A. Making Sense Of Jewish Numbers
• Ask each person in the group to write down what he/she thinks is the global Jewish population statistic today. They should also write down the number of Jews that they think currently live in Israel.
• Ask each person for the numbers they have given and write them all in two lists on the blackboard. Explain the difficulty of achieving accuracy, but circle the numbers nearest to the statistics that are currently accepted. If some of the numbers are way off-target, pause to discuss the implications of the suggested numbers. Are there more Jews – or fewer – than most people expected? How do they understand that?
• Tell the group that they are demographers who have been asked to make a report to the next World Conference of Jewish Statisticians. Give out the following table of statistics (taken from above):
World Jewish Population
||Exact numbers not available
• Divide them up into pairs or small groups. Without providing any extra instructions, tell them that they have approximately fifteen minutes in which to read the statistics and suggest three trends or phenomena that seem to be significant. They must prepare a presentation of these facts, preferably backing up their presentations with visual aids that they should prepare.
• Get the first groups to make their presentations to the class. Discuss each presentation as it is completed. Does the rest of the class agree with the presentations? After a couple of presentations, ask the other groups whether they have any new trends that have not yet been mentioned. List on the board all the trends that they mention.
• Each group should prepare a letter to the local Jewish newspaper explaining how they see the significance of what is happening to the world Jewish population. They should also suggest policies that they think should be followed, or initiatives that should be taken by the leadership of the Jewish community in your country.
B. Israel And Disapora: Defining The Balance
• In this exercise, return to the previous statistical table. Ask the students, divided into pairs, to choose four significant dates from the table. They must try to draw approximate pie charts that show the portion of world Jewry living in Palestine/Israel on those four dates.
• Compare the charts and discuss the trends.
• Prepare a debate on the following question:
IT IS GOOD FOR THE JEWISH WORLD THAT THE PERCENTAGE OF JEWS LIVING IN ISRAEL IS CONSTANTLY INCREASING.
• Half of the class should prepare reasons for the motion and half should prepare reasons against it.
• Run the debate, perhaps switching the speakers for and against as the debate continues. During the debate, the group must stick to the ‘for’ or ‘against’ position that they have been assigned.
• Finally, ask the students to vote ‘out of character’ and then lead a concluding discussion on the subject.
• Ask everyone to summarize their ideas in writing.
C. Country my community
• Ask three people from the community – preferably from different backgrounds – to visit the class or group, and talk about their own family stories. If there are recent immigrants from different countries, try to invite representatives to tell their stories. Where do their families come from? When did they first come to the country/community? Why? What are the most significant things that have changed in the family stories in the last generations?
• If members of the group or class have not done this in the framework of a roots project, ask them to find out their family stories from parents or grandparents, stressing the same questions that they asked the guests. If they have already done this, ask them to share with the class or group the material that they accumulated.
• Ask a community leader to visit the group. They should give a general picture of the development of the community, concentrating on its main sub-group and their reasons for coming to the community when they did.
• After the representative has gone, discuss how the individual stories of the members of the group fit into the wider community story.
• Discuss the changes that the community has gone through. Prepare a list of questions the answers to which would tell the group about the ‘Jewish health’ of the community. What information should be collected in order to determine the trends within the community today?
• Either go out to pre-arranged meetings with community ‘experts’ or invite a panel of experts to talk to the group.
• After the meeting(s), divide the members of the group into pairs, each of whom should write a report on the state of the community based on what they have discovered. What is their bottom line? What recommendations would they make to improve the situation?
D. The National picture
• Through the Internet or community publications, the group should investigate the details of the national Jewish community (U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia etc) of which their community is a part.
• Prepare an exhibition on the situation of your community and the way in which it fits into the national picture.
• Invite parents and families to a community night in which the exhibit will be presented. After the presentation, the group should present to the parents their conclusions from the previous exercise, representing their assessment of the community in which they live and a list of suggestions for improving the situation. Discuss the students’ conclusions with the parents.