Seeing your Jewish Community Through Different Eyes
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Seeing your Jewish Community Through Different Eyes

Lesson Summary:

We know little about Rebecca Samuel outside of what her letters provide for us: a slice of her life as a Jewish woman in early America. In this letter written in the 1790 s to her parents in Hamburg, Germany, Samuel describes her life in Petersburg, Virginia. She vividly portrays the challenges of keeping a Jewish household, her wishes for her children, and her excitement about the prospect of moving to Charleston, South Carolina. This Go & Learn guide from the Jewish Women's Archive uses Rebecca Samuel’s captivating letter as a centerpiece for interactive sessions about Jewish immigration and the development of the Jewish community in America.

Enduring Understandings:

  1. Immigrants often make difficult sacrifices when they move in search of a better life. 
  2. Jewish traditions and practices vary from community to community, and across time. 
  3. Jewish religious and cultural life is deeply connected to community.

Essential Questions:

  1. How does being an immigrant shape one s experience? 
  2. What is the role of Jewish community in Jewish life? 
  3. How has the experience of being Jewish in America changed over time?

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 Rebecca Samuel s letter,
  • copies of Raimonda Koplnitsky s journal entry
  • Making Our Wilderness Bloom curriculum
  • copies of Charleston’s Beth Elohim synagogue sketch
  • white board or butcher paper


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Music Connectionsmore

Evidence of Learningmore

  • Students will be able to outline the benefits and challenges of moving to a new community or home to follow freedom and economic opportunity. 
  • Students will be able to explain why it was important for Rebecca Samuel to have a Jewish community in which to participate. 
  • Students will be able to list similarities and differences between the traditions in their communities, as well as between their own communities and the one described in the text.


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 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