Lesson Plans
The following lesson plans and activities were designed to reach students across grade levels, contexts, and points of interest. Scroll through the materials below, or use the search categories on the right-hand side. For background information that will help teach about this period, visit our historical overview.
Enjoy!

BRAINWASHING & FAKE NEWS – SLIDESHOW & DISCUSSION

In this lesson you can use a slideshow presentation of rare archives to show how the Soviet Media portrayed Jews and the Jewish Emigration Problem.  The slideshow includes points for discussion and raises the main question: how can we recognize attempted brainwashing or “fake news” when it’s not about a subject that we are familiar with?

FILM SCREENING AND DISCUSSION – OPERATION WEDDING DOCUMENTARY

The documentary “Operation Wedding” tells the story of a group of Soviet Jews willing to risk everything, including their personal freedom, for a chance to escape the USSR and bring media attention to the struggle of Soviet Jews. Use the discussion questions provided by the filmmaker that highlight the history of the time and the choices this group made.

Bring (or skype in) Refuseniks or Activists to Class

Hear the stories from the source! Invite local Prisoners of Zion, Refuseniks, and Human Rights activist to come and lecture and make history come alive!  To search for an available Lecturers near you, or to add your contact information to the list, click HERE. 

Night of the Murdered Poets Commemorative Program - 1977 Soviet Jewry Camp Kit

This commemorative program is a memorial to those killed on what is now called The Night of the Murdered Poets. The program, a narrative containing some of the poetry that survived that night, is particularly apropos for programs tied in with Tisha B’Av.

Songs in Hebrew, sang by captive Soviet Jews and by Free Jews in Israel

One was sang by Soviet Jews, trapped in the USSR: “Blue and White are the colors of my land, for now and ever after”.

The other was sang by Jews in Israel: 

“Won’t you ask after, O Zion, the weal of your captive?”

Sing in Hebrew, and discuss the lyrics meanings and source.

Women of the Refuseniks - video & discussion

The role of the women who stood up in defense of Soviet Jews and those women denied the right to leave the USSR.

PRESENT, PROTEST, & INSPIRE: LEARN THE ABOUT INDIVIDUAL REFUSENIKS AND PREPARE A PRESENTATION TO SAVE THEM!

In this activity lesson plan, where students to imagine that they are activists in the free world, advocating for Soviet Jews.  Each group will will learn about a different refusenik, and come up with a plan for how to bring public attention to their refusenik’s case through drawing, writing, creating songs, speeches, collages, etc.

Escape Room Activity

In this lesson, students will learn about the struggle of the Soviet Jews in the 1970s, and different ways in which they fought back against the oppressive regime that denied them the right to emigrate.

MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY

In this lesson, students will consider the connections between the civil rights movement, Jewish values, and the struggle for Soviet Jewry

Connecting to Soviet Jews

Created by The Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, this lesson plan explores the ways in which the Cleveland Jewish Community, organized by the Federation, rallied around the issue of the Soviet Jewry struggle in December 1987. The central activity involves cooperatively learning about various community activities, their goals, and outcomes.

Letter Writing Activity

Students will write a letter to a former refusenik or activist. This lesson is a culminating activity at the end of a unit, quarter, or semester. Students will have the opportunity to reflect and articulate on who inspired them personally, and ideals or actions they will incorporate into their own lives

Putting It Into Action

There are many problems in the world today that could use some fixing. In this lesson you are challenged to think of a cause to champion in order to make the world a better place.

A Hanukkah Letter From Moscow

The background information provided below is meant to introduce young children to the idea that Jewish people in the Soviet Union were not free to express themselves as Jews or to emigrate to a different country. The original lesson plan was written prior to 1980 and can be viewed in the materials.

Hanukkah and Soviet Jewry

Hanukkah is a time to celebrate miracles. Like the Jews in the days of the Maccabees, the Jews in the FSU were also prohibited from studying Torah and practicing their Judaism.  In this lesson, we look at the theme of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, as a metaphor of hope in the face of darkness.

