"It fills an important void in Jewish education. The hands-on experinece is the best way children learn."
Lana Marcus, head of school, Adat Ari El Day School, Valley Village, CA
Some other ideas for your classroom
To acquaint Jewish children and returning anousim with the history and culture of theSephardic world - defined, for this program, as Jews who originally lived on the Spanish Peninsula and later went on to Italy, the Caribbean, Morocco, Turkey and the Americas.
No specialist knowledge is needed or preparation required. All information is contained in the student books, plus the Teacher's Notes. Individual lessons can be selected at random without the need to complete all lessons.
NOTE: We now have a Facebook page (facebook.com/outofspain) where you can offer some of your own suggestions for the classroom.
Consider each lesson individually. Where might it fit into your ongoing units? Examples: a unit on heroes and heroines could include a lesson (Book II, lesson 6) on Doña Gracia Nasi, one of the most famous women in Jewish history, who saved thousands of victims of the Inquisition; a lesson on Jewish food and Jewish cooking could include Sephardic recipes for Passover and Chanukkah (Book III, lesson 4); a mock Seder could look at a Crypto Jewish seder (Book III, lesson 6).
Many schools offer their students a year when they study Jews from other lands. The history of Caribbean Jews is rarely included. Yet the Caribbean is somewhere many of our students visit. They are familiar with the islands. Try Book II, lesson 7, with its stories and activities about Caribbean traders and its board game.
Schools frequently encourage students to explore their own family histories. Many students may have one parent, or a grandparent of Sephardic origin. How did that happen? Where did the parent come from? What do we know about Sephardic names? Look at lesson 1 in Book I and lessons 1-4 in Book II to discover how many of the Jews first came to these places and what they found when they got there. Try also Book III, lesson 2, to help them understand the similarities and differences between the Ashkenazim and Sephardim. And Book III, lesson 1, for a discussion on family legends and how they develop.
Not all of the liturgy and prayers found in our daily and high holyday services emanate from Eastern Europe. Some of them came from the days when a majority of Jews lived on the Iberian Peninsula. For some examples try Book I, lesson 3-4.
We teach a lot about the Holocaust but very little aboutthe Inquisition, though the Inquisition lasted for 350 years and operated in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Mexico, Peru and other parts of South and Central America. Try Book II, lesson 5, for some material about the Inquisition.
There has been a lot of talk in recent years about the Crypto Jews of New Mexico and Portugal and how they returned to Judaism after hundreds of years as Catholics. For insights into their compelling story of faith and pride in their ancestral religion try Book II, lesson 5 and Book III, lesson 6. The activities teach about the Crypto Jews (also known as conversos).
Looking for a new way to celebrate the festivals? Consider Book III, lessons 5,6,7 for some new ideas to try out with your students for Passover (seder) and Hanukkah.
Want to do a brief history course on the Jews of pre-expulsion Spain? Who were they? How did they get there? What did it feel like to live in Spain during the first Millennium? At the end of their stay, how did these Jews make the choice between conversion or expulsion. A five-lesson mini course in Book I, lessons 1-5 takes you on that journey. Just one lesson? Try our story of the Great Expulsion as told through a mock broadcast of a TV newscast, created and narrated by the students themselves.
Want to do something on the Jewish folk languages? Include Ladino as well as Yiddish. Ladino is very close to modern-day Spanish. Students will love pointing out the differences and learning how it came about. Try our language lesson in Book III, lesson 3.
Want to include some Sephardic music? Using our CD that plays the songs used in lessons that include music, have the students sing these tunes. They will love showing off their Spanish when trying out the lyrics. Use Book I, lesson 4 and Book III, lessons 1,5,6,7, to incorporate a better understanding of the development of Jewish culture as they learn the songs.
You only have time to show a 12 minute video. Consider offering them something different in Jewish history by showing our video AYER, OUR SPANISH HERITAGE. It takes students on a lively tour through pre-expulsion Spain with Theodore Bikel as the grandfather. Look at Book I, lesson I, for some exercises to go with the video.
Planning a unit on American Jewish history? Consider including our two lessons on the arrival of the Sephardim in the U.S. both during colonial times and again at the turn of the 20th century. How did their experiences differ from the mass Ashkenazi immigrations? Use Book II, lessons 8-9.