The History of Jews in America
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The History of Jews in America

Lesson Summary:

Ideally, Jewish American history should be integrated throughout the America history curriculum rather than simply being presented as a discrete topic. The ICS resource Jews in American History: A Teacher’s Guide provides information about topics that are enriched by including Jewish American history along with significant facts that can be incorporated into existing lessons.

Sometimes teachers may want students to gain an overview of the entirety of Jewish American history, for example, during Jewish American Heritage Month (May). In this lesson, students read about a specific period of Jewish American history and form small groups with students who have read about other periods. Students then teach each other about the information they have read and demonstrate mastery of the material by creating either a visual or dramatic arts project.


1) Students will be able to provide an overview of Jewish history in America and will recognize that Jews have been part of American society throughout its history.
2) Students will be able to discuss tolerance, acceptance, and opportunity in America as it relates to Jews. In particular, they will recognize that throughout its history, America has offered Jews relatively more tolerance, acceptance, and opportunity than other countries, but that the struggle for greater equality is part of the history of Jews in America.

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


Each student will need:
1) One of the following four documents (each document only needs to be copied for ¼ of the class):

a. Jews in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century America
b. Jews in Nineteenth Century America
c. Jews in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century America
d. Jews in America from the Mid Twentieth Century through Today
2) Material to create a visually interesting timeline such as poster board, construction paper, markers, or computers that can print images from the internet
3) (optional) Material to create props and costumes for a skit with characters from different periods of American history


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Music Connectionsmore


Lesson Contributors

The Institute for Curriculum Services (ICS)is an independently funded national initiative of the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). ICS is dedicated to promoting accurate instructional materials about Jews, Judaism, and Israel.