Make Your Own Haggadah

In this lesson, students will use texts to analyze different elements of the story and cultural cues to envision themselves as if “they themselves came out of Egypt.”

“SOVIET JEWRY DAY”: THE LIFE AND STRUGGLE OF JEWISH ACTIVISTS IN THE U.S.S.R. - 1977 SOVIET JEWRY CAMP KIT

Educators have the option of implementing these activities as a historical dramatization, or it can be easily adapted to today.  The aim of the following activities will be to create an atmosphere in a camp which recreates the daily realities of life of a Soviet Jew, a life filled with tension, feelings of isolation, self- consciousness regarding his Jewish identity and mistrust, stemming from constant surveillance by authorities and informers.

Profiles on Courage

In this lesson, students will use photographs to learn about Jewish life in the former Soviet Union.

Slideshow of Soviet Judaism throughout the Year

In this lesson, students will use photographs to learn about Jewish life in the former Soviet Union.

The Fall of the Iron Curtain

In this lesson, students will learn about the fall of the Iron Curtain and about the release of the Jews from the Soviet Union and its aftermath.

Redeeming Captives Text Study

It is an important mitzvah to redeem captives. Where does this law come from, when does it apply, and to what extent does one have to go in order to redeem captives? These ideas will be explored through the text study below.

Soviet Jewry Kit: Lessons 1-5

This five-part lesson plan teaches students about the plight of Soviet Jewry.  Jews in the Soviet Union were not free to express themselves as Jews or to emigrate to a different country. During this time period, activists and educators worked together to educate and motivate Jewish youth to understand and lend their voice to the cause.

Freedom Shabbat: Immersing students or campers into the life and struggle of Jewish activists in the U.S.S.R. - 1977 Soviet Jewry Camp Kit

While this particular Shabbat Activity is written for a summer camp, it can be done at a school or synagogue. This activity can be used in correlation with many of the other lesson plans available in our Lesson Plan Library.

TEXT STUDY ON JEWISH ACTIVISM

What does political activism have to do with Jewish tradition? With Jewish history? With Jewish identity? Look at the sources that inform and shape this Jewish value.

Research and contribute to historical archives

Teach students how their parents used to research before everything became digitized. Understand what was going on in earlier generation.

Freedom on Passover

In this lesson, students will explore the meaning of freedom, and reflect on slavery and freedom in the lives of the Refuseniks and in their own lives.

Purim: Hidden Identities

One of the central ideas in the book of Esther is the concept of concealed identities. The Jews are spread out amongst the Persian Empire, Haman calls for their destruction, and little does he know that the queen herself is a Jew. It is a story of overcoming a tyrannical empire and using identity to bolster and empower the community; very similar to what the Soviet Jews faced.

Jewish Identity and Religion in the Soviet Union

In this lesson, students learn of the destruction of Jewish identity and religion in the Soviet Union from its rise until WWII.

IDENTITY POLITICS: THE DUAL SENSE OF SELF

This Israel Forever activity was designed to address the issues of political identity and the struggle of diaspora Jews who are often asked to choose between the land of their birth and the land of their heritage, Zion.

Bring Refuseniks or Activists to Class

Hear the stories from the source! Invite Prisoners of Zion, Refuseniks and Human Rights activist who live near you.

Social Action

In this lesson, students will learn about the importance of social action and will think creatively to promote causes for which they see a need to take action.

Zionism and Aliyah

In this lesson, students will learn classical sources related to Jews living in the Land of Israel and will debate the issue of making Aliyah today.

I AM - A PERSONAL PORTRAIT OF JEWISH IDENTITY

This activity was designed to facilitate introspection and discussion about personal identity and Jewish identity and the relationship between the two.

Freedom March for Soviet Jewry in New York, Solidarity Sunday, co Enid Wurtman
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