Rick Warren, Angela Buchdahl and Yasir Qadhi

Lesson Plan – The Quest for Religious Freedom

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GRADE LEVEL: Grades 10-12

TIME ALLOTMENT: Two to three 45-minute class periods


The 2012 series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. explores the complex tapestry of American history through the stories of celebrity guests. In Episode 5, Gates explores the family histories of Pastor Rick Warren, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, and the role religion has played in shaping their individual and their ancestors’ stories.

This hands-on, media-enhanced lesson examines how religion has played a part in attracting immigrants to the U.S. and the role it plays in the lives of modern American families. In the Introductory Activity, students discuss reasons why immigrants have come to the U.S., including the pursuit of religious freedom. Students learn about the quest by Puritans, including Pastor Rick Warren’s ancestors, to freely practice their religion. In Learning Activity 1, students learn about the family stories of Rabbi Buchdahl’s Jewish ancestors from Romania and Yasir Qadhi’s family, originally from India, and how they left their homelands to pursue religious freedom. In Learning Activity 2, students explore the impact of religious stereotypes. Students learn about how young Angela Buchdahl contemplated leaving Judaism after repeatedly being told she didn’t “look Jewish”, and about how Yasir Qadhi faced anti-Muslim stereotypes after the attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Students watch video segments and read related articles to gain more insight on these stories. In the Culminating Activity, students reflect upon the role religion has played in shaping the U.S. and whether their own family history has been shaped by religion and the quest for religious freedom. Students select from a variety of related themes and write reflection papers.


American History; Language Arts; Religion; Social Studies; World History


After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

– Describe how religion has played a role in immigration to the U.S.

– Explain why Puritans came to the U.S. in the 1600s.

– Discuss why Jews in Romania fled the country in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

– Describe why Muslims migrated from India to Pakistan in 1947/1948.

– Discuss the history of Pakistan.

– Discuss the impact of religious stereotypes.

– Identify main facts and summarize key points presented in video and print form.


Common Core/English Language Arts Standards for History/Social Studies

Key Ideas and Details:

– Grades 9-10: RH.9-10.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text. Grades 11-12: RH.11-12.2. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Craft and Structure:

– Grades 9-10: RH.9-10.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science. Grades 11-12: RH.11-12.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).

– Grades 9-10: RH.9-10.5. Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.

– Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

– Grades 11-12: RH.11-12.7. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

– Grades 9-10: RH.9-10.8. Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.

– Grades 9-10: RH.9-10.9. Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources. Grades 11-12: RH.11-12.9. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

National Standards for History Basic Education

United States History Content Standards for Grades 5-12

Era 2: Colonization and Settlement (1585-1763):

– Standard 1A: The student understands how diverse immigrants affected the formation of European colonies. Therefore, the student is able to:

– Analyze the religious, political, and economic motives of free immigrants from different parts of Europe who came to North America and the Caribbean.

– Standard 2B: The student understands religious diversity in the colonies and how ideas about religious freedom evolved. Therefore, the student is able to:

– Describe religious groups in colonial America and the role of religion in their communities.

– Explain how Puritanism shaped New England communities and how it changed during the 17th century.

– Trace and explain the evolution of religious freedom in the English colonies.

– Era 6: Historical Analysis and Interpretation: The Development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900)

– Standard 2A: The student understands the sources and experiences of the new immigrants. Therefore, the student is able to:

– Distinguish between the “old” and “new” immigration in terms of its volume and the immigrants’ ethnicity, religion, language, place of origin, and motives for emigrating from their homelands.

– Trace patterns of immigrant settlement in different regions of the country and how new immigrants helped produce a composite American culture that transcended group boundaries.

– Assess the challenges, opportunities, and contributions of different immigrant groups.

– Evaluate how Catholic and Jewish immigrants responded to religious discrimination.

– Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)

– Standard 2C: The student understands changing religious diversity and its impact on American institutions and values. Therefore, the student is able to:

– Analyze how the new immigrants have affected religious diversity.

United States World History Content Standards for Grades 5-12

– Era 7: An Age of Revolutions, (1750-1914):

– Standard 4B: The student understands the impact of new social movements and ideologies on 19th-century Europe. Therefore, the student is able to:

– Describe the changing legal and social status of European Jews and the rise of new forms of anti-Semitism.

– Era 9: The 20th Century Since 1945: Promises and Paradoxes:

– Standard 1C: The student understands how African, Asian, and Caribbean peoples achieved independence from European colonial rule. Therefore, the student is able to:

– Assess the impact of Indian nationalism on other movements in Africa and Asia and analyze why the subcontinent was partitioned into India and Pakistan.

– Standard 2F: The student understands worldwide cultural trends of the second half of the 20th century. Therefore, the student is able to:

– Describe varieties of religious belief and practice in the contemporary world and analyze how the world’s religions have responded to challenges and uncertainties of the late 20th century.



Finding Your Roots, Episode 5, selected segments

Access the video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.

Clip 1: “Seeking Religious Freedom: From England to Roxbury, MA

A look at Pastor Rick Warren’s Puritan ancestor’s migration to America.

Clip 2: “Seeking Religious Freedom: From Romania to New York, NY

A look at Rabbi Angela Buchdahl’s Jewish ancestors’ migration form Romania to the United States.

Clip 3: “Seeking Religious Freedom: From India to Pakistan to Houston, TX

An overview of the persecution experienced by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi’s Muslim ancestors and their quest for religious freedom.

Clip 4: “Questioning Jewish Identity”

Rabbi Angela Buchdahl describes growing up as a Korean Jew, facing stereotypes, and questioning her Jewish identity.

Clip 5: “Facing Muslim Stereotypes after 9/11”

Sheikh Yasir Qadhi describes hatred and stereotypes he encountered after September 11th, 2001.


For Learning Activity 2:

– “Kimchee on the Seder Plate” by Angela Buchdahl

Online and easy to print version

Online version with definitions of words included

Rabbi Angela Buchdahl reflects on being Jewish and Korean, encountering stereotypes of others telling her she didn’t “look Jewish” and the presence of multiracial Jewish families in modern and ancient times.

“The New Normal: Muslims Reflect on Life After 9/11” by Sheila Poole

This essay highlights discrimination against Muslims and hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. Muslims feel like they are under more scrutiny & surveillance than other Americans because of the links between Islamic extremists and 9/11.


One copy of “Kimchee on the Seder Plate” by Angela Buchdahl or “The New Normal: Muslims Reflect on Life After 9/11” by Sheila Poole for each student (see the “Websites” section above).

(Note: Half the class will read one of the articles and half will read the other and then they will share the information. If you have access to multiple computers, students can read the articles online. If not, print out the articles.)


Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:

Preview all of the video segments used in the lesson. Prepare to watch them using your classroom’s Internet connection.

Bookmark all websites you plan to use in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Using a social bookmarking tool such as del.icio.us or diigo (or an online bookmarking utility such as portaportal) will allow you to organize all the links in a central location.

Print out enough copies of Kimchee on the Seder Plate” for half the class and enough copies of “The New Normal: Muslims Reflect on Life After 9/11” for the other half. If you have access to multiple computers, students can read the articles online, rather than printouts. (See the “Materials” section above for the links to these articles.)

Proceed to Lesson Activities.