Jewish Community Dialogue

Periphery is a photographic and film exhibition created in partnership by No Silence on Race (NSOR) and the Ontario Jewish Archives (OJA). Periphery is a short film about ethnic diversity in the Jewish community in Toronto, Canada. Sharing narratives from individuals of multiracial and multiethnic backgrounds, Periphery creates space to look, listen, and learn from participants as they share their experiences and explore ideas of representation, intersectionality, ethnicity, race, and sexuality. Periphery invites us to appreciate the richness of Jewish identity and cultural expression while illustrating the feeling of grappling to belong. The film and portraits draw our attention inwards and invites us to examine how we foster and support a broader and richer view of the Jewish community.

The Periphery Curriculum is an extension of Periphery, drawing on the photographs, interviews, and film to create, workshop, and disseminate curriculum guides for grades 8-12 within the Jewish and public school systems, as well as content suitable for distribution within the general Jewish and non-Jewish populations across Canada and the United States. Through learning about Jewish communities in Canada, students will explore their own identities and engage in dialogue about the complexities of identity and belonging while deconstructing stereotypical tropes associated with Jewish people.

No Silence on Race is a non-profit dedicated to building Jewish communities by and for Jews of Colour in Canada through arts, culture, education and advocacy. Connect with us at www.nosilenceonrace.ca

The Ontario Jewish Archives (OJA) is the largest repository of Jewish life in Canada. Through exhibitions, programs, research assistance, and walking tours, the OJA tells the stories of Ontario’s Jewish community. You can find us online at www.ontariojewisharchives.org

Facing History and Ourselves uses lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate.  Our unique approach integrates civics, equity, and social-emotional learning with core academic content to help middle and high school educators lead and engage students in rigorous explorations of diverse topics including identity, prejudice, racism, history, legacy, and current events.

Facing History is pleased to be a partner on this project and act as consultants on the development of this curriculum.

Periphery is a short film about Jewish people in Canada with multi-ethnic heritage. Through dance, poetry, and personal narratives, 10 Jews of Black/African, Korean, Iraqi, Indian, and South American ancestry challenge perceptions of who is a Jew and on achieving racial equity in Jewish community spaces. 

If you are seeking to host a screening of Periphery, The Extended Series, for your Jewish community group, congregation, social action committee, board of directors, interfaith meet-up, holiday or event of any nature, the following is a screening guide to help support dialogue with your group and end with actionable outcomes for where you’d like to take this work next.

Before beginning this session, write out a list of objectives for the group and consider having everyone participate in devising these objectives. Some ideas are to:

  • Have a greater awareness and understanding about who Jewish people are and ethnic diversity within Jewish communities 
  • Possess a stronger framework for understanding the complexities of  intersectional identity, using each of your identities as a foundation
  • Discuss the intersections of race, privilege, mobility (i.e Jewish professional opportunities), power as it relates to Jewish identity and ashkenormativity
  • Understand the difference between individual and group identity with a focus on belonging and recognition 
  • Define your group’s role in creating inclusive community spaces in society 

Topics this program explores: Identity, ethnicity, belonging, recognition, acceptance, poetry, dance, antisemitism, social justice and civic engagement 

  1. Make space for a productive and respectful conversation through contracting with your community. (20 minutes)
  2. Consider reading Unknown Poem by Beth Strano with your group and asking them which line(s) resonate with them as a starting point for them to generate ideas on what they need in this space. (6 minutes)
  3. Take the opportunity to frame the lesson on Periphery by reading the poem What Do We Do with a Difference? By James Berry and working with your group to define diversity and intradiversity. The key is to ensure students understand diversity as multifaceted. (15 minutes; this activity can be revisited at the end of the session)

If you are teaching this session in an online format, consider engaging the online room by encouraging participants to post comments in the chat (or tools such as Google Jamboard, Padlet & Mentimeter) about words or phrases that come up in the segment that they are curious about. It may be advisable to establish parameters around the kinds of comments that are appropriate when learning about cultures outside of our own. The intention of this exercise is to get students actively engaging with media content. You will find worksheets at the end of the package to complete this activity in person.

Depending on how much time you have to facilitate this session, select a topic(s) you would like to explore in greater depth and consider having participants watch specific clips and engage with the connected prompts. Each set indicates how long the video and prompt will require. You can also engage with these prompts without watching the videos if your group opts to watch the entire documentary. 

