Southwest Jewish Archives Curriculum Module

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Grade Level: 9-12

Arizona State Standards Grades 9-12:

1SS-P1 Apply chronological and spatial thinking to understanding the meaning, implications, and import of historical and current events.

1SS-P2 Demonstrate knowledge of research sources and apply appropriate research methods, including framing open-ended questions, gathering pertinent information, and evaluating the evidence and point of view contained within primary and secondary sources.

1SS-P3 Develop historical interpretations in terms of the complexity of cause and effect and in the context in which ideas and past events unfolded

1SS-P8 ( PO 2) Analyze the causes and events of World War II, with emphasis on: Nazi Germany's attempts to eliminate the Jews and other minorities through the Holocaust.

from: Arizona Department of Education Standards-Based Teaching and Learning

Summary: The Archives contain substantial material on Jewish history in the Southwest. Students will explore this history and relate what they learn to other communities' histories, as well as their own.


Do a lesson on Jewish history, experience, and diaspora. Discuss historical persecution in Europe (Spanish Inquisition, anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, etc.). Talk about resistance, e.g., migration as an act of resistance rather than surrender. An excellent resource is A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust and the links listed at the end of this section.

  1. Allow students to relate personal knowledge of Jewish persecution (from family experiences to movies, etc).
  2. Ask about other groups who have also experienced persecution and how they resisted. Talk about both similarities and differences.
  3. Discuss specific groups in the world and the US who currently suffer oppression and/or discrimination. Use the opportunity to discuss the following concepts: racism, discrimination, persecution, resistance.
  4. Ask: Should a society protect minorities from persecution or discrimination? How?
  5. Why might a Jewish immigrant have come to the US in the 1800's? What might they be leaving behind, and what might they be seeking? How could their reasons be similar or different from other immigrants?
  6. Why might they come specifically to the Southwest?

Jewish Pioneers

Summary: Students will learn about the experiences of specific Jewish pioneers featured in this section. By focusing in individual experiences, students will gain a more thorough understanding of Jewish pioneer experience as well as the historical period during which they lived.

  1. In small groups, have students choose one of the featured Jewish pioneers to research. Some individuals have photos and some text, while others have extensive information (such as the Drachmans). Students can write short papers and/or give presentations based on the following questions (although not all the information will be available for all of them):
    1. Where did this person come from and why did they leave there?
    2. What brought them to Arizona ? If it doesn't say, why do you think they came?
    3. What contribution(s) did they make to Arizona ? How can we see their legacy even today
    4. What do the photographs tell you about their lives? Would you think about things the same without seeing the photos?
    5. What is an inspirational message that you gained from learning about this person?
  2. Have this exercise follow A. or students can independently pick a Jewish pioneer. Based on the readings, other research -- such Gordon Bronitsky's article Solomon Bibo: Jew and Indian at Acoma Pueblo or Floyd S. Fierman's essay The Impact of the Frontier On a Jewish Family: The Bibos -- and background you furnish, have students write a short story or journal entry. They will write about a day in the life of their subject or an occurrence during one day. Have them focus on describing the surroundings during the period, rather than the actual plot.

This document is a lengthy genealogy of one Jewish pioneer family. It provides a fascinating story of epic journey and a glimpse into the diversity within a family.

  1. Have students follow the branch of Regina Lowenberg-Wisbrun, who immigrated
    to the Southwest, and her children. Ask them to write a summary of the family's
    experiences and to reflect on how this affects their ideas about diversity in
    the Southwest.
  2. They can pick a theme related to the family to write about: diversity,
    migration, persecution, family, or tradition. Have them write an essay about
    how the theme links the Lowenbergs with their own family.
  3. Have students bring in family trees and pictures of their families. Create a
    wall in the classroom with the family trees, create a website where they can be
    published, or have them create documents similar to the Lowenberg one. This is
    suitable as a semester project, as it could include interviews and archival
    research. Some excellent genealogy tools are available online (some require


Summary: Students will learn about specific Southwestern synagogues featured in this section.

  1. Students, in small groups of 2-4, can pick out one of the featured synagogues and do a short report on it. Have them look through all the photographs, read supplementary material, and follow links for more information. They will report back to the class with their findings.
  2. This exercise can be a continuation of A., or simply have students read through the section on synagogues on their own.
    1. As a class, list the kinds of adversity congregations faced in worship and establishing a synagogue.
    2. List the ways they responded (worship in the home, going underground, regional networks, etc.) and then discuss them.
    3. Discuss the diversity of origination, experience, and philosophy of the synagogues.


Summary: Students will learn about the fascinating history of Cryto-Jews. This history will serve as a focus for learning about many topics surrounding this community's experiences.

Crypto-Judaism is the secret adherence to Judaism while publicly professing to be of another faith. Crypto-Jews, or Conversos, in the Southwest are largely Jews who can trace their ancestry back to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal).

The instructor may plan a lecture on Cypto-Jews based on the sources listed on the page or the students may explore the links to research for themselves. The following questions may serve for general discussion or for written responses, especially journal entries.

  1. What is a Cypto-Jew?
  2. Has learning about Cypto-Jews changed your ideas about the Jewish peoples? How?
  3. Has it changed your idea of the Mexican American community? How?
  4. Every community has similar complexities and "hidden histories." Does this affect how you think of the concept of "community"?
  5. What other kinds or examples of "hidden histories" can you think of? How could we go about learning more about them or discovering others? What kinds of resources would be useful?

The Descendants of the Conversos (under Crypto-Jews)

  1. Have students read Rabbi Marc Angel's quote on exploring identity at the beginning of the page. Ask them the following questions, or have them answer them in journal entries:
    1. What does this quote mean to you?
    2. How does it relate to the article?
    3. How does it (or could it) relate to your own life and identity?
  2. This article discusses an interesting research project. With the class (or in small groups), make a list of the things the author did to prove or explore Hispanic links to Judaism. Look under the subject heading "methodology." You may have to define several terms. Have students come up with a research project on family history using similar methodologies.
  3. In groups, have students list arguments from the article against identifying Hispanics as Crytpo-Jews. Then they can list the author's responses to those arguments, either specifically or generally.

The Crypto-Jews: An Ancient Heritage Comes Alive Again (under Crypto-Jews)

  1. Discuss the concept of diaspora. Here's a definition: "The term diaspora comes from the Ancient Greek and means 'a scattering or sowing of seeds.' It is used to refer to any people or ethnic population forced or induced to leave their traditional ethnic homelands, being dispersed throughout other parts of the world, and the ensuing developments in their dispersal and culture." [from Wikipedia]
  2. Discuss other aspects of the Jewish Diaspora, or take a lesson from the A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust.
  3. Make comparisons with other diasporic groups. Have students make a list. Examples: African diaspora, Native Americans, immigrant peoples, i.e., Irish, Mexican, and Cambodian, refugees, etc. Discuss what these groups have in common and how they differ.

Luis Carvajal's 400th Yartzheit (under Crypto-Jews)

Response paper: Have students read the section and write a short summary of Luis Carvajal's life. They can also write a reflection on what they read.


This module was developed by Roberto de Roock, Summer 2006.