Purim, Esther, and Bella Abzug: Wearing Costumes and Choosing Roles
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Purim, Esther, and Bella Abzug: Wearing Costumes and Choosing Roles

grades:  Middle School (6-8) 

Lesson Summary:

Discover a new side to the story of Purim by connecting the story of Esther to Jewish politician and activist Bella Abzug. Use skits to depict a turning point in Abzug's life and then host a fashion show to investigate how one's external appearance can change the way others perceive them, and help one archive one's goals.

Enduring Understandings:

  • Appearance can be powerful and can impact the way we are perceived by others. 
  • Self image is separate, though not entirely independent from, the way others perceive us. 
  • Outward appearance has been used to exclude and oppress people, but it can also be used to give people power.

Essential Questions:

  • How does one's outward appearance impact the way they are perceived by others? 
  • Can outward appearance give people more power/freedom, or take it away? How? 
  • How as the importance of the way one looks changed over time, if at all?

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Materials and resourcesmore


(available via link in procedures section, below)

  • copies of Bella Abzug interview excerpt
  • Clothes and props (brief cases, stethoscope, compass, etc.) that can be mixed and matched to create a variety of characters from every day life (feel free to ask parents to bring/send in)
  • Purim story book or copies of megilah excerpts


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Music Connectionsmore

Evidence of Learningmore

• Participants will be able to explain how Bella Abzug and Queen Esther used/controlled their outward appearance to gain power or change the way others perceived them.
• Participants will be able to relate the costumes they choose to identities or personas that they are expressing.
• Participants will be able to identify how their own experiences/feelings around clothing and how they dress are similar to or different from others in the group or from Bella Abzug and Queen Esther.


Lesson Contributors

The Jewish Women’s Archive is a national public history organization dedicated to telling the stories of Jewish women and inspiring change and inclusivity in communities everywhere. The collections and encyclopedia on jwa.org invite learners of all ages to connect with role models from history and today. Nearly 100 lesson plans for kids, families, and adults help Jewish educators weave stories about identity and activism into programs about Jewish values, holidays, and ritual. And, JWA’s professional development programs and trainings encourage educators to connect with one another to create new ways of engaging the communities they serve. As we say at JWA, “You cannot be what you cannot see,” so check us out anytime, anywhere, at jwa.org.



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