Topic One: Hyphenated Identities
Video: Hyphenated Identities, Asha, Devyani and Nobu (7:41 min.)
Pre-Screening Activity Option 1: What does being Jewish mean to you? (15 minutes)
  • What does being Jewish mean to you? Is it your faith? culture? ethnicity?
  • Based on your community experience, what assumptions have you made about who Jewish people are or what they look like?
  • What kinds of assumptions have non-Jewish people made about you?

5 min: Personal reflection by writing

5 min: Speak to someone next to you about your reflections

5 min: 1-3 people share new insights, questions

Pre-Screening Activity Option 2: Community Building (17 minutes)

What is your story? If someone were to interview you and ask you about your upbringing and culture, what would you say?

Pair participants off and have them interview each other (9 minutes).

Consider the following instructions for interviews:

  1. Put participants in groups of 3
  2. Person #1- Answer the question ‘What is your story?’. They have 3 minutes to speak; describe it, tell a story, speak in a stream-of-consciousness. The key is to talk nonstop
  3. While Person #1 is speaking, Person #2 & #3 will take point-form notes, collect important words/phrases, draw images that reflect the speaking. The key is to write non-stop.
  4. After 3 minutes, Person #2 and #3 give their sheets to Person #1. This will become Person #1’s inspiration, if they need it, for their artwork.
  5. Repeat this process for Person #2 and Person #3.

Take a minute to look at each interview sheet that has been created for you.

Reflect on what differs between the way you described your story and the way it was recorded. Did you feel heard and understood? What was surprising and unsurprising about this activity? (3 minutes)

Large group discussion: A few volunteers share (5 minutes)

Post-Screening Discussion (20 minutes)

Facilitator Prompts:

  • What resonates with you from this clip? What challenges you?
  • In this clip, Asha says: “There are times where you feel like an imposter because you don’t embody what people expect you to look like or be like…they are instantly going to question or disregard your identity a lot of the time.”
  • What is Asha saying about her experience of her hyphenated identities?
  • Devyani talks about feeling isolated from Jewish community growing up in Toronto. What do you think made her feel isolated from the community?
  • What does Nobu mean when he talks about feeling a kinship to other Jews in the way we all question our Jewish identity? Does this resonate with you?
  • Nobu states: “When you’re not handed down an idea of what it means to be Jewish, it’s really hard to figure it out for yourself.” How can we create identity affirming spaces for community members who have different culture traditions or proximity to Jewish culture?

Topic Two: When Others Question Who We Are
Video: When Others Question Who We Are, Sarah (4:28 min.)
Pre-Screening Prompt:

Whose opinions matter in your life and are most important to how you see yourself and understand your identity? Consider this question as you watch Sarah’s video.

Post-Screening Discussion (15-20 min.)

As an Ethiopian Jewish woman, Sarah has experienced people challenging the legitimacy of her Jewish identity.

Facilitator Prompts:

  • How might these experiences impact Sarah’s sense of self? Her sense of community? Her connection to Judaism?
  • What does Sarah’s story teach us about the impacts on our identity when others question who we are?
  • What is one question you would ask Sarah if you had the opportunity?

Topic Three: The Complexities of Invisible Identities
Video: The Complexities of Invisible Identities, Tema (5:55 min.)
Pre-Screening Activity Option: Identity Iceberg (7 minutes)

What aspects of your identity are visible to others and what aspects are invisible? Complete the corresponding handout or this chart by including all aspects of your identity that feel relevant to you (i.e., Jewish, hidden: I have an invisible disability that I don’t talk about it).

Explore beneath the iceberg, why are these attributes invisible? What would happen if they became visible? How would they change or not change what people see or think about you?

Post Screening Discussion (20 minutes)

In this clip, Tema shares more about her identity and the complexities she experiences as a Jewish community professional in the Jewish community when people assume she is of solely Ashkenazi heritage and non-mixed race. Tema shares that people will say things to her that they would never say if a Black person were in the room. In these moments, Tema feels completely unseen and invisibilized.

Facilitator prompts:

  • Is there a time someone made assumptions about you before knowing more about your identity?
  • Is there a time you found yourself making assumptions about someone before you knew more about their identity?
  • Tema Smith talks about feeling more rooted in Jewish narrative and tradition than in a single physical space.
  • How do you understand her explanation? What does home mean to you?
  • Why might Tema say that her experience with connection to land is fraught? What does that mean?
  • Does this resonate with you? Why or why not?
  • Tema mentions that she has to “swallow what just happened” when discriminatory comments are made about Black people. What does “swallow what just happened” mean? How might that impact someone professionally and personally? How do we respond in the moment to discriminatory comments made toward each other and those in the community? Consider exploring Diane Goodman’s Responding To Biased Or Offensive Comments and/or Personal Qualities of an Effective Ally.

