During the last few weeks of our core 7th grade class, we have studied the Jewish experience in the Civil War. I found that most of the students were surprised to learn of the Jewish involvement on both sides of the war. We had great debates on the Jewish view of slavery, especially given our own history as slaves in Egypt.
As we moved on to the conclusion of the war and its impact on the latent antisemitism in 19th century America, we took a long look at the roots of Jewish stereotyping. Ask your 7th grader about the Shakespearean character “Shylock” from The Merchant of Venice! As always, it’s fascinating to hear from each student on his or her own experience of being Jewish. They consistently make great observations and connections from our past to their current reality.