Purim, Jewish Leaders, and the Roles We Choose
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Purim, Jewish Leaders, and the Roles We Choose

Lesson Summary:

On Purim we dress in costume to create a new persona, delight in unexpected images, and poke holes in the humdrum of everyday roles we play. Our assumptions about people shift, and thus, the holiday transforms us. People often decide what to wear or transform how they look as a strategic tool to help them stand up against injustice. In this Go & Learn guide from Jewish Women's Archive we will focus on two remarkable Jewish women: The biblical figure, Esther, and the historical figure, Bella Abzug. Both women fought for justice and liberation, adopting personas that helped them to achieve their goals. In our featured document, Bella Abzug tells us how she decided to wear distinctive hats and gloves as a strategy for overcoming the disregard she experienced as a young female attorney fighting for justice.

Enduring Understandings:

  1. Appearance can be powerful and can be altered to achieve different outcomes. 
  2. Self image is separate, though not entirely independent from, the way others perceive us. 
  3. There are both risks and benefits associated with expressing one s identity to the world in an authentic way.

Essential Questions:

  1. How, if at all, is one s outward appearance related to one s personality, goals, and inner qualities? What is the role of outward appearance or costume in daily life? 
  2. How does someone else s perceptions impact that individual? 
  3. Can outward appearance give people more power/freedom, or take it away? How?

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


(accessible via link below, in "procedure" section)

  • copies of megilah excerpts
  • copies of Bella Abzug interview
  • paper
  • pens/pencils
  • computers/tablets
  • white board or butcher paper


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Music Connectionsmore

Evidence of Learningmore

  • Students will know about Bella Abzug and Bess Myerson and what these women did. 
  • Students will be able to explain how Abzug, Myerson, and others used/controlled their outward appearance to gain power or change the way others perceived them. 
  • Students will be able to relate experiences about costumes and identity from the readings to moments in their own lives where outward appearance and identity support one another or create conflict. 
  • Students will be able to explain and give examples of how, on a basic level, society (culture, media, politics) impacts or influences identity and our perceptions of individuals.


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.