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Lesson Plans & Study Guides


American Jews and Popular Culture: Yiddish
American Jewish popular culture was largely influenced by the Jewish immigrants who came to American from Eastern Europe between 1880 and 1924. These immigrants tended to speak Yiddish as their daily language, and it is the language that influenced much of the press, theater, radio, literature and music in this country.

Exhibit Panel Correlation: "Celebrating Artistic Freedom: Art and Entertainment"

Ohio Standards Correlation:

People in Societies: Grade 10, Point 5


Jews and Blues
Al Jolson, the Jazz Singer, Bob Dylan, Adam Sandler - what do these performers have in common? What does it mean to be American? What does it mean to be American and Jewish?

Ohio Standards Correlation:

History Standard: Grade 10, Point 1
People in Societies Standard: Grade 9, Point 3

Book Lists


Click on the Jewish Book Council link for featured books about American Jews in Entertainment.

The Jewish Book Council serves to promote the reading, writing, publication, distribution, and public awareness of books that reflect the rich variety of the Jewish experience.

Books For Young Readers

The following book list for young readers was provided by Sinai Temple Blumenthal Library in Los Angeles, sinaitemple.org.

The Abracadabra kid -- a writer's life
Sid Fleischman. -- N.Y : Greenwillow, 1996.

The autobiography of the Newbery award winning children's author who set out from childhood to be a magician.

An American rhapsody -- the story of George Gershwin
Paul Kresh. -- N.Y : E.P. Dutton, 1988.

Biography of the composer of musical comedies, popular songs, symphonic works, and an opera.

Beverly Sills
Bridget Paolucci. -- N.Y : Chelsea House, 1990.

Biography describes the private and professional life of Jewish opera star Beverly Sills.

The Entertainer and the dybbuk – a novel
Sid Fleischman. -- NY : Greenwillow, 2007.

A struggling American ventriloquist in post-World War II Europe is possessed by the mischievous spirit of a young Jewish boy killed in the Holocaust.

Fiddler to the world -- the inspiring life of Itzhak Perlman
Carol H Behrman. -- White Hall, VA : Shoe Tree Press, 1992.

Story of the life of Itzhak Perlman and his accomplishments.

Harry Houdini -- escape artist and master magician
Zachary Kent. -- Berkeley Heights, NJ : Enslow Publishers, 2002.

Examines the life and career of Harry Houdini.

Clinton Cox. -- N.Y : Scholastic, 2001.

Biography of the famous magician.

Ike & Mama and the once-in-a-lifetime movie
Carol Snyder, and Charles, 1931- , illus Robinson. -- N.Y : Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1981.

When Ike and his friends get thrown out of a movie for not paying, Mama insists they pay back the theater owner, which they do by getting parts in a D.W. Griffith movie being made a block away.

In the promised land -- lives of Jewish Americans
Doreen Rappaport, Cornelius, illus Van Wright, and Ying-Hwa, illus Hu. -- NY : HarperCollins, 2005.

Offers vignettes from the lives of thirteen Jewish Americans whose achievements, from the colonial period through the present, contributed to women's and worker's rights, medicine, science, fashion, photography, sport, and entertainment.

Isadora Duncan -- dancer
Ruth Lurie Kozodoy. -- N.Y : Chelsea House, 1988.

Biography of the revolutionary American dancer who paved the way for modern expressive dance.

Jewish comedy stars -- classic to cutting edge
Norman H Finkelstein. -- Minneapolis, MN : Kar-Ben, 2010.

Brief biographies of many current and classic Jewish comedians.

Martha Graham -- a dancer's life
Russell Freedman. -- N.Y : Clarion, 1998.

Photobiography of the American dancer, teacher, and choreographer.

Molly Picon -- a gift of laughter
Lila Perl, and Donna, illus Ruff. -- Phila., PA : Jewish Pub. Soc, 1990.

Follows the life and career of the vibrant Jewish entertainer who performed in Yiddish and English theater, movies, radio, and television.

Music was it -- young Leonard Bernstein
Susan Goldman Rubin. -- Watertown, MA : Charlesbridge, 2011.

Traces the life and career of the famous composer, conductor, pianist, and teacher.(Sydney Taylor Award: 2012)

Song and dance man
Karen Ackerman, and Stephen, illus Gammell. -- N.Y : Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.

Grandpa demonstrates for his grandchildren the songs, dances, and jokes he performed as a vaudeville entertainer. (Caldecott Medal : 1952)

Steven Spielberg
Geoffrey M Horn. -- Milwaukee, WI : World Almanac Library, 2002.

This book discusses the personal life and professional career of the successful motion picture producer and director Steven Spielberg.

Steven Spielberg
Elizabeth Ferber. -- Phila., PA : Chelsea House, 1997.

Biography of the Jewish filmmaker.

Steven Spielberg -- crazy for movies
Susan Goldman Rubin. -- N.Y : Harry N. Abrams, 2001.

Biography of the man behind the camera from childhood through the present time. Includes a select filmography.

The Story of Irving Berlin
David Ewen, and Jane, illus Castle. -- N.Y : Holt, 1950.

Biography reveals the life story and musical accomplishments of Irving Berlin.

Visual Resources


Entertainment Cards (View PDF)

These cards, prepared by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, show prominent Jewish entertainers from the nation's capital city and Jewish-owned venues, especially theaters.

Jewish roots in Washington's entertainment world go back more than a hundred years. At the turn of the 20th century, young Asa, son of Rabbi Moses Yoelson, sang at his father's Talmud Torah synagogue in Southwest before running away to become Al Jolson. The famous entertainer would leave a lasting legacy, forever changing American show business.

In 1907 A.C. Mayer joined Aaron and Julian Brylawski to open Washington's first Jewish-owned nickelodeon, the Palace Theatre, where for a nickel patrons watched melodramas, comedies, and live vaudeville skits (cover photograph). Thus began a long line of Jewish-owned movie theaters and distributors.

The tradition continues today with such Jewish-owned local entertainment institutions as the 9:30 Club, Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center, and the Washington DC Jewish Community Center's Theater J with its Aaron & Cecile Goldman Theater. Many of the Washington-area's revered theater companies were founded by members of the local Jewish community.

Please contact the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington at (202) 789-0900 or info@jhsgw.org to inquire about printed copies of these 5"x7" cards.



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