The ancient Greeks are famous for their innovations in art, architecture, sports, drama and philosophy. Greek culture, Hellenism, spread quickly all across the Greek empire, and Judea was no exception.. However, more traditional Jewish leaders opposed the adoption of this foreign culture because it put the preservation of Jewish identity at great risk. In this lesson, we will study a series of Jewish texts that straddle both sides of this issue. Thought provoking discussion starters and creative learning activities included in this resource enable learners to grapple with the complexities of finding a balance between embracing a Jewish identity while also being a part of the world’s increasingly globalized society.

Lesson Attachments​

The learner will:

  1. Understand how navigating life when Jewish beliefs and values come into conflict with the prevailing values of the world at large can be complex.

  2. Know about the tensions that existed between the Hellenists and the traditionalists at the time of the Chanukah story.

Be able to debate the pros and cons of adopting practices and values from outside Judaism, and to demonstrate how something from a foreign culture enhances one’s Jewish identity and when it detracts.

When you click on the Jewish Education by Design resource link featured above, you will find the following educational building blocks for the creation of a lesson plan:

  1. Essential questions that get to the “heart” of the learning

  2. A hook/s to open the lesson in an engaging fashion and spark the learners’ curiosity

  3. In depth discussion questions that are designed to elicit conceptual thinking and personal reflections about the featured source/s

  4. Suggested activities that enable the students to both process and apply what was learned in a thought provoking and creative fashion

  5. A further study option/s to related materials on the JEBD site or to external links




Supplement to the lesson plan:

The lesson from the JEBD uses the book of Maccabees to consider the pros and cons of foreign influences.

In Chanukah in Hindsight, (see attachment above) Rabbi Jonathan Sacks addresses the same issue and adds the following reflection: “Jews have always known that the real battle is not necessarily fought on the physical battlefield with physical weapons, but rather in the hearts and minds of future generations.”  

After students read the article, ask them to answer the following questions, individually or in smalls groups:

  • Why do you think  Rabbi Sacks chose the title Chanukah in Hindsight?

  • How was the narrative of the Chanukah story from the time of the book of Maccabeens different from the version from the Talmud? 

  • What was the essence of the battle at the time of the Chanukah story? Are there elements of their fight which you think are still relevant today?

  • Highlight a line which captures the message of the article and support your choice.

Student handout

For comprehensive textual sources and stories on this topic see Olami’s: Chanuka: Illuminating an Eternal Conflict.

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