Activities: Comparing Communities

This set of activities represents a lengthy process. They will be spread over a period of time, incorporating work both in and out of the classroom. Their aim is to place the particular community in which the students live in the wider context of the national community whose story they should seek to understand.

• The students should prepare for this activity by bringing to class a list of any other places in their country where groups of Jews live, together with any material they can find on Jews in their country.

• Ask the group if there is a difference between a group of Jews living in one place and a Jewish community. Suggest that a Jewish community means more than a few families of Jews living in one location. There must be certain things that the Jews do, formally or informally, that express their connection with each other as Jews. Ask them to define criteria for calling a place a community.

• With their help, list on the board the places where they know Jewish communities exist. If there are many names, it may be helpful to subdivide them according to certain criteria. What criteria can the students suggest for subdividing these locations? In which different ways may we subdivide Jewish communities in a particular country?

• Together with the group, prepare a list of five or six essential questions that should be asked in order to obtain a good picture of any Jewish community in a particular geographical location. It may be worth preceding this with some of the information given above regarding the different sorts of Jews that one finds in the modern world.

• Divide the class into subgroups and assign a different community for each one to research. If there are insufficient communities in the country, assign the same community to several groups. Their task is to answer the questions that they have formulated together with reference to the particular community. Encourage them to broaden their answers, taking account of the implications of the facts that they learn, rather than simply giving short, factual answers. They can start their work by using the material they have brought with them, but they should continue their work - if possible - outside of the classroom. Ideal places in which to search for material are Internet sites and libraries. In addition, each community is likely to have an office or set of offices; a phone call to the head of the community or one of its officials is likely to bring good results.

If this project is going on in schools in different towns or cities within the same country, it would be ideal to co-ordinate efforts at this stage. In this way, the students can learn about other communities by direct communication with students who have gone through the same process, developing the same ‘vocabulary of community’. If this is not feasible, it may still be possible to link up with a Jewish school elsewhere through Internet, telephone or regular mail. In their research, the students should be encouraged to try and make some kind of personal contact with someone in the other community, if this is possible.

  • After completing their research, each group should report on their community and everyone should note down the salient points.
  • When all the reports have been presented, reshuffle the students so that every group now includes a person representing each Jewish community. These new groups should prepare a report on their national community. You may want to suggest that this is for a meeting of the World Jewish Congress. If you want to use this idea, you can say that the congress has sent out a list of questions for every national Jewish group around the world. The questions are based on the various examinations that were made in Part One regarding the home community. Here are the questions:

1. Who are the Jews in the national community? Where did they come from? How many are there? What is their geographical distribution within the country?

2. How can they be defined economically? What are their professions and occupations?

3. What is the religious orientation of the Jewish community?

4. What Jewish educational and cultural life is there in the community?

5. What is the situation of assimilation and intermarriage in the community?

6. Are there any major historical circumstances that affected the inflow or outflow of Jews to and from the community?

7. Are there welfare problems within the Jewish community? Are there welfare organizations within the community?

8. What is the feeling of physical security of the Jewish community? Has there been, and is there today, a problem of anti-Semitism?

9. What are the main problems on the agenda of the Jewish community?

10. What are the demographic trends within the community? Can anything be said about the future of the community?

  • Each group must attempt to write a report using their knowledge of their home community and including the information that they have obtained in their study of the other communities. They will almost certainly need to carry out additional research. They can obtain information from the headquarters of the national Jewish community. All of these communal centers have their own web sites. Below, next to the details of each community, we suggest several Internet websites.
  • After they have completed their reports, bring the groups back together and hold a class discussion on all ten points. It is possible to re-divide the groups (back to their original configurations) in order to compare notes and discuss conclusions before the general class discussion; however, this may mean too many reshufflings.
  • On the basis of the class discussion, the participants should prepare a final report on the national community. They should present it formally to a top representative of the community, who should be asked to comment on it and to suggest any changes that he/she considers necessary. The students should discuss these changes and, perhaps, incorporate them. Have the final report properly printed and hand it out to all the students. This represents the class report (to the World Jewish Congress) on ‘the State of the Jewish Nation’ in that particular country.


 

 

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10 Dec 2006 / 19 Kislev 5767 0