One of the biggest misconceptions about antisemitism is that it is part of the past akin to ancient history. When talking about my seminar in Poland, some people stated that it is good to let some things stay in the past as if antisemitism is something that happened only in the 1930s and we can leave it buried. When I teach books that discuss the Holocaust, many of my students have no idea why anyone would want to kill another person because of her religion. While I am happy that they do not have personal knowledge of anti-Semitic comments and notions, meaning this is not how they are brought up, I also realize that I have a lot of work to do to help them understand this underlying problem. Because it is not something solely in the past. When I first started teaching the novel Night, I explained what anti-Semitism is and had recent examples like desecrated cemeteries to show that the problem continues. Sadly, my examples got more and more violent with last year’s massacre fresh in the news when I started the novel last winter.
We all find things more meaningful if we can relate them to something in our own lives. This is especially true with children. Presently, all of my students are Christian. They have little knowledge about other religions. I also find that while most are Christian, less than half practice their religion. What I am trying to do in this lesson plan is to find a common ground with religion so that the recent attacks seem more personal to the students. Words like synagogue or mosque may seem totally foreign to them, but if I can relate it to a church, it will bring understanding. Although I have my students in mind while creating this plan, it can be used with anyone, and it allows for those who have no religion.
Finally, these topics are so large, they can seem overwhelming. We can teach a whole class on antisemitism. I also did not add racism to this topic because it would become too broad. I also focus on racism in my literature class and anyone using this lesson plan could add it to the lessons. I tried to narrow the focus so that this could be taught in a week. Anyone using this plan can adapt it to make it longer by lengthening the discussions or using more background materials.
Suggested Technology: Computer for Presenter, Projector, Laptops for Students, Internet Connection, Speakers/Headphones.
Instructional Time: 5 hours.