Curriculum Connection Home Anti-Semitism: Past and Present
Anti-Semitism: Past and Present
(Grades 10 - 12)

Rationale: The purpose of this lesson is for students to learn about the history of anti-Semitism and why it is often referred to as “the longest hatred.” By uncovering the roots of anti-Jewish hatred, students will be able to link historical acts of anti-Semitism to contemporary stereotypes and biases towards Jewish people. Students will investigate how current day extremist groups use anti-Semitic stereotypes to incite acts of violence and hate against Jewish communities. Students will also consider ways to challenge anti-Semitic stereotypes and prejudice in their schools and communities.

Notes to teachers:

  • Part I of this lesson introduces the concept of anti-Semitism to students; therefore, it is recommended to use as an introductory lesson to a curricular unit on the Holocaust. Part II explores modern day manifestations of anti-Semitism and contemporary acts of anti-Semitic violence committed by hate groups; therefore, it is recommended to be used as a closing lesson for a curricular unit on the Holocaust. 

  • The content of this lesson may be particularly difficult for Jewish students and their families. It is important for Jewish students and their families to be consulted prior to the start of this lesson to notify them that the topic of anti-Semitism will be discussed in the classroom, and to gauge the comfort level of Jewish students in participating in the lesson. As is true when exploring the experiences of any identity group in the classroom, Jewish students should not be called upon to answer questions on behalf of the whole Jewish community. Every student is an individual and can only answer for their own individual experiences and perspective. These recommendations are true for students belonging to any religious, racial, ethnic or cultural group. 

  • It is important for ground rules to be established prior to the start of this lesson given the sensitivity of the topic. Please refer to the Establishing Ground Rules classroom lesson included in this unit for a guide to creating rules for safe and respectful dialogue in the classroom.


  • Students will learn about the swastika and other symbols of hate.
  • Students will learn the definition of anti-Semitism.
  • Students will study the roots of anti-Semitism and the history of anti-Semitism.
  • Students will consider current manifestations of anti-Semitic stereotypes and prejudice.
  • Students will learn about hate groups and hate symbols, and will research the extent of extremist activity in their local community or region.
  • Students will discuss ways to challenge anti-Semitic stereotypes and prejudice in their schools and community.

National Standards  ( .pdf format - 44 KB - requires Acrobat Reader)

Age Range:     Grades 10 – 12


Techniques and Skills: analyzing primary documents, brainstorming, connecting past to present, cooperative group work, critical thinking, examining photographs, forming opinions, historical understanding, large and small group discussion, reading skills, research skills, using the Internet

Key Words: anti-Judaism, anti-Semitism, bigotry, dehumanize, discrimination, hate group, Holocaust, Nazi, pogrom, prejudice, scapegoating, stereotype, subordinate, swastika


Part I (70 min)

  1. Display the Photograph of Anti-Semitic Incident in Washington State handout in a part of the classroom that is visible to all students. Explain to students that this is a residential sign of an apartment complex in Bonnie Lakes, Washington that was found defaced on April 19, 2005. Hold a class discussion using the following questions:

    • What is the message of hate that is scrawled on this residential sign in Washington? (“Kill all Jews”)
    • Have you ever seen messages of hate like this before?
    • What is the intent or purpose of hate messages like this?
    • How would you feel if you arrived home and saw a message of hate targeted towards you and your family based on your religion or culture?
    • What is the symbol included with this hate message called? (Explain to students that this symbol is called a swastika.)
    • What does this symbol represent?   ( Explain to students that this symbol was used on the flag of the German Nazi Party during the Holocaust. The Holocaust resulted in the genocide of 6 million Jews and thousands of others who were targeted by Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945. Explain to students that until the Nazis appropriated this symbol, the swastika was used by many cultures throughout the past 3,000 years to represent positive things—life, sun, power, strength and good luck. It is also a religious symbol used by Buddhists and Hindus in these positive ways.)
    • Why would this symbol be threatening and dehumanizing for Jewish people today?

  1. Write the term “Anti-Semitism” on the board or on chart paper, and ask students if they know what this term means. Write students responses on chart paper or on the chalkboard.

  2. Display the following definition on an overhead projector using a transparency of the Definition of Anti-Semitism handout, or on chart paper or the chalkboard:

      Anti-Semitism is prejudice and/or discrimination against Jews. Anti-Semitism can be based on hatred against Jews because of their religious beliefs, their group membership (ethnicity) and sometimes on the erroneous belief that Jews are a race. Jews are, in fact, of all different races.

  3. Divide the class into groups of four. Ask each group to discuss examples of “anti-Semitism” that students know, have heard about or have witnessed in their school or community. Assure students that providing these examples does not mean that they believe them. Allow five minutes for group discussion.

