Jewish School Curriculum:

Grades 11 & 12

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.

This guide provides material to prepare students to watch clips from Periphery, The Extended Series, as well as materials to explore key themes in greater depth. By the end of these activities, students will have a stronger understanding about Jewish ethnic diversity and culture in Canada and around the world as well as intersectional identity, privilege and the impacts of stereotypes, assumptions and discrimination on ones identity. Students will also reflect on their role as individuals in the classroom and in other social spaces on how to be responsible global citizens equipped with knowledge and empathy to contribute to inclusive spaces of learning and development and how to effectively engage in social action and change. 

In addition to the lessons found on this website, we have also included a teacher’s guide entitled Intro to Judaism, the worksheets required for the pre/post screening activities, and a glossary of terms to equip both teachers and students with the correct language to engage in dialogue and learn about the Jewish community. These can be found as downloadable pdfs alongside the curriculum.

Themes & topics this lesson explores: Identity, ethnicity, belonging, recognition, acceptance, dance, spoken word, antisemitism, social justice and civic engagement 

*In addition to the connections below, our pedagogy is rooted from a culturally responsive lens. Our focus is to utilize students’ understanding of their identities as a foundation for critical understanding to learn about diversity, race, ethnicity, religion and identity to facilitate critical inquiry, reflection and responsible citizenship.

These lessons are tied to the following strands of the Ontario high school curriculum:

Equity, Diversity & Social Justice (Grade 11)

The Social Construction of Identity

A1.1 Explore a variety of topics related to equity, diversity, and/or social justice to identify topics for research and inquiry

Explain how various aspects of identity (e.g., gender identity, sexual orientation, trans identities, race, culture, ethnicity, ability, language, class, faith, age, body image) may be socially constructed and internalized (e.g., through the media, parental expectations, religion, popular culture) 

Demonstrate an understanding of how a variety of factors (e.g., race, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, ability) intersect in individuals to create diverse experiences of identity and social roles

B1.4 Explain how biases and stereotypes, including those related to race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, are transmitted through the media and popular culture and describe their possible impact on individuals

Explain how and why a person’s power and privilege can vary in different contexts (e.g., at home, in a peer group, at school, in the community) 

B2.3 Demonstrate an understanding of the difference between individual and systemic forms of discrimination and oppression (e.g., antisemitic remarks, racial profiling, gay bashing, racist slurs, homophobic comments, lack of captioning of television programs or videos, employment barriers, restrictions on gay men being blood or organ donors, the reserve system for First Nations peoples in Canada, failure to make buildings accessible for elderly people and people with disabilities) 

B2.4 Describe the effects of discrimination and oppression on individuals and groups (e.g., feelings of marginalization, powerlessness, anger, hopelessness; motivation to seek societal change or engage in advocacy, action)

C1.2 Describe the complexities of the relationship between an individual’s cultural heritage and Canadian values, beliefs, and practices

C2.1 Describe a variety of historical and contemporary examples of inequity and social injustice in Canada (e.g., historical immigration policy, including the Chinese Exclusion Act and head tax on Chinese residents; the response to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism; the internment of Japanese Canadians, German Canadians, and Doukhobors; living conditions in urban slums and First Nation communities; working conditions in early factories and sweatshops; the destruction of Africville; the struggle for unions and for health and safety standards for workers; discrimination against francophones; environmental degradation related to resource exploitation)

Visual Arts (Grade 11)

B1.1 Analyse their initial response to art works (e.g., describe their initial reaction to an art work and determine which specific aspects of the work and their personal experience led to their reaction)

Media Arts (Grade 11)

B2.2 Analyse the ability of media art works to express historical or contemporary cultural identities (e.g., Alanis Obomsawin’s Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance; Nina Levitt’s Thin Air), and explain how obstacles can limit that ability (e.g., the limited representation on the Internet of media artists from some regions of the world)

B2.5 Analyse how the process of critically analysing media art works has affected their perception and understanding of different communities, cultures, ideologies, and/or social groups (e.g., how analysing media art work posted on video blogs has expanded their knowledge or changed their perception of people who are from different cultures or who advocate different ideologies)

Equity and Social Justice: From Theory to Practice (Grade 12)

B1.2 Demonstrate an understanding of basic concepts related to the social construction of identity (e.g., the construction of race, gender, ability, sexual orientation, class) that have been developed by a range of theorists (e.g., Judith Butler, George Dei, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, bell hooks, Karl Marx), and of how to apply the concepts when analysing equity issues

B2.4 Demonstrate an understanding of how the use of language can empower or marginalize individuals and groups (e.g., the impact of forcing colonized people to be educated in or to use the lan guage of the colonizer; the implications of androcentric language; the benefits of groups “reclaiming” pejorative language) 

B3.1 Analyse stereotypes found in the media and popular culture, and assess their impact (e.g., with reference to: personal aspirations, expectations, and assumptions; empathy; violent or oppressive behaviour; harassment and bullying; sense of belonging or alienation) 

B3.3 Demonstrate an understanding of various ways in which media and popular culture can be used to raise awareness of equity and social justice issues (e.g., how popular music, feature films, documentaries, photographs, and the Internet can raise social awareness) 

