WHY AM I A JEW?

By Storyteller Gerald Fierst

 

Story Summary:

 Gerry Fierst is someone who would describe himself as “spiritual”, but he also says: “I also love the ritual of religion which connects us to all who have gone before and all who will come long after we are gone.” Especially as Gerry got older, he realized der pintele yid lived inside of him as he could hear the words of his ancestors and pass the tradition of the blowing of the shofar on to his children.

 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  How important is it to you to have a conscious spiritual life?
  2. How important is it to you to express your spirituality in a religious community?
  3. What do you know about the great diversity of expression and experience within Judaism?

 

Resources:

  • An article about being culturally Jewish: http://circle.org/cultural-jews-release
  • In Every Tongue: The Racial & Ethnic Diversity of the Jewish People by Diane Tobin

Themes:

  •  Family and Childhood
  • Identity
  • Jewish Americans/Jews

ALBUQUERQUE

By Storyteller Jerry Fierst

 

Story Summary:

 Growing up in New York City, Gerry never understood that Jews were such a small percentage of the world’s population. In his neighborhood, one could go for blocks and blocks and never meet anyone who wasn’t Jewish. But when Gerry went to visit cousins who had retired to Albuquerque, he discovered that “we all look alike when we are the other.”

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Did you grow up in a neighborhood of people who were very similar to you? What are the advantages and disadvantages of growing up in homogenous communities?
  2. Why did the police officer not see that Gerry and his cousin looked very different from each other? How is it that we can look but not really see a person?

 

Resources:

  •  A History of the Jews by Paul Johnson
  • Anti-Semitism in America by Harold E. Quinley and Charles Y. Glock

 

Themes:

  •  Crossing Cultures
  • European American/Whites
  • Identity
  • Jewish Americans/Jews
  • Stereotypes and Discrimination

THE NUNS

By Storyteller Gerald Fierst

 

Story Summary:

 Growing up in his New York City Jewish neighborhood was a world of homogeneity for Gerry. But an occasional intrusion of “alien nuns” could be truly scary to a young child unfamiliar with other religions.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Have you ever reacted with the same kind of fear that Gerry and his friends had when they saw nuns? What could the adults have done to help the children understand who the nuns were?
  2. What allows someone to react with curiosity rather than fear to someone or something that is different?
  3. Does every group have prejudices and biases? Does being discriminated or misunderstood yourself lead to your being more open-minded about others?

 

Resource:

  •  Catholic and Jews in Twentieth-Century America by Egal Feldman

 

Themes:

  •  Crossing Cultures
  • Interfaith
  • Jewish Americans/Jews
  • Stereotypes and Discrimination

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

By Storyteller Arif Choudhury

 

Story Summary:

 Bangladeshi-American Muslim storyteller, Arif Choudhury, shares stories about growing up as the only “brown-skinned boy” in the neighborhood and how 9-11 changed how others might perceive him and his family.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  What’s the difference between an interrogation and a conversation? How do we be curious about one another but not pressure someone to represent their whole group or feel that they’re being examined and objectified?
  2. Did you ever wonder about your own identity? How did you resolve your questions and confusion?
  3. Has your understanding or behavior towards Muslims changed over the years? In what ways?

 

Resources:

 

Themes:

  • Asian American/Asians
  • Crossing Cultures
  • Family and Childhood
  • Identity
  • Muslim Americans/Muslims
  • Stereotypes and Discrimination

SEEING THE OTHER

by Storyteller Arif Choudhury

Story Summary:

One day, 5-year old Arif learns how to play with a dredle and learns about the differences between Christians and Jews.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  How did Arif come to realize that there were “different kinds of white people”?
  2. Why weren’t the students also studying Arif’s religion?
  3. Growing up, what did you learn about Islam? Was Islam presented as one of the world’s major religions or as “an other”?

