Lesson Plan

Foils and Scapegoats

Students will read a short Anti-Defamation League article about antisemitism in the medieval period. They will then read, analyze, and present a short primary source detailing an act or written piece of antisemitism from the medieval period.

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Enduring Understanding

Anti-Jewish action and antisemitism was common in the Western world since the Classical era. As time passed, superstitions and suspicions about Jewish populations reinforced hatred and persecution that continues to affect Jewish populations today. The medieval period in particular saw violence toward, and persecution of, Jewish people – especially in Christian empires.

Essential Questions

  • 1How can a rumor follow you for thousands of years?
  • 2Should we be more critical of the gossip that we hear about others?


10 Min

Ask students if they know what antisemitism is, and why it’s relevant today.


10 Min

Read the sections of the article by the ADL on antisemitism throughout history titled “Islamic World” and “Medieval Christendom” as a class (a unit on antisemitism more broadly could use more of the article).


10 Min

Lead a class discussion on the material. Ask students:

  1. What surprises you about what we’ve learned?
  2. Why do you think Jews were a target of hatred and violence?
  3. Why do you think people were willing to believe such hateful things?
  4. Why do you think antisemitism is still an issue today?
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