|Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience
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Jews have always been a tiny minority of Mississippi’s population, and yet they have forged communities and preserved their religious traditions for over 160 years. The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience Traveling Trunk is a hands on educational opportunity containing artifacts, photographs, maps and three lesson plans to teach Mississippi students about nineteenth century European immigration to the American South and how these Jewish immigrants made an impact on their communities.
This exploration of Southern Jewish heritage leads students to an important understanding and appreciation for our region’s culture and diversity. Students will explore this topic through multiple disciplines including history, literature, geography and math. The content is related to the new strands of culture and diversity added to the 2011 MS Social Studies Curriculum.
The unit is broken up into three two hour lessons.
The first lesson, The Journey to America, focuses on the immigration experience. The lesson begins with a timeline activity to create context around the period of immigration. Students will learn about Jews living in Europe and why they left their homes for the religious, civic and economic freedoms of America. Students will compare characteristics and geography of four different port cities that attracted immigrants. Using Jewish artifacts from the trunk, students will learn about what items were important for immigrants to bring with them to America and discuss which important items they would pack in their own trunks. The lesson concludes with students using a map to determine how long the journey would take and participate in a game that simulates the tight quarters of a ship.
The second lesson, Arriving in the South, focuses on immigrants in their new home. Students will make their own passports and try to pass a modern day citizenship quiz. They will have a chance to dress up in costumes from the period and take photos to send back to their families. Students will learn more about Jewish religious practices and how they were adapted to life in America. Students will then learn how most Jewish immigrants to the South earned a living as peddlers. They will have a chance to play Peddler’s Travels, a board game where students navigate the challenges and opportunities of being a peddler in Mississippi.
The final lesson, Part of the Community, explains how Jews became business owners and influential members of their communities. Students will experience how discrimination can affect minority groups through a simulation activity. Students will have the opportunity to handle primary documents from a Jewish store in Port Gibson, MS circa 1900 and explore what can be learned from archival material. Students will learn the history behind Jewish stores and create and share their own stores ideas. The lesson will conclude by discussing the impact of the Jewish community in the South over time, learning about five influential Jews in Mississippi and understanding the Jewish communities that still exist in Mississippi today.
The trunk and lesson plans were developed for fourth, fifth and sixth grade classes but can be modified for older students if requested. Themes in this program cover the following MS Social Studies competencies and objectives.
4th Grade: 3a, 4a, 4c, 6c
5th Grade: 3a, 5c
9th Grade: 6c
The trunks are available September through May and are designed to be used as a one to two week unit. They will be shipped the week before they are to be used in the classroom to allow the teacher to become familiar with its contents.
To ensure that you are included please contact the Museum Project Coordinator Rachel Jarman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 601-362-6357.