Unit III. Exploring Peoplehood and Community - Lesson 17: Jewish Peoplehood


50 minutes


Photograph: Cave by Zion Ozeri

Additional photographs by Zion Ozeri, for example:
Honorable Discharge
Circumcision Ceremony
The Secret
Oil Pressers
Synagogue Attic
Barefoot Passages
Tisha B’Av
Jewish Teens from Northern Westchester
Soldier on Leave

Peoplehood Worksheet 5A


Set up projector to display the photograph Cave. If laptop and projector are not available, make high-resolution photocopies of the photograph to distribute to students. Also select several other photographs by Zion Ozeri to place around the classroom (see suggestions above), and make enough copies of Peoplehood Worksheet 5A for the class.


In this lesson, students consider the meaning of “Jewish Peoplehood,” incorporating ideas from text, discussion, and photographs by Zion Ozeri.

Big Idea:

Jewish Peoplehood is something that connects us to other Jews around the world (and throughout history). It’s a tricky thing to define, however, and may be based on a shared sense of history, values, religious practice, or other factors.

    Cave, Haidan A-Sham, Yemen, 1992

Cave, Haidan A-Sham, Yemen, 1992

Introduction (15 minutes):

  1. Show students the photograph Cave by Zion Ozeri. Although students may have seen the photograph already, it is often useful to revisit images from different perspectives and with different goals in mind. If students have not already examined the photograph, do a quick objective/subjective reading of the image.
  2. On the board, make two lists and label them: “Similarities” and “Differences.” Ask students to identify all the differences they see (or can reasonably assume to be present) between themselves and the subjects of the photograph. Note their answers in the appropriate column. Then have students list the similarities.
  3. Ask students:
    – Do you think you’re more similar to the kids in this photograph or more different?
    – Do you feel any connection to these kids? Why or why not?
    – What does it mean to you that you and they are both part of the Jewish people?


What is Jewish Peoplehood? (15 minutes):

  1. Put up several photographs by Zion Ozeri around the room. For example:

    – Honorable Discharge
    – Circumcision Ceremony
    – The Secret
    – Backpack
    – Oil Pressers
    – Synagogue Attic
    – Barefoot Passages
    – Nuptials
    – Tisha B’Av
    – Scribe
    – Jewish Teens from Northern Westchester
    – Soldier on Leave

  2. Ask students to look around at all the photos and then stand next to the one that they feel best reflects “Jewish Peoplehood.”

  3. Once everyone has chosen a photograph, students can sit down in their groups. Ask several students (at least one from each group) to explain to the rest of the class why they chose their particular photographs. What about the photograph says, “Jewish Peoplehood” to you?


Text Study (15 minutes):

  1. In their groups, have students read the texts on Peoplehood Worksheet 5A. Several of these quotes were taken from a series of interviews by Moment Magazine on the question: “Is there such a things as the Jewish People?” (See Is There Such a Thing as the Jewish People?.)
  2. Ask students to discuss these questions after they have read the quotes:
    • What defines “the Jewish People”? Is it religion? History? Values? Israel? Something else?
    • Is there really such a thing as “The Jewish People”? Why does it matter?
    • Is it important to you to be part of the Jewish people? Why?


Wrap Up (5 minutes):

  1. Have some students share their thoughts on the texts and questions with the larger group.
  2. Ask students if any of them have changed their minds about which photograph best reflects “Jewish Peoplehood.” If any students have changed their minds, they should move places accordingly and share their reasons.



Have students write a short essay on the topic: “Is there such a thing as the Jewish People? Why or why not?”