Passport to Peoplehood
Connecting Young People to Their Multicultural Heritage
Passport to Peoplehood™ is an new educational resource that raises awareness of the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of Jews around the world. While Jews have always been a multicultural people and have lived all over the world for millennia, educational resources rarely reflect this diversity.
Passport to Peoplehood, or P2P, strengthens Jewish identity by connecting young people to their rich multicultural heritage, engaging with unique cultures and at the same time understanding the shared universal values that connect Jews. We highlight inclusion, diversity and connection as hallmarks of Judaism.
The pedagogy underlying Passport to Peoplehood emerged from the success of our educational program at Camp Be’chol Lashon (CBL). Each day campers use their ‘passports’ to ‘travel’ to a different country to encounter Judaism through the culture of the Jewish community in that region.
In addition to learning about geography, history and traditions, P2P contextualizes Jewish diversity through engaging, hands-on experiences. Using dance, music, art, and cooking, along with a variety of media, the Camp Be’chol Lashon travel-the-world approach allows campers engage creatively with the sights, sounds, and flavors of other cultures. According to the Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden: “Jewish food tells the story of an uprooted, migrating people. Jews moved to escape persecution or economic hardship, or for trade. It is possible, by examining family dishes, to define the identity and geographical origin of a family line.”
Judaism not only provides a context and framework to shape learning about globalism, but also reinforces the value of diversity and provides a model for inclusion. Explorations of individual communities are paired with universal Jewish values so that young people can better understand both what is distinct about their own Jewish experience and also what connects them with Jews in other places. For example, P2P reflects on the mitzvah of welcoming, or hadnasat orchim, as we explore India. In addition to learning about Jews in India, P2P pairs Indian folk art called “Rangoli” with Baruch’im Haba’im welcome signs in Israel. The focus on welcoming guests, as Abraham and Sarah did in biblical times, as they study the Jews of India, can help students better talk about the ways in which they themselves welcome and connect with others. These core Jewish values are basic building blocks for instilling not only Jewish pride but also cultural competence in a global world.
Jewish Identity Today
A more expansive vision of the Jewish people coincides with the world-view of younger generations of Jews who have increased access to technology, and for whom being Jewish is one of many identities. Passport to Peoplehood is a platform for discussing the increasing diversity of America in the 21st century. It guides students and educators towards a better understanding of the racial, ethnic and cultural diversity of the Jewish people, including the vocabulary and the perspective necessary to situate themselves in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world.
We focus on individuals’ stories and their value to the collective, encouraging conversations and celebrating differences between people as an asset, providing the ability to see oneself as part of a complex multi-faceted community where race is one of many distinguishing factors. P2P focuses on respectful, age-appropriate dialogue around identity and diversity, practicing essential interpersonal learning skills, providing prompts for self-inquiry, reinforcing positive identity formation and cultural competence. P2P has the potential to turn the Jewish community’s commitment to diversity into lasting change.
One of the most unique and compelling aspects of Passport to Peoplehood is its emphasis on connecting young people to ethnically and racially diverse contemporary Jews. P2P provides the opportunity for hiphop and spoken word artists, filmmakers, graphic novelists, rabbis, and other influencers to participate in P2P as educational specialists, and/or sharing their narratives through multimedia resources including films, videos and other audio/visual media. By amplifying the voices of diverse artists and thought leaders, P2P gives children the benefit of role medls as well the tools and confidence to share their own voices as valued members of the Jewish collective
Teaching and engaging about race and ethnicity poses a challenge for most educators. Societal norms conspire against free and open conversation around race, and few of us have received formal training in tackling complex and sometimes difficult issues. National research suggests that some avoid racial conversations out of fear of saying something politically incorrect or appearing prejudiced. Despite the Jewish community’s progressive views, Jews along with other Americans tend to avoid talking about race. Race is a sensitive and potentially volatile issue and well-intentioned efforts can be fraught or derailed because of misunderstandings.
Even as the Jewish community becomes more diverse, systemic change is slowed by an inability to actually engage the differences that Jews see around them. There is a need for training workshops or structured conversations to raise awareness about the role unconscious bias plays in shaping our identity and the need to support interpersonal skills such as active listening, communication and relationship building.
Consultation & Planning
Be’chol Lashon consults with organizations to tailor strategies that best meet community goals. Successfully welcoming all kinds of Jews requires that the planning be driven by the community’s needs. The American Jewish community is far from uniform—every community, family, and individual has a different perspective on issues of identity, race, and diversity. Meeting the needs of multiracial Jews, families, friends and allies requires a flexible and input-driven approach. Be’chol Lashon partners with Jewish organizations to position them to be more welcoming, collaborating with local leaders to develop relevant programs, trainings, and resources. P2P takes a “spiral” educational approach that allows it to be adapted to a wide range of age groups and educational settings.