Jewish School Curriculum:

Grade 8

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. Through learning about ethnic diversity within Jewish communities in Canada, students will explore their own identities and engage in dialogue about the complexities of identity and belonging while deconstructing and reconstructing ideas of who is a Jew. 

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.

*In addition to these connections, 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 and identity to facilitate responsible citizenship.

Language: Oral Communication 

1.6 Extend understanding of oral texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts, by connecting, comparing, and contrasting the ideas and information in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights; to other texts, including print and visual texts; and to the world around them 

Media Literacy

1.2 Interpret increasingly complex or difficult media texts, using overt and implied messages as evidence for their interpretations

1.3 Evaluate the effectiveness of the presentation and treatment of ideas, information, themes, opinions, issues, and/or experiences in media texts 

1.4 Explain why different audiences (e.g., with respect to gender, age, culture, race, income level) might have different responses to a variety of media texts 

1.5 Demonstrate understanding that different media texts reflect different points of view and that some texts reflect multiple points of view 

2.2 Identify the conventions and techniques used in a variety of media forms and explain how they help convey meaning and influence or engage the audience 

Visual Arts

D 2.1 Interpret a variety of art works and identify the feelings, issues, themes, and social concerns that they convey

At the end of these activities and screening, 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  identity, starting with themselves 
  3. Discuss the intersections of race, priviledge, mobility, power 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 

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

  1. Make space for a productive and respectful conversation through contracting with your students. (20 minutes)
  2. Consider reading Unknown Poem by Beth Strano with your students and asking them which line(s) resonate with them as a starting point for them to generate ideas on what they need in the classroom space. (6 minutes)
  3. Take the opportunity to frame the lesson on Periphery by working with your classroom to define diversity and intradiversity. The key is to ensure students understand diversity as multifaceted. Consider your approach to this exercise and whether you want to provide the definition to the class or engage your students in defining it collectively. Use the worksheet entitled Defining Diversity. (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: Language, Media Literacy, Visual Arts
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: Identity Starburst

How do you describe your identity? Using the identity wheel, include as many aspects of your identity that are most meaningful to you. Examples (religion, ethnicity, geography, languages spoken, hobbies/activities, dreams/aspirations).

Pre-Screening Option 3: Belonging (10 minutes)

This exercise can be completed both before and after screening Hyphenated Identities

Belonging is something we all grapple with over the course of our lives. We seek a sense of belonging across racial identity, cultural, gender, language, orientation and many other identity factors. Consider whether this activity should be done privately in a journal or collectively as a class on paper, a board or Google Jamboard if you are facilitating online:

  • I feel like I belong when…
  • I don’t feel like I belong when…

Revisit this question after screening the film. How did their responses to these prompts change as they heard from the interviewees in Periphery? How did it expand their thinking of belonging and the importance of belonging?

Post-Screening Discussion (25 minutes)

Teacher Prompts:

  • What did you see? What did you hear? Engage the group in a 2-3 minute stream of consciousness writing exercise where they write down words, impressions and thoughts in response to these two questions.
  • All of the people you just heard from are Jewish and yet each of them have a unique story. Record 3 similarities between all of the speakers and 3 differences. Discuss these similarities and differences in groups. How do their experiences help us understand Jewish identity? Think-pair-share
  • 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 does it mean to feel like an ‘imposter’?
  • What is Asha saying about her experience in Jewish spaces?

Topic Two: When Others Question Who We Are
Video: When Others Question Who We Are, Sarah (4:28 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Language, Media Literacy, Visual Arts
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.

Teacher Prompts:

  • Why has she experienced this in her own community?
  • 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: Converting to Judaism
Video: Converting to Judaism, Maxine & Fabio (7:21 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Language, Media Literacy, Visual Arts
Post-Screening Discussion (20-25 minutes)

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?

Teacher Prompts:

  • What do the words curious and persistent evoke in you when you hear these words? What does it look like? Think-pair-share*
  • What do you think Maxine means when she says I am functioning very Jewishly? What makes a Jewish person? Think-pair-share*
  • 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: Language, Media Literacy, Visual Arts
Pre-Screening Activity: Working Definition (20 minutes)

What does Periphery mean? Before watching clips from Periphery, 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:

  • 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: Finding Strength in One’s Heritage
Video: Finding Strength in One’s Heritage, Ariella (6:26 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Language, Media Literacy, Visual Arts
Post Screening Discussion (15-20 Minutes)

In this video Ariella talks about her Jewish identity and her family history. Ariella says, being a Jew is–can represent many things. It represents my cultural identity, my religious identity, my national identity. The lens that I look at the world is through being Jewish. Whether that’s watching a film, or speaking to another person, that is the perspective that I have and that’s the way I live my life.

Teacher Prompts:

  • What does Ariella’s story tell us about what it means to be Jewish?
  • Can you share an example of a time where you realized your identity shaped the way you saw a film or read a book?

Topic Six: Immigrating to Canada
Video: Immigrating to Canada, Fabio (3:50 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Language, Media Literacy, 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:

  • Ask yourself: what privileges are you afforded living in Canada and what things do you have to think about to ensure your safety everyday?
  • What is one question you would ask Fabio about his life if you had the opportunity?
Jewish Diversity: Our Responsibility to Know Each other

Culminating Prompts & Discussion (20-25 minutes)

  • Now that you’ve watched a few videos from PeripheryThe Extended Series, how do we bring the lessons of each video into our everyday life? How does what you’ve watched connect to, extend, or challenge your understanding of Jewish identity? Of Jewish diversity?
  • What role can you play in your community to ensure all Jewish peers feel welcomed and accepted for who they are?
  • Working with text, let’s explore our own responsibility to know one another in our everyday life.  

“It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.” (Pirkei Avot 2:16)

  • What does this text mean in the context of Jewish diversity?

This text helps us understand that although we may not ever know everything there is to know about the world and about each other, this does not mean that we do not have a responsibility to understand each other as Jewish people and otherwise. Whether this means appreciating and learning about different Jewish practices, traditions, ethnic and cultural customs, this text challenges us to take responsibility for our own knowledge and practice kindness and curiosity towards each other.

Copyright © 2022 No Silence on Race & Ontario Jewish Archives