Lesson 3: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Grade Level



History, Social Studies, Humanities, Language Arts


During this lesson, students will:

  • examine notions of individual identity and the intersecting categories that shape identity;
  • understand connections between broad historical events and individuals/groups who respond to, and further influence, historical events.
  • reflect on the immigration experiences for Jews and on the experiences of other immigrants to the United States

Estimated Time Required

Two-three class sessions for discussion and activities.



The title of part three is called, “The Best of Times, The Worst of Times.” After watching the clip, elicit suggestions about which events might be remembered as the best or the worst.

« Watch this video clip

Few “best” stories, from the point of view of Jewish Americans, rival the 1934 American League pennant race. Assimilation and Jewish identity are in ideal balance. (Narrator: "That was when we knew you could be a good Jew, and still be an American hero.")

Ask the class to imagine the different kinds of advice Hank Greenberg received as he contemplated whether or not to play baseball on Yom Kippur. Generate a list of the likely opinions and the opinion-holders. Invite students to “convince” Greenberg to play or not to play baseball; allow students to counsel a student Hank Greenberg in brief acts in front of the class.

Alternatively, break the class into two sides and debate the decision. Complete the discussion by asking students to consider:

  • why Greenberg, an otherwise nonobservant Jew, spent the day in a synagogue
  • what they think they would do in similar circumstances

Turn attention to “the worst of times.” Much of THE JEWISH AMERICANS, Night Two discussesanti-Semitism. Address the issue of discrimination. Encourage students to share their reactions to the Leo Frank trial, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, restrictive immigration policies, college quotas, the opinions of Henry Ford, Father Charles Coughlin, and the rise of Nazi-styles American organizations.

Guide a conversation about current discrimination in the United States. Be alert to stereotyping and viewpoints that draw from bias.

Carefully note the conversation for use in Lesson Four.

www.teachingtolerance.org offers excellent resources to support this conversation.