The Tanakh is Our Story
Do your students view the Tanakh as a story that they can identify with?
Are you interested in making Tanakh lessons more relevant to your students’ Jewish identity?
This new project of Herzog College and UnitEd is designed to introduce Middle School students in Jewish schools to concepts of Jewish identity through familiarity with our national story, as set out in the Five Books of Moses.
“If we want our children and our society to be moral, we need a collective story that tells us where we came from and what our task is in the world.”
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Covenant & Conversation, Parshat Bo
Stage One: The Exodus from Egypt – the Rise of a New Nation
The first stage of the program will comprise 30 units based on the book of Exodus. It offers a unique approach to teaching and learning the Tanakh by connecting to the foundations and heritage of the Jewish Nation. It is designed for children aged 11-13 but can be easily adapted for younger and older students.
Program elements for teachers:
- Lesson plans based on the modern relevance of Tanakh stories
- Digital units for independent learning
- “Being There” – a virtual experience of the Exodus story
- Nuggets – an application to enrich learning in small segments
- Professional development program for teachers
- Entertaining video clips offering additional insights – click here for an example
The Exodus program will be ready for use for the school year commencing Fall 2023.
We invite middle school Judaic Studies teachers to join the trial program and use these innovative materials in your school.
Sample Lesson: Preparing for the Seder
Where do your students connect with the story of the Jewish nation? What does the Exodus from Egypt mean to them?
Click here to download the Sample Lesson Worksheet.
1. Opening the Lesson
We’ll begin the lesson by encouraging the students to think about where they find their connection to the people of Israel, with the aim of stimulating a sense of belonging.
2. Experiencing the Exodus
We will read excerpts from the Mishna and the Rambam explaining that we don’t only tell the story of the Exodus, rather we are supposed to experience it. We will discuss four questions concerning how and why we should view ourselves as if we left Egypt.
3. Group Activity
Dividing the students into groups, each will use the worksheet provided to consider one stage of the Exodus story and consider four sets of questions:
1) Time: When did the story happen?
2) Place: Where did the story take place?
3) Character: Who are the characters we know from the story of the Exodus?
4) Story: What is the sequence of events of the Exodus story?
Each of the groups will present what they learned about the category they examined, and explain what they learned about the story of the Exodus based on their discussion.
Dividing the class into four groups, we will consider the different characteristics of the story: Time, Place, Character, Story. Representatives of each group will write down what we can learn about the Exodus from looking at their specific characteristic
of the story. Then we will discuss whether knowing the story better helps us to feel the Exodus more.
Looking at an image of a mirror, let’s think what would you like to “get out of Egypt” this year? In what way would you like to be more of a free person and less of a slave?
5. A Game for Seder Night
The Worksheet includes two pages for the students to take home and use during their family Seder night. One page includes a set of 8 cards with the same categories that we discussed in the lesson: Character, Place, Time and Story. The instructions page explains how they can use them with their family to start a conversation about their personal family history.
Sample Lesson: The Heroic Women of Egypt
Some of the women in Egypt made difficult choices in the face of the Pharoah’s wicked decrees. What lessons are there for us in this story?
1. Opening the Lesson
Let’s start with the story of Rosa Parks. What challenges did she face? What choices did she make? What characteristics, strengths and values did she embody? Click here for link to video.
2. The Heart of the Story
Let’s meet some of the female characters in Egypt who stood up to the challenges facing them. They took the initiative and acted against Pharoah’s decrees.
Let‘s learn about these characters through the questions we discussed before. Click here to download Student Learning Cards about the midwives and their reactions to Pharoah’s decrees.
3. Summary of the Lesson
What lessons can we learn from this story about facing challenges in our own lives? Click here to download the Summary Worksheet.