Unit III. Exploring Peoplehood and Community - Lesson 18: Peoplehood and Responsibility


50 minutes


Photograph: Let My People Go, by Zion Ozeri
Peoplehood Worksheet 6A
Peoplehood Worksheet 6B


Set up projector to display the photograph Let My People Go. If laptop and projector are not available, make high-resolution photocopies of the photograph to distribute to students. Also make enough copies of Peoplehood Worksheets 6A and 6B for the class.


In this lesson, students consider their responsibility toward world Jewry, in the context of their ongoing exploration of Jewish Peoplehood.

Big Idea:

We are all connected with and responsible toward many different communities, but as Jews we have a particular responsibility toward the Jewish People.

Let my people go, NY, USA

Let my people go, NY, USA

Introduction (10 minutes):

  1. Show students the photograph Let My People Go, by Zion Ozeri.
  2. Ask students what they see going on in the photograph. If they haven’t yet seen or analyzed this photograph, you might want to do a quick objective/subjective reading of the picture with the students.
  3. When you are finished reading/discussing the photograph with students, supply some additional information about picture’s context. Some brief info about the Soviet Jewry Movement can be found in the caption for this photograph. For more in-depth information, visit the Archive of the American Soviety Jewry Movement online.
  4. Ask students:
    Why do you think so many people gave their time and effort to help a group of people they’d never met, who lived halfway around the world?


Circles of Responsibility (15 minutes):

  1. Divide the class into small groups of about 5 students each. Hand out Peoplehood Worksheet 6A and ask each group to read the worksheet together and discuss the questions. One student in each group should take notes on the conversation.
  2. Give groups about ten minutes to talk; then bring students back to the large group to share. Discuss the following:
    • What did your group decide?
    • How did you come to your decision?
    • What factors did you weigh? What were the most important factors in helping you reach a decision?
    • Do you think we, as Jews, have a greater responsibility to help other Jews? Why or why not? If so, where do you think this responsibility comes from?
    • How does our responsibility to the Jewish people compare with our responsibility to our other communities? To the world at large?

There is a concept in Judaism that we have a special responsibility to help other Jews first and foremost. However, it is a delicate balance, as every person is created in God’s image and every life is sacred. There is no right answer to the question of how we prioritize our responsibilities. It is different for everyone, and individuals often feel connection and responsibility simultaneously toward many different groups.


Text Study (15 minutes):

  1. Continue the conversation by bringing in relevant Jewish texts. Hand out Peoplehood Worksheet 6B. Read the texts together and discuss the questions.
  2. Conclude the conversation by reminding students that for whatever reason—history, belief, values, or something even more intangible—we often feel a powerful connection to the broader Jewish People. This may manifest in a variety of ways, including a feeling of responsibility toward other Jews around the world or a deep sense of fellowship with far-flung Jewish communities.


Wrap-Up (10 minutes):

  1. Conclude this unit of study by having each student once again consider his or her relationship with the community—this time, considering both the local and world Jewish commuinities.
  2. Hand out a sheet of paper and markers, crayons, or colored pencils to each student.
  3. Ask each student to take a few minutes to draw a picture or diagram that shows “you in relation to the Jewish community.” Have students include both the local and world Jewish communities in their diagrams.
  4. Have some students share their drawings and explain what they signify.
    • How does your relationship to the local community differ from your relationship to the broader world Jewish community?
    • What is the relationship between your local community and other Jewish communities around the world?
    • What does your diagram suggestion about your ideas of Jewish Peoplehood?
    • What do you see as your responsibility to your local Jewish community? What is your responsibility to the world Jewish community?
    • Are you part of other communities as well? Where might these fit in to your diagram?

Compare students’ diagrams with their diagrams from Lesson 2. How are they similar or different? 



For homework, have each student research Jewish communities around the world in need and choose one he or she would like to help. Encourage students to develop action plans for assisting their chosen communities and have them update the class on their ongoing efforts throughout the ensuing weeks and months.