CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS LIBRARY
Using Facts to Respond to Anti-Semitism
(Grades 8 - 12)
Rationale: This lesson introduces students to factual information that refutes commonly circulated anti-Semitic myths, which are the basis for many anti-Semitic remarks and incidents today. Applying this newly acquired information to anti-Semitic case studies, students can begin to develop effective responses to anti-Semitic incidents. By generating ideas in a small group setting, students will also learn from each other and increase their skill set when responding to anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.
Notes to teachers:
- While this lesson is focused on anti-Semitism, the format can be adapted for other forms of discrimination, such as racism, sexism, ableism, and classism.
- Although these anti-Semitic myths are commonly circulated in society at-large, students may be unaware of them and find the explanations in the handouts insufficient. Like with all lessons, assess your students’ familiarity of the Jewish community and history, awareness of these myths and critical thinking skills to determine if this lesson is both informative and appropriate.
- This lesson works well in response to an anti-Semitic incident in the school and/or the school community.
- Students will learn facts that can refute commonly circulated anti-Semitic myths.
- Students will use case studies to reflect on common anti-Semitic situations faced by teens and identify facts to effectively respond to them.
- Student will consider how the skills to respond to anti-Semitism can be used to respond to other forms of bigotry.
National Standards ( .pdf format - 44 KB - requires Acrobat Reader)
Age Range: Grades 8-12
(Click on the link above for a master pdf file with all of the handouts or click on any individual title below for an html version of that single handout.)
Other Materials: chart paper, markers, and masking tape or tacks
Time: 50 minutes for Part I; 50 minutes for Part II
Techniques and Skills: brainstorming, cooperative group work, critical thinking, forming opinions, historical understanding, large and small group discussion, presentation skills, reading skills, strategic thinking, understanding multiple perspectives, writing skills
Key Words: anti-Semitism, fact, Judaism, myth
Part I (50 minutes)
- Prior to presenting this lesson, prepare the following:
- Write the following dictionary definitions on the board, or on chart paper, and post them in a visible area of the classroom (from Merriam-Webster’s World Central’s Student Dictionary):
Myth: a popular belief that is false or unsupported
Write the following definition of anti-Semitism on the board or on chart paper:
Fact: a piece of information about something presented as true and accurate
Anti-Semitism: Anti-Semitism is prejudice and/or discrimination against people who are Jewish. Anti-Semitism can be based on hatred against Jews because of their religious beliefs and their group membership (ethnicity).
Review the Myth and Facts handout. (Note: Additional anti-Semitic myths and their explanations can be found in ADL’s Confronting Anti-Semitism: Myths and Facts booklet.)
- Begin the lesson by asking students to read the definitions of myth and fact. To clarify the definitions, provide an example, e.g., “All girls hate sports” is a myth, while “many girls enjoy sports” is a fact (and identify examples of girls who enjoy sports).
- On the board, create three columns with the following headings: myth, fact, feelings. Ask for a volunteer to share one myth that the student has experienced or heard about based on some aspect of his or her identity (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, family, hobby, appearance). Write the myth under the “myth” heading. Follow this by asking two additional questions: What is the fact that disproves the myth, and how does it make you feel when people believe the myth? Write the responses under the corresponding heading. Ask for a few more examples and repeat the process. (Optional: Students can turn to a partner and share their responses.)
- Review the feelings column with the class (many of the feelings shared will be negative or neutral). Explain that a myth about a group of people can make individuals who are a part of that group feel bad about themselves. Furthermore, if the myth is not challenged, other people may start believing in it and interact with people in a negative way, e.g., not allowing girls to play baseball at a picnic, or making fun of girls who play sports. Share that there are many myths about different groups of people. In this lesson, the class will look at myths about Jews, which can lead to anti-Semitic beliefs and behaviors.
- Post the definition of anti-Semitism and read it aloud. Explain to students that anti-Semitism often arises from myths, such as stereotypes or other misinformation about Jews.
- Ask students what myths they have heard or experienced that relates to anti-Semitism, assuring them that sharing the myth does not mean they believe it. Write them on the board. (Note: If students cannot share any myths, skip to step #8.)
- Review the list generated by the class. If patterns emerge, group the list into themes based on the themes in Myths and Facts. Tell the class that they will be exploring these themes further in small groups.
- Tell students that they will be divided into small groups and assigned a brief reading that explores a myth related to anti-Semitism and a corresponding fact that refutes the myth. Explain that the handout will also contain group discussion questions. Provide the following instructions to students:
- Choose one person to be the scribe and one person to be the reporter for the group.
- Groups should read their myth on the handout provided to them and discuss their responses to the discussion questions that follow on the handout.
- Groups should write down their myth on top of their piece of chart paper and write down group consensus responses to the discussion questions included in the handout.
- Divide the class into small groups and pass out the appropriate Myths and Facts handout to each student, and one piece of chart paper and markers to each group. (Note: More than one group can have the same myth.) Allow 15 - 20 minutes for each group to complete their group assignment.
- Reconvene the class and have each group post their chart paper for everyone to see. Have the presenter from each group briefly describe the assigned myth and share the group’s responses. Allow a few minutes after each presentation for questions, clarifications and corrections.
- Conclude by asking some or all of the questions:
- What surprised you about this lesson?
- Why do you think anti-Semitic myths (or any other kinds of myths) persist?
- How do you think teens who are Jewish may feel if someone believes a myth about Jews?
- What could happen if someone believes an anti-Semitic myth?
- What can you say and do if you hear an anti-Semitic myth?
Part II (50 minutes)
- Prior to the start of this part of the lesson, choose one of the following two options:
- Write out 3-4 anti-Semitic case studies based on the examples discussed in Part I (see Case Studies for a template), and the following questions (these questions can also be written on the board or on chart paper instead of the handout):
Make enough copies for students in small groups.
- What anti-Semitic myth is this situation based on?
- What facts can you give to disprove the myth?
- What else can you do or say in response to this situation?
Option 2: Review and select scenarios from Case Studies for the class to review in small groups and make enough copies for students.
Explain to students that this part of the lesson will provide them with the opportunity to use their knowledge about “myths and facts” to come up with positive ways to get involved when anti-Semitic comments are made.
Divide students into small groups and distribute the Case Studies handouts. Instruct students to read their assigned case study as a group, and discuss and write down their responses to the questions (either on the handout or on the board/chart paper). Let them know that they can refer to the Myths and Facts handout and the notes from the earlier presentations for support.
Allow groups 15 - 20 minutes to complete this task.
Reconvene the class, and ask the presenter from each group to read their case study aloud and present their responses to the class. Allow a few minutes after each group presentation for questions, clarifications and corrections. (Optional: Instruct students to role-play their response to the situation, and allow a five-minute Q&A session after each role play.)
Conclude by asking some or all of the questions:
- Are you surprised that teens continue to experience anti-Semitism today? Why or why not?
- What are some strategies that you heard in class that you think you can use?
- How different would your strategies be if you were confronting someone you didn’t know versus your friend?
- How comfortable do you feel about confronting anti-Semitism? What else do you need to learn in order for you to feel more comfortable confronting anti-Semitism?
- Can some of these strategies apply to other forms of bigotry, such as racism, sexism, or classism? How so? (Concise definitions of these terms can be found in 101 Ways to Combat Prejudice on the Anti-Defamation League’s Web site.)
- Invite someone from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), or a Jewish youth group to learn more about Jewish teens’ experience with anti-Semitism and how to confront anti-Semitism.
- If a myth that a student shares is not addressed in Myths and Facts and Case Studies, encourage students to research the origins of the myth and to present the findings to the class.