Introduction to Jewish History Lesson Plan

Introduction to Jewish History Lesson Plan
The Shlock Rock song We’ve Got a Strong Desire from Sgt. Shlocker’s Magical History Tour is a parody of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire. The song outlines almost all of Jewish history from Adam to the present day. This lesson plan is used as the introductory session for a course on Jewish history.

Thanks to Michelle Berkowitz for this lesson plan.

Target Audience:
High School 9-12th grades


Students recognize Jewish history as an authentic part of history.
Students consider important personalities and events in their lives and compare them to personalities and events in Jewish history.

Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire on tape
Shlock Rock’s We’ve Got A Strong Desire on tape and the lyrics on a handout
Tape recorder
One lesson

Part 1 A historian collects information about a specific period by focusing on:


Primary: e.g. Tanach, Israel Stele, Cyrus Proclamation, archeological remains, and all original manuscripts
Secondary: English Bible, any commentary on a primary source
Facts About Society

racial tension
economic/class structure
ideological split
Global Facts

comparing cultures and technology
Part 2
Distinguish between truth and fact. Truth corresponds to what we know about reality, regardless of the facts. Use a real life analogy, e.g. a child who says, “I didn’t do my homework because I had to go to bed.” is stating a fact but leaving out the truth which is that he didn’t do his homework earlier because he watched television.

Is it possible to learn about the American Civil War using only Tom Sawyer as a source? Tom Sawyer is not a primary source. It is an interesting novel that takes place during the Civil War but we cannot use it to prove what happened during this time period.

Part 3
What is Egyptian history?
What is Greek history?
What is American history?
What is Jewish history?

Focus on the history of a people.
Jewish history is the study of the beginnings of the Jewish people. It follows the process of transformation from an individual into a people, and includes the study of Jewish myths and ideas which characterize these people, making them different from other people.

Part 4
How do we know anything about the Jewish people? How can we prove they really existed? One way is to say, “I am a Jew. The proof is my presence and my Jewish identity. My lineage, values, morals, practices, connection to Israel, Hebrew and religion all contribute to this proof.” Play the Billy Joel song. Explain that the lyrics outline a 40-year period of modern history. Ask the students to write down any lyrics which they feel relate to their own history. Discuss the students’ findings. Are there any events unique to a specific group? (ethnic, race, country…)

Part 5
Play the Shlock Rock song We’ve Got a Strong Desire. Distribute the handout with the lyrics. Ask the students to circle any words which are connected to Jewish history while the song is playing. Compare the songs. The Shlock Rock song relates only to Jewish history.

Main Discussion:
Is there any connection between the events mentioned in the Billy Joel song and Jewish history? How does the history of the “greater society” affect Jewish history? How does Jewish history effect the history of other nations? How does studying Jewish history affect Jewish identity?