Compare challenges facing various equity- seeking groups (e.g., groups seeking gender equity, racial equity, poverty reduction, or rights for people who are mentally ill or who have physical, intellectual, or sensory disabilities), and describe some of the policies, strategies, and initiatives used by these groups to address their concerns

D1.1 Describe how fundamental values, attitudes, and day-to-day behaviour (e.g., fair-mindedness, empathy, reflection, respecting and embracing diversity, personal language use) can contribute to equity and social justice

D1.2 Describe how education can help promote equity and social justice (e.g., by fostering critical thinking, increasing awareness, exposing students to multiple perspectives) 

World Cultures (Grade 12)

A1.1 Explore a variety of topics related to world cultures and/or cultural groups (e.g., ethno cultural study of a particular culture, the issue of hyphenated identities, educational and employment barriers faced by newcomers to Canada, changing gender roles in specific cultures) to identify topics for research and inquiry

Understanding culture

B1.1 Demonstrate an understanding of the elements of culture (e.g., language, symbols, arts, literature, values, beliefs, traditions, ethnic origin, religion, social hierarchies, kinship relations) associated with various definitions of the term (e.g., the UNESCO definition; anthropological, sociological, humanist definitions) 

B1.2 Analyse various functions of culture (e.g., contributing to an individual’s sense of self and sense of community; providing a sense of security; establishing and enforcing social norms; providing meaning, purpose, and structure in individuals’ lives) 

Teacher prompts: “What are the positive aspects of the cultural enforcement of social norms? What negative effects might arise from this enforcement?” “What are the benefits of belong ing to a cultural group? What are some other sources of the sense of security and belonging that are often provided by a cultural group?”

B1.3 Describe multiple ways in which culture can influence an individual’s perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours (e.g., with respect to dietary choices restrictions, customs, habits, moral expectations, the human relationship to nature, social roles such as gender roles or roles associated with age) and can shape social institutions and practices (e.g., the education system, employment opportunities, forms of entertainment) 

B2.1 Demonstrate an understanding of how an individual’s cultural identity is socially con structed (e.g., with reference to family expectations, peer pressure, religious expectations, education and training, media and popular culture) 

B2.2 Analyse how culture is acquired and main tained within a group (e.g., through oral/written traditions, social and religious organizations and institutions, language, symbols, customs and mores, art, philosophy; through practices such as endogamy) 

Teacher prompts: “What role does oral history play in teaching us about culture?” “What is the importance of language and customs in maintaining cultural identity?” “What steps have Franco-Ontarians and Québécois taken to preserve their cultural identity?” “How

B2.4 Compare the rates at which cultural change is taking place within a variety of cultures (e.g., with respect to language, social mores, traditions, religious observance, fashion, intergenerational rela tionships, marriage, rites of passage; in the roles of women, men, and children), and analyse the fac tors contributing to this change (e.g., technological change, economic development, globalization, epi demics, migration, civil strife, education, mass media, climate change) 

B2.5 Analyse various types of tensions that can occur between individuals and their collective culture (e.g., intergenerational conflict regarding social roles, values, beliefs, and behaviours such as gender roles, the language used at home, dating and courtship practices, dress; culture clashes between majority and minority cultures; tension between secular and religious perspectives on sexual mores) 

C1.3 Demonstrate an understanding of various religious or spiritual beliefs (e.g., Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Aboriginal or tribal spiritual beliefs) found within a specific culture and of how they relate to various aspects of that culture (e.g., dietary laws; social hierarchies; attitudes towards gender roles and social inequality; ethics and mores; rituals/practices around birth, marriage, sickness, death; educational practices; practices such as meditation, powwows, pilgrimages, shamanism, t’ai chi ch’uan, voodoo) 

D1.1 Demonstrate an understanding of the dynamics of power relations within specific cultural groups (e.g., with reference to: the caste system in India; shadism in various societies; race relations in Mexico or Zimbabwe; the role of elders in China or among First Nation peoples; gender roles in Iran or Japan; the status of katoey in Thailand, hijra in India, two-spirited people in Aboriginal cultures, fafafini in Samoa) 

D1.2 Analyse the potential impact on cultural identity and on the relations between cultural groups of cultural stereotypes, labelling, and misrepresentations found in mainstream media and popular culture (e.g., the labelling of some groups as “model minorities” or “fresh off the boat”; stereotypes such as dragon women, Asian lotus blossoms, Black athletes, First Nation warriors; misrepresentations such as Muslims as terrorists) 

Teacher prompt: “What specific cultural stereotypes are found on television shows and in movies that you watch? What effect do you think they have on both the minority cultures who are the targets of these stereotypes and on the majority culture?”

Visual Art (Grade 12)

B1.1 Demonstrate the ability to support their initial responses to a variety of art works with informed understanding of the works’ artistic form and function (e.g., describe their initial response to an art work, and explain in detail how specific aspects of the work’s content, formal qualities, and media inform that response)

Media Arts (Grade 12)

B1.2 Use the critical analysis process to deconstruct, analyse, and evaluate different types of media art works (e.g., interactive installations, animations, music videos, performance art, websites, digitally manipulated photographs, documentaries) by contemporary media artists (e.g., determine their initial reaction to an art work; identify the individual elements and principles of the work and analyse how the artist has combined them for a particular purpose; reflect on the work’s technical and aesthetic features to determine its effectiveness in communicating a message, emotion, or concern and to assess its impact.

