Activity: Walking the Jewish Tightrope

The aim of this activity is to allow the students to examine their situation as Jews who live in two worlds.

  • Open up with part or all of the Bialik text. Give the students the text in pairs or small groups (perhaps after reading it aloud to the whole group first), saying merely that it is a poem written about somebody’s father describing a situation several generations ago. Let them try to work out from the text what is happening. Who is the speaker (a small child)? What is the father doing? How do they think the speaker feels as he witnesses this scene of which he is a part? How do they think the father feels? How does the speaker see the world in which the father lives (a dual world where the two worlds pull the father in different directions)?
  • Bring the class back together and share the students’ analyses. Mention the author’s name, and the time and place he describes in the poem. Ask the students whether this poem could be written in the Jewish community today, not in terms of its specifics but rather in terms of its general feeling. If so, why? If not, why not? Are there any situations in which they feel similarly torn?
  • Now we suggest a formal debate or a discussion around the following proposal:

    IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE A COMPLETE JEW AND A COMPLETE MEMBER OF THE MODERN WORLD. THERE IS NO NEED TO COMPROMISE ON EITHER.

  • At a certain point in the middle of the discussion or in the aftermath of the debate, interpolate Hirsch’s quotation. Explain that he was the founder of the stream that we now call Modern Orthodoxy in mid-19th century Germany. How do they account for his optimism? Do they think that he would have had reason to change his mind if he were alive today? Do they agree with his statement, or do they know a different reality?
  • Ask each of them to write a statement of their opinion on this issue. Bring the class back together and compare some of the students’ statements.
  • Finally, ask them to predict what sort of statement they might expect to make in fifty years’ time. Do they expect that it might have moved in one direction or another? If so, which and why?


 

 

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10 Dec 2006 / 19 Kislev 5767 0