The Jewish History of Philadelphia

Home Education Unit Plans The Jewish History of Philadelphia

The Jewish History of Philadelphia

This unit explores the lives of Jewish immigrants that settled in Philadelphia between the late-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. These people left their homelands for a variety of reasons  in search for better opportunities. Once in Philadelphia, they rebuilt their lives learning to integrate into a new country while still maintaining their cultural roots and religious customs. Their histories are part of a larger narrative  of  social and cultural transformations that affected the Unites States.  These lessons will answer questions such as: Why did they choose to leave their country? How did they move across the globe? and How did their lives change in the United States? These main questions connect the local history of Jewish-Philadelphia with a national, and international, scope.

The establishment of immigrants in a new place has many layers, which is why the lessons in this unit examine cases of both individuals and families. These levels of analysis provide the students with a broader understanding of Jewish immigrant history before and after arriving in Philadelphia. These cases also unveil how the process of integration in a new country is not an isolated process, rather it depends on social networks and collaboration.


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19th century
20th century
Ethnic history

Essential Questions

How does continuity and change within Pennsylvania history influence your community today?
What role does analysis have in historical construction?


Biography is a historical construct used to reveal positive and/or negative influences an individual can have on civilization.

Appropriate connections to the United States and/or contemporary issues make world history more relevant to students in Pennsylvania.

Historical skills (organizing information chronologically, explaining historical issues, locating sources and investigate materials, synthesizing and evaluating evidence, and developing arguments and interpretations based on evidence) are used by an analytical thinker to create a historical construction.


Synthesize a rationale for the study of a non-American individual in world history.

Analyze the influence of interest groups in the political process.

Contrast multiple perspectives of individuals and groups in interpreting other times, cultures and place.

End of Unit Assessment

Based on the lesson and  class discussions, students will write an essay on how Jewish community groups and specific individuals helped shape Philadelphia.