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!

SLIDESHOW OF SOVIET JUDAISM THROUGH THE YEAR

Despite what many people think: in fact, the USSR did not have a total ban on Jewish holidays. But there was such a real danger – many were arrested without actual crime, and sent to long prison terms for espionage.

NEED FOR A JEWISH STATE – A ROSH HASHANA LESSON

The Soviet Union forbade any unique religious ritual from 1917 onward. By the time the state of Israel was declared in 1948, the Soviet media and leaders thought that Jews 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 1948, something unexpected happened.

SING IN HEBREW, SONGS SUNG BY CAPTIVE SOVIET JEWS AND BY FREE JEWS IN ISRAEL

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

The other was sung by Jews in Israel: 

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

🎵 A music lesson: 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.

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.

INTRODUCTION TO THE SOVIET JEWRY STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM

Before starting to teach about the Soviet Jewry Struggle, we recommend you give this short introduction.

The doctors' plot and Stalin's death on Purim: animation video & guided dissociation

After watching the videos, disscus:

What similarities can you draw between the Purim story from of the Book of Esther and Stalin’s Jews persecution, which ended with his death?

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. (According to Soviet officials there was no problem because no one wanted to get out.)

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.

FILM SCREENING AND DISCUSSION – OPERATION WEDDING DOCUMENTARY

The 2016 award winning 62 minutes long documentary “Operation Wedding” tells the personal story of the Filmmaker’s parents, Sylva and Edward, leading characters of a group that in 1970 tried to escape the USSR to Israel by hijacking an empty plane.
This event was the first effective act that kickstartred the Soviet Jewry Movement and cracked open the Iron Curtain for approximately 300,000 Soviets Jews in the 70’s, compared to only 3,000 in the 60’s.

THE POWER OF THE INDIVIDUAL - a lesson for Purim

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

CALCULATED DISCUSSION: PERMISSION TO LEAVE PARADISE

With a rare combination of basic mathematics and history, we will explain the USSR’s line of thought regarding the exit of citizens from its borders, the diploma tax they gave to strengthen the exit restriction, and the Jackson-Vanik Convention that imposed restrictions on trade between the US and the USSR.

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. The following five-part lesson plan series was originally written and implemented prior to 1980. We have updated a few parts of the lessons, but the majority of the content is original and is as relevant now as it was then. You can view the original lesson plans below.

A Hanukkah Letter From Moscow

In this lesson young students will be introduced 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.

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.

Bring (or Zoom in) a Refusenik or Activist to class

Browse this website for a pool of Refuseniks, Activists and second generation experts, available to lecture or attend discussions about the Soviet Jewry Struggle in your area, or online.

READ & DISCUSS: KIDNAPPED AS A TEENAGER BY THE KGB

In the meantime, my father applied for an exit visa together with me. We were turned down several times. One day, as I exited the emigration office with my father, the KGB apprehended us and took us to a police station for interrogation. They spoke to me separately. I explained to them that I was a Jew and therefore wanted to live in my homeland, Israel, just like Russians want to live in their homeland.

Connecting to Soviet Jews

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

“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. This original lesson plan is not suitable for all students. 

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. 

Hanukkah and Soviet Jewry

Hanukkah is a time to celebrate miracles. 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 Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, as a metaphor of hope in the face of darkness.

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. 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.

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

Night of the Murdered Poets Commemorative Program is one of many lessons and activities listed in the “1977 Soviet Jewry Camp Kit”.

Research and contribute to historical archives

Teach students how their parents used to research before everything became digitized.

Make Your Own Hagaddah

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.”

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