Teaching about Antisemitism
Being an Outsider
This educational module aims to help students think more deeply about what it means to be an outsider. Using material from the Museum’s Voices on Antisemitism, the module:
- Illustrates the existence and broad impact of contemporary antisemitism;
- Demonstrates the ongoing relevance of the Holocaust to law, faith, the arts, and other areas;
- Introduces, punctuates, or ends sections of study; as homework or in-class listening.
The module is divided into six sections:
Born in Transylvania just after the Holocaust, Codrescu immigrated to the United States as a teenager and eventually settled in New Orleans. Through the evolution of his now-famous surname, Codrescu reveals something about his own identity as a Jew, a poet, and an immigrant. Learn more »
Samia Essabaa was born in France to Moroccan and Tunisian parents. A Muslim, shaped by both Arabic and French culture, Essabaa often feels she can relate to her students, many of whom are from Africa and the Caribbean. A believer in hands-on learning, she takes her classes to Auschwitz, where they learn not only about history, but about humanity and community. Learn more »
In 1996, David Pilgrim established the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University in Michigan. As the university's Chief Diversity Officer and a professor of sociology, one of Pilgrim's goals is to use objects of intolerance to teach about tolerance. Learn more »
Sadia Shepard's book The Girl from Foreign documents her travels to India to connect with the tiny Jewish community there and to unlock her family's history. The trip and the book have given her unique insights into the relationships among Jews, Muslims, and Hindus in India. Learn more »
Ilan Stavans has long thought of himself as an outsider, first as a Jew growing up in Mexico and now as a Mexican living in America. Learn more »
Almost everyone, at one point in his or her life, has felt like an outsider. Most people would agree that this state of being is difficult and that drawing positives from the experience is even more challenging. The state of being an outsider is discussed frequently in the Voices on Antisemitism podcast series because antisemitism, racism, and other forms of hatred have affected many of the individuals featured in the episodes. These people are working to prevent the exclusion of others by drawing from their own experiences as outsiders. Specific examples of podcasts dealing with this topic are Ilan Stavans, who discusses his childhood as a Jew in Mexico, David Pilgrim, who started the Jim Crow Museum, and Andrei Codrescu, a Jewish poet and commentator, who was encouraged to change his name to publish in Romania.
Being a member of a group on the “outside” of a society can be dangerous. At their annual party rally held in Nuremberg in September 1935, the Nazi leaders announced new laws that institutionalized many of the racial theories prevalent in Nazi ideology. These Nuremberg Laws excluded German Jews from Reich citizenship and prohibited them from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of “German or German-related blood.” The Nuremberg Laws did not identify a Jew as someone with particular religious beliefs. Instead, the first amendment to the Nuremberg Laws defined anyone who had three or four Jewish grandparents as a Jew, regardless of whether that individual recognized himself or herself as a Jew or belonged to the Jewish religious community. Other regulations reinforced the message that Jews were outsiders in Germany; for example, in December 1935, the Reich Propaganda Ministry issued a decree forbidding Jewish soldiers to be named in World War I memorials as among the dead.
Exclusionary methods did not end with the Holocaust. In April 1994, extremist leaders of Rwanda’s Hutu majority launched a campaign of extermination against the country’s Tutsi minority. In 100 days, as many as 800,000 people were murdered and hundreds of thousands of women were raped. The genocide ended in July 1994, when the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a Tutsi-led rebel force, pushed the extremists and their genocidal interim government out of the country. The consequences of the genocide continue to be felt. It left Rwanda devastated, hundreds of thousands of survivors traumatized, the country’s infrastructure in ruins, and over 100,000 accused perpetrators imprisoned. Justice and accountability, unity and reconciliation remain elusive.
Questions for Discussion or Writing
- In what ways do the people interviewed in the Voices on Antisemitism podcast series see themselves as outsiders?
- Do you identify with several different groups, as Sadia Shepard does?
- What are some ways in which Ilan Stavans has dealt with being an outsider, first as a child growing up in Mexico and then as an adult living in the United States?
- Andrei Codrescu made sacrifices because of his religion. Describe some sacrifices that you have made because of your religion or culture.
- Samia Essabaa witnessed tension in her classroom and did something positive to diffuse it. What steps could you take to encourage greater inclusion in society?
- At times, “outsider” status can evolve into something positive, like David Pilgrim’s Jim Crow Museum. Describe some other positives that could evolve from being seen as or feeling like an “outsider.”
- Create your own podcast interview: Students interview each other about a time in which they felt like outsiders. What surrounding factors influenced their treatment? What influenced how they responded?
- Group Activity: In groups, students examine how the individuals in the Voices on Antisemitism episodes have coped with their status as “outsiders.”
- Photo Activity: Using quotations from the podcast series, students portray their thoughts and feelings about that quotation through photographs selected from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Photo Archive database.
Additional Online Resources Related to Being an Outsider