Topic Four: Converting to Judaism
Video: Converting to Judaism, Maxine & Fabio (7:21 min.)
Pre-Screening Prompt:

Let’s address conversion. What are some of the harmful assumptions and rhetoric that exist about people who convert to Judaism within our community?

Post-Screening Discussion (20-25 minutes)

Facilitator Prompts:

  • At the beginning of the film, Maxine talks about how her Jewishness is curious and persistent. She asks a series of rhetorical questions about her Jewishness at the time the documentary was filmed: Can I say I am Jewish? When can I say I am Jewish? Is it ever okay for me to say I am Jewish before I complete conversion even if I am functioning very Jewishly in my day-to-day life?
  • We can all make choices in our lives that differ from the places we have come from, the beliefs we are raised with and the people we are surrounded by. This could be religious, gender expression, political etc.
  • Have you ever experienced choosing a path that is different from the communities you were raised in?
  • How do you navigate this? If you are not in this position, what might you do to support someone who is experiencing a big life change?
  • What moment or passage strikes you about Fabio’s experience of converting to Judaism?

Topic Five: Finding Grounding in Community
Video: Finding Grounding in Community, Daniel (7:06 min.)
Post-Screening Discussion (20-25 minutes)

Facilitator Prompts:

  • As a 1st generation Canadian, Daniel talks about his parents and grandmother’s lives in Iraq. He speaks about family and tradition as being his anchor to Jewish life.
  • Daniel answers the question, what is my culture? What is my Judaism? How would you answer these questions? Do your answers reflect a widely shared experience within Jewish community life in Canada? Or are your experiences more peripheral?
  • As a gay Iraqi Jewish man, Daniel shares: “finding my place in the Jewish community was never easy”. What is his advice to other people who find themselves on the periphery of their communities?
  • Identify the call to actions this video presents. What are the messages and what is Daniel stating?
  • If you were to create your own action plan, what changes would you seek to implement within Jewish community life to ensure all Jewish identifying people/voices are represented equally?

Topic Six: Dance & Imagery on the Periphery
Video: Dance & Imagery on the Periphery, Fabio & Maxine (5:34 min.)
Pre-Screening Activity: Working Definition (20 minutes)

What does Periphery mean? Before watching clips from Periphery, write your own definition of this word which you will revisit after viewing the film. (5-10 min)

After watching the film, how does your definition of Periphery change?

Post-Screening Discussion (15 minutes)

Facilitator Prompts:

  • Take a moment to write a few initial thoughts about this video. What feelings, words and questions did it elicit for you?
  • After watching this clip, choose 2 moments that use dance, movement or animation to express an idea. Describe the moment you chose and the significance of it.
  • What is your interpretation of Maxine’s statement: “all of the nutrients that the tree is absorbing, isn’t paying attention to where this borderline is. So, you have things from all around from these different places nourishing this one tree and that makes it very difficult to say that it belongs to one thing, it belongs to another, it’s of one place or of another, and I think the same can be said about any living thing.”
  • From your interpretation, what is the significance of the use of trees and nature throughout the segment?
  • What is the role of dance and movement in exploring the concept of the periphery?
  • How does the film use dance as a way of exploring complex social issues? How does this work? How does it not work?
  • What images are used to convey the periphery and why do you think these choices were made?

Topic Seven: Unpacking the Periphery
Video: Unpacking the Periphery, Akilah (5:04 min.)
Pre-Screening Activity: Working Definition (5-10 min)

What does Periphery mean? Before watching clips from Periphery, write your own definition of this word which you will revisit after viewing the film.

Post Screening Discussion (15-20 minutes)

Facilitator Prompts:

  • After watching the film, how does your definition of Periphery change?
  • What themes and issues is Akilah exploring in her spoken word?
  • Choose 2-3 sentences from Akilah’s poem that you would like to explore further. Explain why you picked these sentences. How do you interpret them? Do the sentences you picked resonate with you? Why or why not?

Topic Eight: Immigrating to Canada
Video: Immigrating to Canada, Fabio (3:50 min.)
Post Screening Discussion (15 minutes)

In the film, Fabio talks about experiencing a lot of fear in Brazil as a child and in his youth. Fabio says he was: Afraid of people, afraid to enter stores, ask for services, afraid to walk in the streets. Fabio further states that this put him in a place of constant self-protection.

