Source: The Yiddish Book Center
Educators interested in teaching about modern Jewish literature and culture can access multimedia teaching materials, free of charge, on a new website, The Great Jewish Books Teacher Resources, a project of the Yiddish Book Center, in Amherst, Massachusetts. The website is home to a growing collection of resource kits focused on various aspects of modern Jewish culture, designed for use by secondary, college, and adult-education teachers. One kit, for instance, considers how Jews were represented onscreen in the early days of cinema, while another explores the cheder, the first educational experience for young boys in the shtetls of Eastern Europe. Others look at specific works of literature, from Isaac Bashevis Singer’s famed story “Gimpel the Fool” to Sholem Aleichem’s beloved Tevye the Dairyman character (the basis for Fiddler on the Roof). More kits will be added in the coming months.
“Our goal is to gather multimedia and archival material that has worked in classrooms again and again, and make it available for any teacher to use,” said Josh Lambert, academic director of the Yiddish Book Center. “I hope that anyone teaching Jewish studies or general studies courses at a Jewish day school or supplementary school will find something that they can use in their classes immediately.”
The resource kits are not comprehensive lesson plans, but rather collections of materials from which teachers can pick and choose to meet their individual classroom needs. They include diverse, sometimes surprising materials: the kit about Jews in the movies includes articles about the topic but also a map showing the heavy concentration of nickelodeons on the Lower East Side in the early twentieth century, film clips of the era, and a 1913 comic strip, “Abie’s Moving Pictures.” The kit on Grace Paley’s 1959 short story “The Loudest Voice,” about a Jewish girl asked to narrate her public school’s Christmas pageant, includes excerpts from interviews with Paley, a 1941 letter to an advice column in a Yiddish newspaper from a Jewish mother upset by her adult son’s decision to celebrate Christmas, and even a Saturday Night Live clip of Adam Sandler singing “The Chanukah Song,” which he wrote for Jewish kids who feel left out during the Christmas season. Each kit also includes a list of additional resources for background reading.
The Teach Great Jewish Books website developed out of teacher workshops held at the Yiddish Book Center in 2015 and 2016. All resource kits are put together by teachers and professors. Educators who would like to contribute new kits to the site are welcome to contact Lesley Yalen, education program manager at the Yiddish Book Center.