Intersecting Identities Activity
By Sophie Leib-Neri
This is a group activity designed to highlight and appreciate differences in identity and facilitate discussion about how the different aspects of identity impact our personal Jewish identity and how being Jewish intersects with other aspects we have in common with non-Jews.
Every person comes from a unique background that provides them with a different set of beliefs. Through discussion of these identities, students can appreciate their similarities and differences from fellow students and the society in general.
This activity is suitable for teenagers and adults. The level of discussion depends on the moderator and how each step and subsequent discussion is held.
STEP 1: What are the different ways you define yourself?
Say different identities such as Jewish, immigrant, bisexual, or able-bodied, Zionist, feminist etc. You can also present these identities in a sentence. For example, “I attend a place of worship,” “I am the only person in my family to have attended college,” “I want to have children of my own someday,” or “I have used crutches before.”
Have students raise their hand, stand, or step to the middle of a circle for each identity listed that they personally identify with.
STEP 2: Define and discuss
Go through each identity and have students present their opinion of what they think the identity means and what the definition of the identity actually entails.
STEP 3: How do your intersecting identities impact your Jewish identity?
- How important is being Jewish among all the different aspects of your identity?
- What happens when an aspect of your identity intersects with that of non-Jews but they do not accept your Jewish/Zionist identity? (for example during the Women’s March when the leaders declared it was impossible to be a Zionist and a feminist or the Dyke March when women flying a flag with the Magen David were asked to leave)
- What does the history of Jews and antisemitism teach us about elevating a different aspect of our identity over the importance of our Jewish identity? What are the parallels between the way we identify ourselves today and Jews in pre-Holocaust Germany who identified themselves as: “I’m a German of the faith of Moses”