One of the tenets of celebrating Passover is to pass the story from generation to generation and to internalize it as one’s own. This may seem hard to imagine the journey from slavery to freedom, but recent Jewish history witnessed such an event: hundreds of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union left an oppressive regime with open support of the government after fighting for this right for years.
In this lesson, students will use texts to analyze different elements of the story and cultural cues to envision themselves as if “they themselves came out of Egypt.”
At the end of the lesson, students will be able to:
- Analyze different texts
- Use visual evidence to make inferences
- Compare cultural cues from different times and places in Jewish history.
- Demonstrate research skills
Essential Questions: What does the Haggadah mean when it states that “In every generation, every person must see him/herself as if they themself came out of Egypt”?
This lesson trigger is used to engage and motivate the students when the project is introduced.
- Guided Discussion: The Haggadah says, “In every generation, every person must see him/herself as if they themselves came out of Egypt.”
- What does this text mean to you?
- How do you make the Seder relevant to you?
- Do you think we are really capable of fulfilling this task?
2. Show students the following picture:
- How does this picture interpret the quote from the Haggadah?
- What is your reaction to this picture?
- What things would you change to make it more modern?
- In your opinion, why is this text such a central idea to the Passover celebration?
3. At the end of the discussion, show students the following clip:
Avraham Infeld tells us that, while history is what happens in the past; memory is what connects that history with who we are today.
- What does Avraham Infeld mean when he says that amnesia is against Judaism?
- How does the Haggadah act as an antidote to Amnesia?
4. Assessment: Based on what we discussed today, why is this text such a central idea to the Passover celebration? How can we connect this to the experience of Jews in the Soviet Union?
Workshops are provided during the project process to help clarify concepts, answer questions, and share information. Workshops for each project differ depending on student needs, but can include lectures, creating graphic organizers, and group discussions.
Driving Question: What is our motivation behind making a Haggadah connected to the struggle to free Soviet Jewry?
Consider the following texts
Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich said that when the Soviet Union granted visas to the Jews to leave, it was the only other event in Jewish history in which over a million Jews left oppression to freedom from within a world superpower without a shot being fired. Our appreciation and understanding of the Exodus from Egypt 3,000 years ago can be deepened by the realization that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the freedom of Soviet Jews happened during our lifetimes.
“An immigrant from the Soviet Union celebrates her first Passover” –https://www.haggadot.com/clip/immigrant-soviet-union-celebrates-her-first-passover
A poster from the American Soviet Jewry Movement Advertisement – https://www.haggadot.com/clip/american-soviet-jewry-movement-advertisement
Assessment: Find a text, picture, song, or connection to the struggle for Soviet Jewry and the Haggadah. Explain what item you chose and what the connection is to celebrating Passover.
Analyze other Haggadot
Driving Question: How have people, over the ages, incorporated issues that were relevant to their lives into the haggadah?
Many Haggadot include additions, especially at the end, while others are seen as a platform for the expression of certain ideas and as a place to include informative and humorous anecdotes that link it to their time. Scroll through some of them here: http://blog.nli.org.il/en/pesach_haggadot/
While you look through the different samples, have the students consider the following questions:
- Look closely at the materials and craftsmanship employed in this work. What qualities might distinguish this as a Haggadah for its time period?
- What details in the Haggadah does the text support? What aspects of the Haggadah are left open to our imagination?
- Compare and contrast two Haggadot with each other. What is similar in both of them? What is different? How does each speak to the topic of remembering? Could the story of Soviet Jews be connected or integrated into either Haggadah? How?
- What elements inspire you for your own project?
Assessment: Have students list 5-10 details that they noticed in these Haggadot that add commentary to the time and place that they were created in.
Driving Question: How do you connect the text of the Haggadah to the movement to free Soviet Jewry?
Choose 4 texts/passages from the Haggadah to research and elaborate on, and to incorporate in your Haggadah.
- What texts did you choose?
- Why did you choose these texts? How do they speak to you, specifically?
Assessment: Create your Haggadah with annotated texts that explain the struggle for freedom for the Jews from the Soviet Union and the holiday of Pesach.
A resource for school-age children:
A resource for Middle School and High School: http://www.haggadot.com/
Note: this resource is geared toward a diverse population. The instructor may want to determine whether this site is appropriate for their school group.
Here are some ideas for presenting these Haggadot:
- Display all the Haggadot in the room – exhibit style – and invite people to look at them
- Have each person present their Haggadah and explain what they included
- Have each person present their haggadah and other students guess/explain what was included.