B2.2 Analyse, on the basis of investigation, the ability of media art works to express and promote cultural identities

B2.3 Analyse, on the basis of investigation, how media art works can serve as a catalyst for changing community or societal values 

B2.5 Analyse how the process of critically analysing media art works has affected their perception and understanding of different communities, cultures, ideologies, and/or social groups, and assess the impact of these percep- tions and understandings on their own media art work (e.g., reflect on how their increased under- standing of others’ points of view has affected the content or approach of their own art works)

At the end of these lessons, students will:

  1. Have a greater awareness and understanding about who Jewish people are and ethnic diversity within Jewish communities 
  2. Possess a stronger framework for understanding the complexities of  intersectional identity, using their identities as a foundation
  3. Discuss the intersections of race, privilege and mobility (i.e who is considered Jewish within mainstream Jewish institutions and access to Jewish professional opportunities), as it relates to Jewish identity and Ashkenormativity 
  4. Understand the difference between individual and group identity with a focus on belonging and recognition 
  5. Understand their role in creating inclusive classrooms and spaces in society culminating in social action 
  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 classroom 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 unit in an online format, consider engaging the online room by encouraging students to post comments in the chat (jamboard, 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.

Depending on how much time you have to teach this lesson, select a topic(s) you would like to explore in greater depth and have students watch specific clips and engage with the connected prompts. Each set indicates how long the video and prompt will require.

Topic One: Hyphenated Identities
Video: Hyphenated Identities, Asha, Devyani and Nobu (7:41 min.)
Curriculum Topics: World Cultures, Media Arts, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice
Pre-Screening Option 1 (strongly suggested): Intro to Judaism (15 minutes)

Teacher Prompts:

  • What does Judaism 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?
  • Where do Jewish people live? Circle all which are correct (use this tool for this activity)
  • Which of these are missing from your textbooks and reading and why?
Pre-Screening Option 2: Community Building (20 minutes)

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

Pair students off and have them interview each other (practicing active listening).

Consider the following instructions for interviews:

  1. Put students 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. If students struggle with writing/note taking, they can draw images or use the Voice Typing Tool on Google Documents to transcribe.
  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. (10 minutes)

Create an artistic representation of “your story” (i.e. draw the cover to a book about your life, write a poem/song, etc.) (10 minutes)

Post-Screening Discussion (25 minutes)

Teacher Prompts:

  • What assumptions did you have about Jewish people before watching clips of Periphery that have changed after watching the film?
  • In the film, 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?
  • What role can you play in the classroom and beyond to ensure all of your classmates feel included and appreciated?

Topic Two: The Complexities of Invisible Identities
Video: The Complexities of Invisible Identities, Tema (5:55 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Jewish studies, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, World Cultures, Media Arts, Visual Arts
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, I am extremely shy but work hard to be an extrovert, one of my close family members has been very sick but I don’t talk about it at school)

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.

Teacher 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 Three: Converting to Judaism
Video: Converting to Judaism, Maxine & Fabio (7:21 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Jewish studies, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, World Cultures, Media Arts, Visual Arts
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)

Teacher 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 Four: Dance & Imagery on the Periphery
Video: Dance & Imagery on the Periphery, Fabio & Maxine (5:34 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Jewish Studies, Media Arts, Visual Arts
Pre-Screening Activity: Working Definition (20 minutes)

What does Periphery mean? Develop a working definition of this word which you will revisit after viewing the film. (5 minutes)

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

As a class, brainstorm a new definition collectively that encompasses as many students’ POV. (15 minutes)

Post-Screening Discussion (15 minutes)

Teacher 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 images are used to convey the periphery and why do you think these choices were made?

Topic Five: Unpacking the Periphery
Video: Unpacking the Periphery, Akilah (5:04 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Jewish studies, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, World Cultures, Media Arts, Visual Arts
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)

Teacher 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 Six: Immigrating to Canada
Video: Immigrating to Canada, Fabio (3:50 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, World Cultures, Media Arts, Visual Arts
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.

Teacher 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 Seven: Finding Strength in One’s Heritage
Video: Finding Strength in One’s Heritage (6:26 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Jewish studies, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, World Cultures, Media Arts, Visual Arts
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.

Teacher 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?

Topic Eight: Finding Grounding in Community
Video: Finding Grounding in Community, Daniel (7:06 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Jewish studies, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, World Cultures, Media Arts, Visual Arts
Post-Screening Discussion (20-25 minutes)

Teacher 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?
Repairing the world begins with our community: Social Justice within the Jewish Community and Beyond

Curriculum Topics: Jewish studies, Equity, Diversity & Social Justice, World Cultures

Goal: To use Jewish text to integrate the lessons about diversity from Periphery and Periphery, the Extended Series.

Consider using the Big Paper Teaching Strategy to explore these quotes in depth (15-20 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”)

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