Jewish School Curriculum:

Grades 9 & 10

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 Jewish communities in Canada, students will explore their own identities and engage in dialogue about ethnic diversity in the Jewish community, the complexities of identity and belonging while deconstructing Ashkenormativity. 

In addition to the lessons found in this package, 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. These resources reflect the critical analysis process outlined in the Ontario curriculum. (See: The Critical Analysis Process)

Integrated Arts (Grade 9 & 10)

B3.1 Describe how creating, presenting, and analyzing a variety of art works has affected their personal values and their awareness of the values of their community and culture and those of other cultures 

B3.2 Demonstrate an understanding of how exploring the arts has affected their perception and understanding of Canadian identity 

Media Arts (Grade 10)

B.1.1 Identify and describe their initial responses to media art works using various strategies and modes of communication 

B1.2 Identify and describe, on the basis of exploration, the aesthetic and technical features of a contemporary media art work, and describe how the artist has combined these features to create a unified work 

B1.3 Use the critical analysis process to assess the effectiveness of media art works in communicating a message or expressing an emotion, and describe how their assessment of the works has evolved throughout the critical analysis process 

B2.3 Identify and describe ways in which media art works can influence community or societal values 

B2.5 Describe how the process of critically analysing media art works has affected their understanding of the values of other cultures and communities 

Visual Arts (Grade 9 & 10)

B.2.3 Identify and describe ways in which creating and/or analysing art works has affected their personal identity and values (e.g., with reference to their self-concept, their awareness of stereotypes, their approach to fashion, their attitudes towards objects associated with particular cultural groups, their ability to express their emotions)

English (Grade 9 & 10)

1.8 Oral communication (Grade 9) Identify the perspectives and/or biases evident in simple oral texts and some teacher-selected complex texts and comment on any questions they may raise about beliefs, values, and identity 

(Grade 10) Identify and analyse the perspectives and/or biases evident in texts, including increasingly complex texts, and comment on any questions they may raise about beliefs, values, identity, and power 

Dance (Grade 9 & 10)

C2.2 Identify and describe ways in which choreographers and performers use or have used dance to address social and environmental issues (e.g., identify issues raised in Danny Grossman’s 1981 work Endangered Species and discuss their relevance to society today; describe how Isabel Croxatto’s Revolution of the Butterflies highlights the urgent need to protect and restore the environment)

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, 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 

Themes & 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 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. 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 corresponding 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: Jewish Studies, Integrated Arts, English, Media 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: 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.
    Repeat this process for Person #2 and Person #3. (10 minutes)
  5. 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)
Pre-Screening Activity 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 assumptions did you have about Jewish people before watching clips of Periphery that have changed after watching the film?
  • What role can you play in the classroom and beyond to ensure all of your classmates feel included and appreciated?
  • 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?
  • Why might Asha’s hyphenated identities contribute to her feeling like an imposter?
  • Devyani talks about feeling isolated from Jewish community growing up in Toronto. What do you think made her feel isolated from the community?

Topic Two: The Complexities of Invisible Identities
Video: The Complexities of Invisible Identities, Tema (5:55 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Jewish Studies, Integrated Arts, English, Media 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 worksheet 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)

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 (15-20 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:

  • What is the lesson here for the Jewish community?
  • What would you ask Tema if you had the opportunity?
  • 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?

Topic Three: Converting to Judaism
Video: Converting to Judaism, Maxine & Fabio (7:21 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Jewish Studies, Integrated Arts, English, Media Arts, Dance
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)

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: Jewish Studies, Dance, Media Arts, Integrated Arts, Visual Arts, English
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:

  • 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: Immigrating to Canada
Video: Immigrating to Canada, Fabio (3:50 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Jewish Studies, Integrated Arts, English, Media Arts, Dance
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?

Topic Six: Finding Strength in One’s Heritage
Video: Finding Strength in One’s Heritage, Ariella (6:26 min.)
Curriculum Topics: Jewish Studies, Integrated Arts, English, Media 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:

  • Name and describe in detail the perspectives or identities with which you interact with in the world after unpacking what Ariella is sharing.
  • What do you notice about what gives Ariella strength in her identities?
  • How does Ariella’s experience shift your understanding of Jewish identity?
Social Justice within the Jewish Community and Beyond 

Culminating Prompts & Activities (20-25 minutes) 

Curriculum Topics: Jewish Studies, Integrated Arts, English, Media Arts

  • The motto connected to the Toronto coat of arms is ‘Diversity our Strength’, how do these videos help us understand the importance of embracing diversity in our society?
  • How can we use Jewish text to integrate the lessons about diversity in the film?

Pirke Avot 4

הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, אַל תְּהִי בָז לְכָל אָדָם, וְאַל תְּהִי מַפְלִיג לְכָל דָּבָר, שֶׁאֵין לְךָ אָדָם שֶׁאֵין לוֹ שָׁעָה וְאֵין לְךָ דָבָר שֶׁאֵין לוֹ מָקוֹם:

He used to say: do not despise any man, and do not discriminate against anything, for there is no man that has not his hour, and there is no thing that has not its place.

  • This passage allows us to consider how we can challenge prejudice–everyone has their unique place and value in society. Working with Jewish text, let’s explore our own responsibility 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 social justice?
  • Consider using the Big Paper Teaching Strategy to explore this quote in depth.
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