Facilitator Prompts:

  • Fabio talks about the fear he experienced throughout his life in Brazil. What kind of fear(s) do you hear Fabio referring to? How might they impact the way he makes choices and interacts with the world? How do Fabio’s words resonate with you and/or challenge you?
  • Take a look at Fabio and his partner Andre’s portrait. What do you see when you look at their portrait? What message are they presenting?
  • What is one question you would ask Fabio about his life if you had the opportunity?

Topic Nine: Finding Strength in One’s Heritage
Video: Finding Strength in One’s Heritage (6:26 min.)
Post Screening Discussion (20-25 minutes)

In this clip, Ariella Daniels talks about having two uncomfortable conversations with her parents about the antisemitism she may experience outside of the Jewish community and about being a person of colour within the Jewish community.

Facilitator Prompts:

  • What are you hearing about Ariella’s personal experiences? What insights and/or questions does it raise for you about identity and society? For a deeper dive into identity and society, consider using this lesson.
  • Ariella’s quote demonstrates that there are multiple ways that a Jewish person of color with intersecting identities can be targeted by others in many spaces on the basis of their ethnic/racial identities. How do Ariella’s words connect to, extend, or challenge your understanding of the definition of intersectional identity?
  • What do you notice about what gives Ariella strength in her identities?
  • How does Ariella’s experience shift your understanding of Jewish identity?
  • And those voices and those answers collectively become our human repertoire for dealing with the challenges we’ll confront in the coming centuries. Consider using the Big Paper Teaching Strategy to explore this quote in depth. (7 minutes)
  • What does it mean for us to hear from different voices of humanity?
  • Each community brings something important and unique that makes up the fabric of our communities and society. How do the videos and stories of Periphery help us answer the question that Wade Davis is posing?
  • Identify the call to actions this video presents. What are the messages and what are the speakers suggesting?
  • How can we use Jewish text to integrate the lessons about diversity in the film?
Now What?: Social Justice within the Jewish Community and Beyond
Global Perspectives (10-15 minutes)

Canadian Anthropologist, Wade Davis shares: “Every culture has a unique answer to a fundamental question: what does it mean to be human and alive? And when the people of the world answer that question they do so in those 7,000 different voices of humanity. And those voices and those answers collectively become our human repertoire for dealing with the challenges we’ll confront in the coming centuries.”

Consider using the Big Paper Teaching Strategy to explore this quote in depth. (7 minutes)

Facilitator Prompts:

  • What does it mean for us to hear from different voices of humanity?
  • Each community brings something important and unique that makes up the fabric of our communities and society. How do the videos and stories of Periphery help us answer the question that Wade Davis is posing?
  • Identify the call to actions this video presents. What are the messages and what are the speakers suggesting?
  • How can we use Jewish text to integrate the lessons about diversity in the film?
Social Justice within the Jewish Community and Beyond: Repairing the world begins with our community

Goal: To use Jewish text to integrate the lessons about diversity in the film/video clips.

Consider using the Big Paper Teaching Strategy to explore these quotes in depth: (12 minutes)

Mishna Sanhedrin 4 (Discussion: 15 minutes)

And this serves to tell of the greatness of the Holy One, Blessed be He, as when a person stamps several coins with one seal, they are all similar to each other. But the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He, stamped all people with the seal of the first human, as all of them are his offspring, and not one of them is similar to another.

This passage allows us to explore the distinction between equality and equity. The coin has equal value because they are identical; but, when g-d creates all people he uses the same mold. Each person is inherently different which makes them unique and equal because they are made from the same mold. Do things have to be identical to be of the same value? Can we learn to see people as having equal value because they are different?

Pirke Avot 4 (Discussion: 15 minutes)

Rabbi Yose ben Judah a man of Kfar Ha-babli said: He who learns from the young, to what is he compared? To one who eats unripe grapes, and drinks wine from his vat; And he who learns from the old, to what is he compared? To one who eats ripe grapes, and drinks old wine. Rabbi said: don’t look at the container but at that which is in it: there is a new container full of old wine, and an old [container] in which there is not even new [wine].

This passage invites us to look beyond our visible identities and physical appearance of people  and remind ourselves about what is inside each individual. Working beyond Jewish text, let’s explore our own responsibility in our everyday life. We can connect this to MLK and his reference to judging people by the content of their character (“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”).

Copyright © 2022 No Silence on Race & Ontario Jewish Archives