  1. Ask students the following questions:

    • What are some examples of anti-Semitism that you discussed in your groups? (Write student responses next to those on the chalkboard or piece of chart paper with the header “Anti-Semitism” created in step #2.)
    • What is the difference between prejudice and discrimination? (Explain to students that acts of prejudice and discrimination build on stereotypes about different groups of people. A stereotype is an oversimplified generalization about a person or group of people without regard for individual differences. Prejudice is prejudging or making a decision about a person or group of people without sufficient knowledge, and that prejudicial thinking is frequently based on stereotypes. Discrimination is the denial of justice and fair treatment by both individuals and institutions, and creates inequity in areas such as employment, education, housing, and political rights. Discrimination is an action that can follow prejudicial thinking.)
    • Of the examples of anti-Semitism that you discussed in your groups, which would you describe as being examples of anti-Semitic stereotypes? prejudice? or discrimination? (Write an “S”, “P” or “D” next to the examples noted on the chalkboard or piece of chart paper with the header “Anti-Semitism” created in step #2.) 
    • How can anti-Semitic stereotypes and prejudice lead to acts of exclusion or violence against Jewish people?
    • How can stereotypes about any group of people lead to acts of hate or violence against people from that group?

  1. Explain to students that hatred of Jewish people can be traced all the way back in history to ancient times. Distribute copies of the Short History of Anti-Semitism and Questions about the Short History of Anti-Semitism handouts to each student.

  2. In their groups of four, or in pairs, ask students to read the Short History of Anti-Semitism handout and to underline examples of anti-Semitic stereotypes, prejudice or discrimination as they read through the document. Students should distinguish the examples they underline with an S (for stereotype), P (for prejudice), and/or D (for discrimination). After students have read the Short History of Anti-Semitism handout, each group should work together to complete the Questions about the Short History of Anti-Semitism worksheet. (Note: If time is limited, this assignment could be given as individual homework.)

  3. Reconvene the class, and review the examples of anti-Semitic stereotypes, prejudice or discrimination that students underlined in the Short History of Anti-Semitism handout. Clarify any misunderstandings about the distinctions between these terms. Also, review group responses to the Questions about the Short History of Anti-Semitism.

  4. Referring back to student responses charted on the chalkboard or on a piece of chart paper in step #2 and step #5, ask students some or all of the following discussion questions:

    • Regarding the examples of anti-Semitic stereotypes and prejudice listed earlier, what are some of the stereotypes that we listed about Jewish people that can be traced back to different periods in history?
    • Were you surprised by anything that you learned about the history of anti-Semitism? If so, share one example.
    • In what ways is anti-Semitism a form of bigotry similar to racism or sexism?
    • What is the danger that stereotypes pose for Jews and other groups of people targeted by prejudice and discrimination?
    • How have stereotypes and prejudice created the foundation for acts of discrimination and genocide, such as the Holocaust or slavery?
    • How can understanding anti-Semitism assist you in challenging stereotypes and forms of bigotry in general?
    • What is the price that is paid when people do not stand up to stereotypes and acts of prejudice against another person or group of people?

Part II (70 min)

  1. Play the ADL Slide Show: 2005 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents for students in an area of the classroom that is visible to the whole class (Note: Pictures from the slide show can also be printed and distributed to students).
  1. Ask students the following questions:

    • What are some of your thoughts and feelings in reaction to the anti-Semitic incidents that occurred across the U.S. in 2005? 
    • Why do you think anti-Semitism did not end with the Holocaust?
    • Do you know of any anti-Semitic incidents that may have occurred in your school or community? If so, describe in brief.
    • What is the impact of hate and acts of bigotry on people in a community (including community members who are not the direct targets of bigoted acts)?

  1. Divide the class into five separate groups. Distribute one copy of the ADL Hate on Display: Extremist Symbols, Logos and Tattoos poster to each group. Ask students if they are familiar with any of the hate symbols on the poster, and if they know the significance of the symbols.

    (Note: Free copies of the ADL Hate on Display: Extremist Symbols, Logos and Tattoos poster can be ordered through the ADL Web site at Alternatively, students can go online and use the ADL’s Hate on Display: Visual Database of Extremist Symbols, Logos and Tattoos to explore the listing of graphic hate symbols included in the ADL Hate on Display: Extremist Symbols, Logos and Tattoos poster.)

  1. Provide students with the following information:

    Hate symbols are more than just "signs" demonstrating racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian attitudes and beliefs -- these symbols are meant to instill a sense of fear and insecurity. One finds hate symbols scrawled on the outside walls of synagogues, churches and schools; depicted on fliers and literature distributed in communities; tattooed on the bodies of white supremacists, or proudly displayed as jewelry or on clothing. These symbols also give haters a sense of power and belonging, and are a quick way of identifying other haters who share their same hate ideology. Symbols like swastikas, "SS" thunderbolts and group logos offer a visual vocabulary that is used by a variety of extremists such as Neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, white supremacist hate groups including the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazi National Alliance, Aryan Nations and the Posse Comitatus, to intimidate individuals and communities.1 

  1. Explain to students that they are going to research whether there are any hate groups established and operating in their state (Note: If time does not allow or if Internet resources are limited, students can also complete this step as an individual research assignment).