 

Resources:

  •  No god by God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam by Reza Asian
  • A History of God: The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Karen Armstrong

 

Themes:

  • Crossing Cultures
  • Education and Life Lessons
  • European American/Whites
  • Family and Childhood
  • Identity
  • Jewish Americans/Jews
  • Muslim Americans/Muslims

JUST NOT MUSLIM ENOUGH

by Storyteller Arif Choudhury

 

Story Summary:

Sometimes we forget about the diversity that exists within a faith and within a family. In this story, Arif is reminded of how he is different from some of the relatives in his Muslim family.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why would those within a similar group judge each other as to whether they are Muslim enough, Black enough, Manly enough and so forth?
  2. What are some of the differences within your ethnic or religious group? What is most misunderstood about your group?

 

Resources:

  • All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim by Wajahat Wali and Zahra T Suratwala
  • Muslim Communities in North America by Yvonne Hadda and Jane Idleman Smith

 

Themes:

  • Family and Childhood
  • Identity
  • Muslim Americans/Muslims

EVACUATION

by Storyteller Anne Shimojima

 

Story Summary:

What if the U.S. went to war with your country of origin? Anne Shimojima tells of the difficult days following the attack on Pearl Harbor, when her Japanese-American family were forced to evacuate their home. Could it happen to you?

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Imagine that your family had to leave its home in ten days. You can only take what you can carry. You may never return. What will you take and why? What will you have to leave behind that will break your heart to leave?
  2. What can we learn from the experience of the Japanese-Americans at this time when Muslim-Americans face so much prejudice?
  3. Being an American citizen gives us certain rights. If you lost your rights as the Japanese-Americans did in World War II, what are some of the actions you could take in response?

 

Resources:

  • Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project – The Densho Digital Archive contains 400 videotaped histories (fully transcribed, indexed, and searchable by keyword) and over 10,700 historic photos, documents, and newspapers. www.densho.org/
  • Personal Justice Denied; Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. The Civil Liberties Public Education Fund and University of Washington Press, 1997. Available at: books.google.com  and

 

Themes:

  • Asian American/Asians
  • Bullying
  • European American/Whites
  • Family and Childhood
  • Housing
  • Identity
  • Stereotypes and Discrimination
  • War

INCARCERATION

By Storyteller Anne Shimojima

 

Story Summary:

How would the government treat your family if it went to war with your ancestors’ country of origin? Anne Shimojima describes life in an incarceration camp for her Japanese-American family during World War II.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Imagine that you were in an incarceration camp in World War II. How would you answer Question 27 and 28 and why?
  2. How do you think the experience of living in an incarceration camp (when you have not done anything wrong) can affect a family and succeeding generations?
  3. How do you think the lack of privacy affected the people living in the camps?

 

Resources:

  • Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives – University of California Teacher created lesson plans for grades 4-12 based on photographs, letters, diaries, transcribed oral histories, and artwork of the camps – www.calisphere.universityofcalifornia.edu/jarda/
  • Looking Like the Enemy; My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese American Internment Camps by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald

 

Themes:

  • Asian American/Asians
  • Bullying
  • European American/Whites
  • Family and Childhood
  • Housing
  • Identity
  • Stereotypes and Discrimination
  • War

MORE ALIKE THAN NOT

Featuring Storytellers Arif Choudhury, Gerald Fierst and Susan O’Halloran

 

Story Summary:

 Through exploring misconceptions and common threads such as immigration and disagreements within their own religions, these three tellers bring alive their distinct histories and our common humanity to illuminate the experience of being an American in a time of religious tension, change and possibility.

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  What were you taught about other faith traditions? Were you given accurate information or misinformation?
  2. What groups do you identify with? Do you ever feel as though you don’t fit in in your own group?
  3. Why do people condemn, fear or stereotype people from different religions?
  4. Is there a religion you’d like to learn more about? What similarities between the major world religions might surprise you?

 

Resource:

  • Religious Tolerance and World Religions by Jacob Neusner and Bruce Chilton

 

Themes:

  • Crossing Cultures
  • Identity
  • Interfaith
  • Taking A Stand and Peacemaking