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.
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Soviet Jewry Kit: Lessons 1-5

This five-part lesson plan, written prior to 1980, teaches students about the history of the plight of Soviet Jewry.  Activists and educators worked together to educate and motive Jewish youth to understand and lend their voice to the cause. 

Winter Holidays & Jewish Identity in the Soviet Union

In this lesson, students will learn about ways in which Jewish identity interacts with other cultures and practices, specifically in the Soviet Union. 

Escape Room Activity

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

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.

“Soviet Jewry Day”-Immersing students or campers into the life and struggle of Jewish activists in the U.S.S.R. - 1977 Soviet Jewry Camp Kit

Soviet Jewry Day is the second program of many listed in the “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.

Jewish Identity

In this lesson, students will explore Jewish texts that deal with questions of identity and belonging. They will create identity cubes, which will help them identify how they can each contribute to the Jewish community in their own unique way.

A Hanukkah Letter From Moscow

This lesson introduces 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 Power of the individual

In this lesson, students will learn about the figure of Avital Sharansky, and will compare her story to the events of the Purim story.

Jewish Mutual Responsibility

In this lesson, students will learn about the concept of Jewish mutual responsibility.

The Origins of the Soviet Jewish Community

In this lesson, students will learn about the origins of the Soviet Jewish community leading up to the Revolutions of 1917 and about the roots of soviet anti-Semitism.

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 who inspired them personally, and on ideals or actions they will incorporate into their own lives.

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.

Putting It Into Action

The students who formed the organization The Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry saw a problem: people were being denied their basic human rights simply because they were Jews.  In this lesson, you are challenged to think of a cause to champion in order to make the world a better place.

Text Study on Jewish Activism

What does political activism have to do with Jewish tradition? With Jewish history? With Jewish identity? In this lesson, we will look at Jewish sources that inform and shape this Jewish value.

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.

Bring 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.

INTERVIEW A REFUSENIK OR ACTIVIST

In this lesson, students connect with a former Refusenik or Soviet Jewry Activist to understand what issues people faced and what motivated people to stand up against injustice.

Present, Protest, & Inspire!

In this lesson, students will imagine that they are activists in the free world advocating for Soviet Jews. Students will learn about an individual refusenik, and come up with a plan for how to bring public attention to their refusenik’s case. Students will build creative presentations about their refusenik through drawing, writing, creating songs, speeches, collages, etc. Students will then present the case for their refusenik.

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. This lesson is written by the Israel Forever Foundation, which develops and promotes opportunities to strengthen and celebrate personal connections to Israel.

Slideshow of Soviet Judaism throughout the Year

Photographs can tell us about times and places where we have not been or remind us of details we may not have noticed in a given moment. In this lesson, students will use photographs to learn about Jewish life in the former Soviet Union.

A Historical look at the Situation for Soviet Jews 1940s-1960s

In this lesson, students will learn about the Soviet campaigns against the Jews from the 1940s through the 1960s, the revival of Jewish national identity, and the beginnings of international protests against the situation of the Jews in the Soviet Union.

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 appropriate for programs tied in with Tisha B’Av.

Profiles on Courage Research Project

Students will research different personalities from the Soviet Jewry movement. They will determine what motivated them, what happened to them during and after the movement ended.

Make Your Own Haggadah

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

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.

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.

Need for a Jewish State - Rosh Hashana

By the time the state of Israel was declared in 1948, the USSR thought that no one would feel a connection to the Jewish State because their ability to practice Judaism had been suppressed for so long.
But, when Golda Meir, the first Israeli envoy and minister to the USSR, arrived on Rosh Hashanah, something unexpected happened.

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.

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.

Research and contribute to historical archives

Teach students how their parents used to research before everything became digitized. To understand how the Jews in the US (and the Free World) worked to help their fellow Jews on the other side of the world.

Music & Social Impact

Students will learn how songs can help bring attention to world problems and inspire individuals to seek solutions. In this lesson, students will discuss how music was used to inspire, motivate, or teach about the movement to free Soviet Jewry.

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

Freedom Shabbat is the first activity of many listed in the “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. 

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.

Connecting to Soviet Jews

Created by The Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, this curriculum 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. 

Chanukah and Soviet Jewry

Like the Jews in the days of the Maccabees, the Jews in the Soviet Union were also prohibited from studying Torah and practicing their Judaism.  In this lesson, we look at the theme of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, as a metaphor of hope in the face of darkness.

Martin Luther King Day

We all know Martin Luther King Jr was a great civil rights leader. How is he connected to the Refusenik movement? In this lesson, students will consider the connections between the civil rights movement, Jewish values, and the struggle for Soviet Jewry.

Purim: Hidden Identities

The Purim story is a tale of overcoming a tyrannical empire and using identity to bolster and empower the community; very similar to what the Soviet Jews faced.

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

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