The Soviet Union forbade any unique religious ritual from 1917 onward. 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 the first Israeli ambassador to the USSR arrived on Rosh Hashanah, something unexpected happened.
At the end of the lesson, students will be able to:
– explain the role of ritual in Jewish identity.
– identify the role of Israel to Jews around the world.
– identify rituals and holidays, such as Rosh Hashana, that contribute to the students’ personal identity.
Duration: 45 Minutes
1. Trigger: Open with a discussion using the discussion questions provided below.
- Share what holiday/ceremony in Judaism is most meaningful to you and to explain why.
- What would happen if you did not have any of these rituals in your life? How would you feel Jewish? Would you still feel Jewish?
- Now imagine a whole country where no one was allowed to observe any holidays. How would they stay Jewish?
2. Text Study: Read Golda Meir’s passage from As Good as Golda: The Warmth and Wisdom of Israel’s Prime Minister (1970) edited by Israel Shenker and Mary Shenker, p. 28, together. This can be found in the Materials.
3. Guided Group Discussion:
- Why did Stalin declare that Soviet Jews had no need for the Jewish state?
- Why do you think so many people came to the synagogue when Golda Meir arrived in Moscow?
- What is the symbolism of this event occurring on the Jewish New Year?
4. Self Reflection
Ask the students to write a list of the ways in which they connect to their Jewish identity. Then ask them to think of one new way in which they can celebrate their Jewish identity in the new year. Once completed, students can share their thoughts with the class.