  1. Give the following instructions to students (Note: It is strongly suggested that students remain on the ADL Web site when conducting this research. Students may not be mature enough to comprehend or handle information they may come across if they visit Web sites designed and supported by hate groups.):

    a. In their groups, students should visit the ADL Racist Skinhead Project Web site, locate the interactive map, and use a computer mouse to click on their state to find a listing of hate groups that are active in their state (if there are no hate groups listed as active in their state, students can click on a neighboring state to find the hate groups that are active in that neighboring state).

    b. Students should write down the name of the hate groups operating in their state (or a neighboring state), and any information listed about those hate groups on the ADL Web site (students can click on any of the names of the hate groups listed for their state which will link to more information about those hate groups on the ADL Web site).

    c. Students should then visit the ADL 2005 Archive of Extremist Events by State and write down any recent events that were held by hate groups operating in their state (or a neighboring state) in 2005.

    (Note: Teachers can also conduct this research in advance, and divide the research assignment so that each group is responsible for researching a different hate group operating in their area.)

  1. Reconvene the class, and ask students to share the findings from their research on hate groups that are operating in their state (or a neighboring state), and any recent extremist activity held by hate groups in their state (or a neighboring state). Chart student responses on a chalkboard or on chart paper.

  1. After students have completed presenting their research findings, hold a class discussion using the following discussion questions:

    • How did you feel to learn about the existence of hate groups in your state/region?

    • What are some of the dangers that these hate groups pose?

    • How do hate groups perpetuate myths and stereotypes about Jews and other groups of people?

    • What role do other people play who may not be part of a hate group, but who also hold anti-Semitic beliefs and prejudice about different groups of people? (Explain to students that according to an ADL 2005 Survey of American Attitudes Towards Jews in America, 14 % of all U.S. Americans - or nearly 35 million adults – hold anti-Semitic views about Jews.)

    • How can hate messages and stereotypes about different groups of people be challenged?

    • What individual steps can we take to challenge stereotypes and prejudice against Jews and other groups of people? (List student responses on chart paper and post in a permanent place in the classroom as a reference and a reminder for students when incidents of intolerance occur in the classroom or school community.)

Extension Activities:

  • Have students view the broadcast of the film Not In Our Town, or read about the events in Billings, Montana in 1993 when an entire community stood up to acts of hate and anti-Semitism. Students can also learn about how these events led to a national Not In Our Town movement that encourages community response to hate crimes. Students can discuss/debate the possible risks that a person or a community takes when deciding to be an ally and challenge hate and bigotry. Students can also discuss the risk that a person or community takes when messages of hate go unchallenged.

  • Have students visit the Turn It Down campaign Web site to learn more about a national campaign to speak out and stand up to hate music. A Turn It Down Resource Kit is available for download for teachers, which includes a manual on ways youth can respond to hate music.

  • Invite a survivor of the Holocaust to speak with students about the first-hand experience of having lived and survived the anti-Semitic and genocidal events of World War II. Survivors of more recent acts of genocide, including Rwanda and the Sudan, can speak to students about their personal experiences of surviving acts of genocide that have occurred more recently. 

  • Use the multimedia curriculum on the Holocaust, Echoes and Reflections, for additional lessons on teaching the Holocaust. Rich with visual history testimony integrated into 10 multi-part lessons, this educational resource offers curriculum connections to contemporary issues of diversity, prejudice and bigotry, and modern-day genocide.  

1 ADL L.E.A.R.N. Resource Network,


Challenging Anti-Semitism
  • In This Issue
Lesson Plans
  • Establishing Ground Rules
(Grades 3 & up)
  • Understanding Judaism and the Jewish Community
(Grades 3 – 6)
  • Using Facts to Respond to Anti-Semitism
(Grades 8 – 12)
Anti-Semitism: Past and Present
(Grades 10 – 12)
  • Confronting Anti-Semitism: Myths and Facts Guide
  • Resources on Anti-Semitism
  • Jewish Stars: Recommended Books with Jewish Themes
  • Echoes and Reflections Holocaust Curriculum
  • Anti-Semitism and The Merchant of Venice
  • The Merchant of Venice: Teacher's Guide for Sony Picture Version
  • ADL – Religion in the Public Schools
A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute Recommended Multicultural and Anti-Bias Books for Children
A CLASSROOM OF DIFFERENCE Programs and Resources

 © 2006 Anti-Defamation League