The Jewish world has been shaken by rising anti-Semitism. Many students may be grappling with feelings of anxiety, fear, grief, and more as they attempt to cope with loss and terror. Below are some tips, strategies, lesson plans, and resources to assist teachers in approaching this difficult topic in the classroom. If you have anything you would like to contribute to this list, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below are some steps you may want to take with your students in addressing anti-Semitism. At the bottom of the page, you can find links to additional helpful resources on the topic:
1. Check-in with yourself first: make sure you are processing the events and are in a good place to speak with your students. Consider speaking with a peer/colleague or a school counselor before addressing your class.
2. Find out what they know: for students in middle school and up, it is fair to assume they have heard or read something about recent anti-semitic events.
3. Start with a conversation: allow students to express what they already know.
4. Gently correct misconceptions.
5. Encourage: create a safe space for students to ask questions and answer their questions as directly as you are able.
6. Discuss safety plans with them:
a. Help them to feel empowered- identify adults in school and in the community they can go to if they are feeling insecure.
b. Talk to them about what is being done in your community to ensure safety- security guards, communal safety plans, etc.
7. Put it into context:
a. For younger children: Read age-appropriate books and stories with them to spark discussions, such as The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss, Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, and Kindness Snippet Jar by Diane Alber; or, role-play ways to speak sensitively to others. Keep it simple- “There have been some very sad events over the last few weeks for the Jewish people. Have you heard about anything that has happened?”
b. For middle/high school: Provide a historical context and help them see that throughout history both antisemitism and Jewish survival/renewal have been a constant. Through everything, good people took a stand and made a difference. Consider using a prepared lesson plan on teaching anti-Semitism, such as this one from Facing History, this one from Yad Vashem, or this lesson on teaching about contemporary anti-Semitism from Echoes and Reflections.
8. Be honest: consider sharing your own feelings/fears (at an age-appropriate level). It is also ok to say “I don’t know.”
9. Take action:
a. Students may want to write letters of comfort and support to victims and families of victims
b. Don’t ignore the spiritual (if it is appropriate)- prayer and reflection can help students to feel connected and not alone.
c. Older students can get involved politically by writing letters to representatives/senators or to local ADL chapters here.
d. Bring in speakers from ADL
10. Possible lesson plans for high school:
a. Writing prompts (can be used with graffiti boards or S-I-T technique)
b. What questions do you have about the events that have happened over the last few weeks?
c. How have these events affected you, your family, your community, and the larger Jewish world
11. What would you do? Talk about some of the less violent scenarios that have happened- anti-semitic slurs in grocery stores, graffiti on synagogues, defamation of graves in Jewish Cemeteries- ask students what they would do if those things happened to them? What would they do if they happened to one of their friends? If they saw it happening?
Anti-Semitism Today – this guide to family conversations from the ADL gives tips and guidelines for speaking to your children about anti-Semitism
Hate Symbols – this comprehensive guide by the ADL helps students recognize some common hate symbols to become better educated and aware
Lesson and Activities about Tolerance – a comprehensive list of lessons and activities for students of all ages from the Museum of Tolerance
Teaching About Anti-Semitism – this lesson plan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum outlines how to teach about anti-Semitism
Talking to Children about anti-Semitism – this guide for teachers, created in the wake of the Pittsburgh shooting in 2018, is still pertinent today.
Classroom Challenges for Teaching about and Addressing anti-Semitism – this report from the University of Derby details some of the reported difficulties in challenges in approaching anti-Semitism in the classroom.
Resources for Schools and Communities in Response to Trauma, Tragedy, and Loss – from the Azrieli Graduate School (contributed by Rona Milch Novick)
We Should Talk With Our Students About Hate – an article from The Jewish Link New Jersey (contributed by Rabbi Dr. Wallace Green)