A page of the Intro to Judaism booklet that can be downloaded as part of the Periphery curriculum, which offers a framework to talk and learn about diversity within the Jewish community.
“Make space for a productive and respectful conversation” – this is the first suggested action to frame the use of the recently released Periphery curriculum.
Periphery – a film and photography exhibit exploring the ethnic diversity of Toronto’s Jewish community (jewishindependent.ca/discussing-jewishness) – came out last fall. The new curriculum builds on that 27-minute documentary. It comprises another nine short videos, all under eight minutes each, and lesson guides for students in grades 8 through 12 in both the Jewish and public school systems. There is also a guide for Jewish groups and organizations, which could be used for non-Jewish groups.
Launched by the Toronto-based nonprofit No Silence on Race and the Ontario Jewish Archives (a department of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto) with the organization Facing History and Ourselves (an American group with a Toronto branch), the curriculum is Ontario-focused. That said, most of the information is broadly based and relevant to Canadians no matter where they live, and no matter their age.
There are differences in the curricula for each of the three grade groupings (Grade 8, grades 9 and 10, and grades 11 and 12), the Jewish versus public school content, and the community dialogue package. However, the basic format and information is similar, with appropriate adaptations for probable starting points in knowledge and experience.
The common learning aims include “a greater awareness and understanding about who Jewish people are and the ethnic diversity within Jewish communities”; “Possess a stronger framework for understanding the complexities of intersectional identity, using their own identities as a foundation”; “Understand the difference between individual and group identity with a focus on belonging and recognition”; and the role of students and community members in creating inclusive community spaces. In addition, for example, the Jewish community curriculum also suggests that participants: “Discuss the intersections of race, privilege, mobility (i.e Jewish professional opportunities), power as it relates to Jewish identity and ashkenormativity.”
Before delving into the films and lesson suggestions, the curriculum offers a few activities that help frame what viewers are about to watch and discuss – beginning with making “space for a productive and respectful conversation.”
The most extensive part of the guides is the screening prompts and activities. They are organized by topics based on those of the videos, such as “Hyphenated Identities,” “Immigrating to Canada” and “Finding Strength in One’s Heritage.” They include pre-screening and post-screening questions for each film and topic, and these questions elicit self-evaluation and the sharing of stories and views on identity, race, multiculturalism, sexuality, antisemitism and social justice, as well as discussion of the experiences and opinions of the interviewees featured in the films.
The final part of the guide attempts to have participants take what they have learned out into the world, beyond the classroom or boardroom or office. For example, the title of the last section of the Jewish community dialogue is “Now What?: Social Justice within the Jewish Community and Beyond.” It begins with discussion from a global perspective – using a quote from Canadian anthropologist Wade Davis to talk about questions like, “What does it mean for us to hear from different voices of humanity?” It then highlights a quote from the Mishna and one from Pirkei Avot to further reflect on the idea that repairing the world, tikkun olam, begins within the community.
In addition to the curricula, there are related materials available to download, from worksheets to help understand the concepts being discussed and organize one’s thoughts, to an introduction to Judaism, to a glossary of terms. The poem “Unpacking the Periphery,” by Akilah Allen-Silverstein, can also be downloaded. It concludes “For each other as allies, I pray we can stand tall / Diminish the fine lines, deepen our understanding, / Listen with compassion / Listen with empathy / Act with courage / Act with reason / Because this is the season / To do better / To act on the Open Letters / To be more than trend setters / But intentional change makers.”
All of the Periphery curricula and resources are free and downloadable at peripheryexhibit.org.