will be to understand the major Jewish movements, such as the Zionist movement, crucial in the establishment of the State of Israel. Students will be familiarized with Israel's "Declaration of Independence." They will have assignments that will require them to compare it to the foundations of the American Constitution.
Movies such as Long is the Road, Schindler's List, and The Pianist, will also be used as a springboard to familiarize the students with the geographical regions being studied as well as to acquaint them with the lands and geographical map of eastern and western Europe. These areas are where Jewish history and culture flourished, but where most atrocities against the Jews took place.
It is my goal that the knowledge and understanding gained through my curriculum will help students understand Jewish history and how it is related to today's current events.
Students are expected to:
- Listen, view and read various historical sources
- Assess how history changes our perception of others
- Analyze modern Jewish history and the establishment of the State of Israel
- Demonstrate knowledge in the following areas: Zionism, Jewish philosophy and literature, anti-Semitism, Pogroms, the Holocaust, and the establishment of the State of Israel
- Assess the underlying reasons for the establishment of the State of Israel
- Assess how religion was used as a uniting force for the Jewish people when under oppression
- Explain how the Church affected Jewish life in Europe
- Explain how "The Wandering Jew" is related to the Jewish struggle for survival
- Discuss the impact the Russian Pogroms and the Holocaust had on European Jews and their descendents
- Gather historical data from primary and secondary sources
- Write short statements and narratives about diaries and survival stories
- Demonstrate comprehension through verbal, written, visual, and musical formats
- Use the Writing Process to complete a research report
- Watch and analyze various movies and documentaries
- Compose questions and hypotheses to explain major events in Jewish history
- Demonstrate comprehension and understanding when discussing current events
Anti-Semitism and racism are connected to each other. The doctrine of racism states that blood is indicative of ethnic and national identity. It asserts that innate biological characteristics determine individual and class behavior. Individuals are not judged by their character and behavior; rather their value is determined by their membership in a collective racial group.
The nineteen-century racist theories, especially anti-Semitism, influenced many to believe that Jews were the cause of much trouble in the world. They falsely accused the Jews of poisoning water wells, kidnapping and slaughtering non-Jewish children before Passover, the Jewish holiday, to use their blood for baking
The Jews, as the victimized minority could do little to protect themselves from ludicrous accusations and future libels.