Looking at Our Lessons
Our lessons are self-contained workbooks for children that can be easily understood and followed. Students can:
decorate an old Spanish synagogue and become one of the architects who borrowed from the elegant Moorish style for their own houses of worship
learn the differences between Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews
practice some Ladino words and see how close this 500-year-old Jewish folk language is to the Spanish they hear all around them - and why
meet famous Jewish women in history they may have never encountered before
create their own plays and TV newscasts that bring long-ago events to life
understand the origin of certain Sephardic names
listen and sing along to the music of the Jews from Spain and other lands
celebrate a Seder meal or Chanukkah party with customs and recipes from the Sephardic world
follow the fascinating journeys of the forced converts known as conversos, anousim or crypto Jews and discover how they kept their Judaism secret
find out how Jewish immigration in the history of America began a lot earlier than most of us realize - and in Caribbean islands we don't usually associate with Jews and by exploring our teachers' guide ... teachers will quickly see how easy it is to enrich their classrooms by making Sephardic Jewish education -- the story of Jews from Mediterranean lands -- an integral part of the Jewish historical experience. For, in truth, it is the background of so many of our families, even the ones who came from communities like Poland and Russia we traditionally associate with Ashkenazi culture.
Below is a sampling of one of our offerings (for a second lesson click on "A True Story" button):
Introduction to Lesson 1, Book III
READ OUT LOUD
Those keys - large iron keys in the old Spanish style - lay in drawers and boxes, gathering dust, getting lost among clothes and cooking pots, sometimes for years until the family moved or someone died. Others were hung proudly above the front door; reminders of a culture they had loved and hoped to maintain.
Some years ago an Indiana University professor named Joelle Bahlou wrote an article in a journal that told of a rabbi in New Jersey whose ancestors lived in Spain. One summer, the rabbi went back to the city of Toledo and tried to fit the family's ancient key in the door of the house where they were supposed to have lived before Jews were expelled in 1492. According to rabbi, it fitted the lock perfectly! But of course, these are legends. We don't know for sure. As symbolism, however, his gesture was very meaningful. The presence of the key really did "open" the door to memories and traditions of the past, allowing later generations to learn about the old customs. In the process history was being restored, and with a sense of pride and identity.
But there were also practical reasons why the departing Jews took those keys into exile. In Girona, a town in northeastern Spain, documents have recently been discovered that suggest some of the local people who bought houses from the departing Jews agreed to give them back - provided the Edict of Expulsion was lifted within one year. Those keys could have helped to identify the owner in the days when few people knew how to write.
And, indeed, when the Jews were first expelled in 1492, many of them really did expect to return. Kings and queens were always issuing decrees that later had to be withdrawn, often because they caused more trouble than anyone had expected. But id di not happen in this case. Jews were not officially allowed into Spain until the 20th century - a banishment that lasted for 500 years.
Discuss: Does your family have any legends? Do they tell stories about your ancestors or about the places where the family used to live? Or even about the way they lived or some of the things that they did? Write down a few ideas and then discuss them as a class. What might you have taken along to prove that the home you now live in once belonged to your family?
(The lesson continues from here...)