Understanding Antisemitism: Rooted in History

Members Only Content


This lesson combines an understanding and review of the plant life cycle and the metaphors of roots to understand the history of racism and antisemitism in our world. The beginning of the lesson will start outside, perhaps in collaboration with science as the teacher helps the students refresh their understanding of plant life cycle starting with planting seeds and how the seeds will grow and roots take place. Students will learn that it is easier to dig up the roots and replant when the plant (in this lesson use a tree) is younger but as the plant grows, the roots take a deeper hold. The deeper and stronger the roots are, the more difficult it is to dig up the roots and replant. The outdoor lesson can take 1-2 days and afterwards the teacher will work with the students in the classroom to help explain the history and current rise of antisemitism using roots as a metaphor to understand how difficult it is to change stereotypes once they have been planted.

In the classroom, the teacher needs to strike a balance between the culture and religion of Judaism before teaching students about antisemitism. Students should understand that antisemitism has existed well before World War II and the Holocaust and that antisemitism existed well after the end of the Holocaust. The shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue shows that people still have deep rooted biases and prejudices against people of different ethnicities and religions. For students to understand why an incident like this occurred in 2018, they need to understand that antisemitism evolved from stereotypes and persists throughout history.

At the end of the unit, students will go outside as a class and plant their own tree. During the course of the lesson students will each plant a flower in their own starter pot. They will then see how easy it is to transplant the plant from its starter pot to a larger pot. Each plant will symbolize something different for each student. The goal is for each student to have their tree represent planting something good they wish for the world. For example, planting a tree that wishes for gender equality or a tree that has the roots of respecting different religions. The goal is for students to understand that change starts with the individual and each person has their own biases and is responsible for how they treat others. At the end of the lesson the students will be able to take home their plant.


Suggested Technology: Computer for Presenter, Laptops for Students, Internet Connection, Speakers/Headphones.

Instructional Time: 10 hours.


  • Ateret Cope
Registered Educators have access to special downloads available for many Lesson Plans. Login or Register to gain access.


The following lesson plan was written as part of Classrooms Without Borders' Call for Lesson Plans about antisemitism and hate, in commemoration of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Related Materials and Events

Scroll to Top