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Lesson Plans
Jewish Assimilation in Contemporary American Literature
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Among the themes of the PBS series HERITAGE: CIVILIZATION AND THE JEWS is the story of Jews dealing with their moral and spiritual struggle to maintain their cultural identity and keep their history alive. This story has captivated many important Jewish writers, including Philip Roth. In this lesson, students read Roth's collection of short stories, GOODBYE, COLUMBUS to get his take on the issue. Students form groups to help each other read, analyze, and conduct research on important background information that informs Roth's stories about Jews and their assimilation into modern American society. In the end, students write and publish their own stories of assimilation, using Roth's writing as their guide.

Grade Level:
9 - 12

Time Allotment:
Approximately 2 weeks

Subject Matter:
Language Arts

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
  • Understand how the social and historical context of modern American Jews informs GOODBYE, COLUMBUS.
  • Identify literary devices such as tone, characterization, theme, and narrative voice as used in GOODBYE, COLUMBUS.
  • Use literary devices to create their own stories of assimilation.
  • Understand some of the complexities surrounding the issue of assimilating into a new culture.


National Standards:

Language arts writing Standard 2 Level 4, #1 .asp?SubjectID=7&StandardID=2
Uses precise and descriptive language that clarifies and enhances ideas and supports different purposes (e.g., to stimulate the imagination of the reader, to translate concepts into simpler or more easily understood terms, to achieve a specific tone, to explain concepts in literature)

Language arts writing Standard 2 Level 4, #7 .asp?SubjectID=7&StandardID=2
Uses a variety of techniques to convey a personal style and voice (e.g., stream of consciousness, multiple viewpoints)

Language arts reading Standard 6 Level 4, #8 .asp?SubjectID=7&StandardID=6
Understands relationships between literature and its historical period, culture, and society (e.g., influence of historical context on form, style, and point of view; influence of literature on political events; social influences on author's description of characters, plot, and setting; how writers represent and reveal their cultures and traditions)

This lesson was prepared by: Sharon Freedman