8th Jewish History – Towson University Research Project

Students in Morah Plaut’s 8th grade Jewish History class conducted a simulation of the first Zionist Congress held on August 29, 1897 in Basle which featured Herzl introducing his platform for the creation  of a Jewish State, a most revolutionary, prophetic and visionary plan for the future of the Jewish people. Students represented the spokespeople Ahad Ha’Am, Rabbi Kalischer and Menachem Ussishkin, who favored and supported Herzl. Other students represented groups including the Messianists, the Reform movement and the assimilationists, who, at the time, opposed Herzl’s political dream of recreating a Jewish homeland.

For the past two months, two professors from Towson’s Baltimore Hebrew Institute and the University Secondary Education Department have observed the class as it studied the topic of connections of Jews to their homeland from the periods of Exile to the birth of modern Zionism. In light of Dr. Rebecca Shargel’s positive experience of following Morah Plaut’s class, which implemented the “dyads approach” to learning , Dr. Shargel will write a research paper (together with Dr. Passe, Director of Secondary Social Studies Instruction, Towson University) based on their observations of how the students benefited from hevruta-style learning. Reading, discussing, arguing and presenting their viewpoints to each other and to the class are key components to this approach and afford students a much more active and participatory style of learning the historical material.