Antisemitism, Past to Present: Activism to Create a Change

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This unit was designed to immerse students in the history of the Holocaust and national, ethnic, racial, and religious intolerance. This is to communicate the impact of personal responsibility, civic engagement, and society’s response to tragedies (such as the Holocaust).

This project was constructed with the goals of creating empathy, understanding history, and participating in community responsibilities with awareness of social issues. The requirements of this project include the following: 1) making connections between historical and modern-day events, 2) practicing empathy through a real-life activism initiative, 3) constructing video logs/journal entries to reflect on learning.

Students will be constructing a parallel timeline of events that show the progression of discrimination can lead to genocide both in the past and future. They will start by creating a timeline of events from the Holocaust (dictators, organized laws of discrimination, destruction of property, identification of groups, loss of rights, ghetto and work camps, death camps). They will then create a parallel to that timeline, researching modern day examples of all of these historical events/elements.

One of the focuses of modern-day events is the Tree of Life Attack here in Pittsburgh. By reading about this event and discussing how it is so close to our lives, students can gain perspective of how antisemitism still exists in a way that impacts us here, now.

After students conduct research, they will design an activism project that will be put into effect for one day, in order to raise awareness of how history does repeat itself if communities don’t stand up to injustices. This could be creating a piece of art, a performance, a hash-tag for change, a photo gallery, etc. Students have the freedom to create something that is meaningful to themselves, using their own talents to create a change.

Alyssa Betz is a middle school ELA teacher for the Elizabeth Forward School District.


Suggested Technology: Computer for Presenter, Projector, Laptops for Students, Internet Connection.

Instructional Time: 10 hours.


  • Ateret Cope
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The following lesson plan has won Classrooms Without Borders' FIRST PLACE PRIZE in the contest for lesson plans about antisemitism and hate, in commemoration of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

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